For years, I would try to speak to Filipinos in English, because that was the only language that I knew. I mean, English is a “second official language” of the Philippines, and almost all Filipinos can speak English, right? Funny thing was, though, that many times I found it difficult to have a meaningful conversation with many Filipinos in English.
I could always tell that many of these Filipinos I was trying to speak with could speak English, but they were embarrassed to speak with me in English. Sometimes I would ask them why they won’t speak with me in English. I would almost always hear the same response: “I’m shy, Sir” or “I’m ashamed, my English is not good.” My response to this would always be the same, I’d tell them that their English was certainly much better than my Bisaya or Tagalog! That was certainly true, too, because I actually could not speak Bisaya or Tagalog.
In the past two years that I have been learning the language, as I learned more and more, enough to actually be conversational in the language, I started learning what people meant, or how they felt when they told me this. I learned about it and understood it because although I could speak enough Bisaya to hold a nice conversation, I felt shy or embarrassed. I mean, what if I didn’t speak perfectly? It would be embarrassing, I might be ashamed! Maybe they would laugh at me, after all! How could I ever put my new language skills to work?
Well, one thing I learned about this whole thing was that when you learn a new language, it takes time to become comfortable with using it.
Honestly, I don’t know if I ever got to the point where I could say in my mind that I was comfortable. What happened, though, was that I came to a point where I didn’t care if I made mistakes! I looked at it as an opportunity to practice, but also to learn more by having people correct me! So, I decided to start speaking Bisaya a lot more. This was a few months ago. I guess I decided this back when I went to Cebu in May of this year. It was a perfect opportunity to speak the language, and I thought I better go for it.
Now, whenever I am out around town, I try to speak Bisaya almost exclusively. Also, I find ways of getting Bisaya practice online too. I especially like to post things on Facebook in Bisaya. Whenever I post a message or a status report in Bisaya on Facebook, there are always tons of people who respond to me, and engage in conversation with me. Hey, I am not always perfect in my use of the language, and sometimes there are people who correct me, or point out errors that I made. But, now, I don’t feel embarrassed when I make such errors. I just say thank you, and make a mental note of the error I made, trying to avoid doing that again in the future. Truth is that I’ve had a lot of fun using Bisaya on Facebook, and I’ve made a lot of new friends on Facebook by doing that. Also, whenever I am out and about in the City, I find it fun to use the local language to interact with people.
So, by learning a new language, though, it has given me a new appreciation for how Filipinos feel about speaking in English to a native English speaker. It is not something that is easy to get over. I do feel, though, that when you are learning a language, you get to a point where you just say “what the heck, I’m gonna go for it!’
I’m glad I’ve reached that point!