challenges & success
A year and a half ago, I didn’t speak a word of Chochenyo and now I can have a conversation in our language — this is success. However, there are many challenges to any language revitalization movement, but the Chochenyo language revitalization has challenges we are overcoming that many languages being revitalized do not have. One challenge is a limited vocabulary. So much was lost because of the waves of invasion in our land, and many words that existed before were unfortunately forgotten, or not recorded, by the 20th century.
It is necessary if Chochenyo will become a modern language to make words that we use daily, and it is possible to extend the meaning of words to fit our needs. One example is the other day I was driving on the San Mateo Bridge and wondered what a word I could use for bridge in Chochenyo would be so I combined two words, “innutka,” meaning “road, or trail,” and “si” meaning “water” and created a new word based on traditional words “innutka’si” or “water-road.”
If we cannot find a Chochenyo word for something, it is easy to substitute an English word, such as mam roote em-Starbucks-tak? or are you at Starbucks?
Another way to find words is to “Chochenyo-ize” other Ohlone words from different Ohlone languages, preferably Mutsun, which has the most complete dictionary and grammar. It is possible to find ways to borrow existing Mutsun words and give them Chochenyo qualities.
Another challenge I have faced is finding people to speak to, as I often speak to myself. The community of Chochenyo speakers is very small, and many of us are not interacting on a daily basis. How can we encourage new speakers? This is a bridge I will have to cross when I have a better understanding of the language and am able to teach others.
While there is a lot of success, there are challenges — but these challenges can and will be overcome. A year ago I didn’t speak a word in Chochenyo, but today the words of my ancestors fill my mind every day. Our language is alive yet again, and we will ensure it will not be taken away from us again.