Over the past few months, I have had the pleasure of getting together with two friends from the States. Both of these friends are likely to be known by long time LiP Readers. First, back in June through August or so, Kevin Smith visited the Philippines with his wife and children. Kevin was one of the early writers here on LiP after I opened up the site to multiple writers (originally, I was the only writer on this site). Kevin lives in Pennsylvania, but he really wants to move to the Philippines as soon as possible. Kevin is a school teacher, and teaches Math and Science.
Next, my friend, Randy Countryman visited the Philippines in September, along with his wife, Rechie. Randy lives in Washington State, although quite far from the area where I lived when I was there. I have known Randy for a number of years, originally when he was a regular commenter here on LiP, then we met in person about 3 years ago when Randy visited Davao and we got together. Both Randy and Kevin also own land on Samal Island, so it is possible that we will all be “neighbors” someday.
When I met Kevin for the first time, a little over 2 years ago, I had already been studying Bisaya for a year or so, and could have a bit of a conversation, although not very well. But, we went to Samal with Kevin and Jaycee (Kevin’s wife), and I was able to converse with some people over there in Bisaya, while Kevin and Jaycee were with us. Kevin was kind of amazed, I think, and it didn’t take long before he asked me about how he could learn the language. I put him in touch with my language teacher, Bebe Metillo, and Bebe has been giving Kevin lessons via Skype for about 2 years now, or perhaps even a bit longer.
With Randy, as I recall, he became interested in learning Bisaya after reading some articles I had written about learning the language. He asked me about it via e-mail, I believe, and I put him in touch with Bebe as well. Like Kevin, Randy has been studying the language for a couple of years now.
When Kevin was here in June, he stopped and visited my house one day, and I asked him if he would like to go to the Bankerohan Market and get some practice with his Bisaya speaking. He readily agreed, so we caught a tricycle to the market, only about 5 minutes from where I was living at the time. When we went to the Market, we visited the Isdahan first (the Fish Market) as I wanted to buy some fish for Feyma to cook for dinner. I enjoyed a lot watching and listening to Kevin try out his Bisaya for the first time in this kind of setting. One thing I could tell was that Kevin was very self conscience about speaking Bisaya, he was embarrassed that he might make a mistake in the language, and was quite shy to speak to people. I knew how this felt, because I was like that in the past myself. A day came when I just decided that I didn’t care if I pronounced something wrong, or used the wrong word, I was going to use the language skills that I had learned. I felt like the only way to improve my skills was to use it. Making mistakes was only part of the process of learning! Because of this, I really kept encouraging Kevin to not worry about making mistakes, and just to force himself to use the language as much as possible!
A few months later when Randy came to visit, he and Rechie invited Feyma and I out for lunch. During lunch, Randy told me that he and Bebe would be going to Bankerohan for a lesson in the market later that afternoon. I really wanted to go along, and asked both Randy and Bebe if they would mind if I tagged along for the visit, and they both agreed! So, the three of us also jumped in a tricycle and went to the market. With Randy and Bebe, we started in the Fruit area, and made our way to the Vegetable area, then to the Fish area. We later visited other parts of the market as well, and had a snack of Putomaya and Hot Chocolate too. It was a fun day. Randy was less shy about using the language, but mostly, I think, because our teacher was with us, and was constantly prodding him to say “this and that” to the vendors.
One thing I noticed on the visit was that both Randy and Kevin really had a hard time with pronouncing the words properly. When I heard this, I realized something that I had already known all along – living here where I hear and use the language every day is a huge advantage to me. These guys lived in a place where they rarely (if ever) were able to hear the language in daily use.
As we spent time at the market, though, in each case, I could also see that both Kevin and Randy made huge strides in proper pronunciation, and also in the comfort in speaking the language! At first, when I heard their pronunciation problems, I started wondering if it really was worth it for somebody to learn the language at such a distance using Skype. However, when I saw the speed with with they progressed during the day, I realized that it was really a good thing to use Skype for learning, with an occasional visit to the Philippines that would give them “live practice” on the streets, where you can really learn, and improve your language skills.
So, as I said, over the past months I have had two opportunities to see my fellow students (long distance students in this case) come here and use the skills they had learned. I really felt good in witnessing it, and had a lot of fun with each of them! Another thing I enjoyed was being able to help them a bit with the language, since I was a bit more advanced in learning it than they were. It really felt good to see both of my friends being able to come here and get a little more enjoyment out of their visit because of their ability to speak the language!
Thanks for including me, Kevin and Randy! I bet by next time that each of you visit, we will be able to converse like locals!