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L is for Language

Some of you know that English is not my first language. I grew up in the Philippines and learned the Cebuano dialect of the region where my family lived before I knew how to speak the main language of the country, which is Tagalog or Filipino. By the time I started Kindergarten, I could understand both English and Tagalog without formal training. Blame it on the TV, ya know.

So anyway, we learned our ABCs along with our Abakadas. When we were home, we always spoke in Cebuano, though our conversations would be peppered with English and Tagalog words. (The funny thing is whenever I talk to my family on the phone, my husband--who doesn't know any Cebuano or Tagalog at all--can catch snippets of the conversation and actually understand (partly and with lots of mostly correct conjectures) what I'm talking about. It's because of the English words that get mixed in with the "gibberish-sounding" Cebuano words.)

Because of this, I get a little bit insecure with my writing. I know my weaknesses. I know where I'm at a disadvantage (I'm looking at you, pesky prepositions!). I have to work extra hard just because some things/phrases/sentences/whatever don't come easily to me. Or I have to second-guess myself because my brain can only process so much at one time. For instance, after talking to my mom on the phone for more than an hour in pure Cebuano, it took my brain a minute to switch back to English. It was actually faster--say, a millisecond--when I wasn't pregnant. Yep, pregnancy brain is like having half a zombie brain. Everything's in slow motion. I found myself yelling something to my kids the other day, and when they didn't respond, I realized I was yelling Cebuano words. Not English. Sigh.

Oh well.   
Photo by Jetheriot

What about you? Are you multilingual, too?  

9 comments:

Krista McLaughlin said...

It's a really neat thing though. I wish that I knew another language and that other language is a special part of you. I only know to say that I like cats, I'm hungry for tacos, and where's the bathroom in Spanish. Other languages are beautiful. :)

Connie Keller said...

My mother's from the Netherlands, so I grew up with Dutch as well as English. (Yeah, prepositions are weird/hard.) And even though I grew up in the US, I have had strangers ask me where I'm from because I don't put sentences together the way a native English speaker does. (How is that even possible?)

The weirdest thing was finding out that some words I use aren't English words, I didn't know some words weren't English until I went to high school. There aren't English equivalents for certain words so in my family we used them in English conversations. Even now, my husband uses some Dutch words though he has no Dutch background because they work better.

cherie said...

@Krista: Donde esta el bano? Hehehe! :) I took up Spanish for two semesters in college. The Filipino language is also peppered with spanish words, so it was pretty easy for me.

@Connie: So cool! And I can totally relate to this: re: putting sentences together in a weird way. It's ok, though. At least we're not boring, right? Haha!

Clarissa Draper said...

My language skills are horrible. I was born and lived most of my life in Canada where I learned English, however from the age of 12 I learned American Sign Language. And now, I live in Mexico where I'm trying to learn Spanish. So, I mix up all my languages together. I feel insecure as well.

Daisy Carter said...

I know enough Spanish to get me in trouble, and I took Latin and Greek in high school and college. I wish I knew a second language. You're very fortunate to have learned young. It seems the best time to learn a language!

Simon Kewin said...

I envy you being multilingual. I can struggle by in a few other tongues but I basically speak only English. I'd love to speak others.

Jemi Fraser said...

I love the mishmash of languages that happens when people speak more than 1! I have several kids in my class who speak English at school, are learning French and speak 1 or 2 other languages at home. Lucky!

I'm semi-fluent in French, but it's been a while since I've used it ... :)

Cristina said...

oh I know what you mean. My first language is Portuguese, so sometimes my sentence structure is all weird. Sometimes I think my vocabulary lacks a bit too... thank goodness for thesaurus ;)

Cherie said...

yeah Cherie,

I know what you are writing about.
I am from Indonesia, not an English speaking country. So it is rather difficult to communicate in a non mother tongue languange. But I try hard to do it. Although sometimes I still make a lot of wrong pronunciations.

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