While most Chamorros are very forgiving when someone mispronounces the words, there are some cases where mispronunciation leads to confusion and miscommunication, so I'll try to give some pointers on pronunciation.
Most of the letters are pronounced almost exactly as you would say them in English, but the thing to remember is that a Chamorro consonant is not "voiced." That just means that there is no real "sound" to the consonant without a vowel following it. Here are the letters that will probably give an English speaker a hard time:
- Just for clarification, the letter "å" in the chart above represents the open "a" in English. It's the "a" you say in "father."
- The Chamorro letter "ch" is pronounced similar to a "ch" in English mixed with "ts." I know that's strange to think about, but ask a Chamorro speaker to say it, and you'll see what I'm trying to say.
- The letter "ñ" is the sound you get in "onion," that "nya" sound.
- "NG" is one that we all use, but don't consider a letter in English. It's the type of "ng" sound you get from the word "singing" or "hanging." (soft g, not hard g)
- "Y" is not the same as in English at all. The best I can come up with in English is the sound "dz." If you know Spanish, think of the Castillian pronunciation of "y," but more pronounced.
- The "glota" is represented by an apostrophe. It is a glottal stop, and the best example of one in English is in the expression "uh oh!" If you're familiar with the Cockney accent in British English, consider the word "bottle." In American English it's pronounced like "BAH-dol," whereas in the Cockney accent it's more like "BAH-ohl" with a stopped sound. The glota doesn't have a "sound" it simply stops the vowel sound preceding it.
Here are some examples:
- Hulu = Thunder
Hulo' = Up
Ulu = Head
Ulo' = Worm
- Håga = Daughter
Håga' = Blood
Åga = Crow (bird)
Aga' = Ripe banana
- På'go = Now, today
Pago' = To irritate, as in causing a rash
Pågu = Wild hibiscus tree
- Ta'lo = Again
Talo' = Center, central point of something
- Pronounce the words as they are written, don't try to say it like you would in English, just refer to the chart, and you'll proabably say it just fine.
- The main stress of a word almost always falls on the penultimate (2nd to last) syllable. This even happens when we add suffixes to words.
- Sångan (to say) comes out as SAW-ngan, but with the referential suffix "-i" attached to it, sångåni (to say to, to tell) comes out as saw-NGA-nee.
- Tuge' (to write) comes out as TOO-ge', but with the referential suffix "-i" attached to it, tuge'i (to write to) comes out as too-GE'-ee.
- In general, consonants go with the vowel that follows them. There are times when there are geminate (duplicated, double) consonants, in those cases, split the consonants so one is with the preceding vowel and one is with the vowel that follows.
- Tommo' (knee) is pronounced TOM-mo'.
- Kånnai (hand) is pronounced KUHN-nai.
- Hallom (to surmise, to perceive) is pronounced HAL-lom.
- Bongbong (bamboo tube used to carry liquid) is pronounced BONG-bong.
- Takhilo' (high, lofty) is pronounced TACK-he-lu' (sorry, this one has a strange accentuation).
- Tohge (to stand up) is pronounced TOH-gee (hard "g").
- Ask a Chamorro speaker to help you.