It’s true, isn’t it? Every one of us makes mistakes. We can only hope that we make few serious mistakes, and that we learn from the mistakes that we do make.
Over my years of visiting the Philippines (from 1990 until 1999) and my years of living in the Philippines (2000 until 2012 so far), I have noticed a lot of mistakes that foreigners make when it comes to the Philippines. Today, I thought I’d take a look at a few of them, some of them might surprise you. Maybe you can pick up on a mistake that you have been making, and change it. You never know!
Of course, this list of “foreigner mistakes” is not all inclusive, just a few off the top of my head. Maybe you know of other such mistakes, and can list them in the comments at the end of the article, so that we can all learn.
In English, if we want to make a word plural, we just add an “s” at the end. So, a ball is a nice toy, but if you have more than one ball, you have balls (no jokes here, guys!, I promise, this is not a pun!). On some words, if we want to make it plural, phonetically we add the “s,” but in writing we have to add a few more letters to make the spelling correct. For example, I enjoy eating a mango from time to time, but since others in the house want a mango too, when I go to the market I buy mangoes. Mangoes, not a mango. See what I mean.
In the various Filipino languages, though, adding an “s” does not make a word plural. So, if you see a kid, that’s a bata in Bisaya or Tagalog. But, if you see a group of children along the street, they are not “batas.” No, to make a word plural in the Philippine languages, you would add another word, “mga.” So, when you see a group of children, you are seeing “mga bata.”
In Bisaya or Tagalog, a mango is “mangga.” When you make that trip to the market, remember, though, you need more than one mango to feed the family, so be sure to purchase “mga mangga.” What is “mga mangga?” It is mangoes.
A ball is bola. Balls are “mga bola.”
So, remember, to make a plural, you cannot just add an “s” at the end of the word, that does not work in the Philippines!
There are no caribou in the Philippines
Yes, you heard me right, there are no caribou in the Philippines. As far as I know, there is not a one. A caribou is the same as a reindeer. We have water buffaloes in the Philippines. A lot of foreigners call the water buffalo a caribou. That’s not correct. The local name for a water buffalo is a carabao. CARABAO, not CARIBOU.
But, Bob, they are pronounced the same!
No, I’m sorry, they are not pronounced the same. A Caribou is pronounced like “Care i BOO”. A water buffalo, Carabao, is pronounced “Care a BOW” (as in taking a bow after you sing). See, they are pronounced differently! Remember, a Carabao is not the same animal as a Caribou like you would find in Alaska and other cold weather environments!
Learn to spell the places!
Generally, I am not the “spelling police,” if somebody leaves a comment and misspells something, it does not get my anger up, nor do I try to shame them for spelling something wrong, especially since the words are not standard English words. That said, though, when it comes to the names of places, especially a place where you intend to move to, I really think you should learn to spell the word! For example, I get lots of comments and e-mails from people who ask about Mindanao, the island where I live. There seems no end to the way people spell it. If you are planning to visit or live in Mindanao, though, I think it’s important to know how to spell it. It’s not that hard to learn how to spell a few words, right?
Knowing the langauge
One thing I get a laugh out of is when people claim to know the language after only a short time of living here. They may know a dozen words or so, but they are certainly not fluent. One very common thing is when they learn the word “na” which (among other things) means “already” or “now” in the local language. So, instead of saying “I already ate, I’m going to sleep now,” they say “I ate na, I’m going to bed na.” Yep, they just use the word “na” along with everything else in English, but they say they know the language. ha ha… Don’t say that you know the language when you just say “na.”
Now, let me say this, nobody has to learn the language here. You can indeed get by with just English, if that is what you want. Your life will be fuller, though, and more enjoyable if you learn the language, and even if you just know some common phrases, that will help you fulfill your life too.
So, those are just a few of the “foreigner mistakes” off the top of my head. I know there are many others, and I encourage you to share the ones you can think of. My real pet peaves are #1 and #2, the pluralization and the whole carabao thing. ;-) I guess the carabao thing is something that I shudder at because I really love the carabao, it is such an interesting animal, and also a workhorse in the Philippine society! ha ha… Which “foreigner mistakes” bother you?
Bob Martin is the Publisher & Editor in Chief of the Live in the Philippines Web Magazine. Bob is an Internet Entrepreneur who is based in Davao. Bob is an American who has lived permanently in Mindanao since May 2000. Here in Mindanao, Bob has resided in General Santos City, and now in Davao City. Bob is the owner of this website and many others.