English as a Second Language

Ok, so we have been here in Canada for almost a year now and I thought that after enough months of practice and speaking in straight English, I’d somehow get so used to it that it will eventually come naturally when conversing. There are some days when my head is on straight and talking to my Canadian office mates is a breeze, no headaches and no blood coming out of my nose. But there are still those days when I feel like my brain’s batteries are running low and my English vocabulary seem to only consist of words like “Yeah”, “No way”, “I know, right” and “Uh-huh”. During these instances when my thinking is even slower than my office computer running on a 512mb RAM, words like “teka”, “ano”, “kasi” and “ewan” escape my lips when speaking. And only when I see the big question marked face looking back at me that I realize they didn’t understand what I just said.

In fairness to us (:P), we do get compliments about how good our spoken English is considering that it is not our first language. Some even thought we have been in Canada for years already coz our “Filipino accent” wasn’t as distinct (They should hear our call center agents back home who sound like they were born and raised in the States when they talk to each other (loudly) inside office elevators). When they asked where we learned our English and we tell them that it is the basic mode of teaching in most schools in the Philippines, they were surprised. They thought that since we have our own language, it was but natural that teachers would teach in Filipino, not English. Well, I guess we do have a pretty good grasp of the English language even if we still think in Tagalog.

PERO WAG KA! Filipino / Tagalog is the 4th widely spoken language here in Manitoba! Some establishments would encourage their staff to speak in their native language when talking to a fellow countrymen,  so it’s not really a surprise when you enter a McDonald’s store and you’d think you were in the Philippines coz most people are speaking in Tagalog.  And because the Filipino community in Winnipeg is the largest visible minority group in the city, you’re sure to bump into a Filipino practically anywhere you go! So we do get to speak to other people in our beloved Tagalog.

So what if our thinking process is slower because we have to mentally translate some of our replies from Tagalog to English? So what if some Filipinos inter-change “F” and “P”? The thing is, we understand English better than other people think…

E kayo, naiintindihan niyo ba ang Tagalog ko? Talo ka, diba.

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One thought on “English as a Second Language”

  1. English is that way, is it not? i so share your sentiments about the second language. i do not know how it is to be part of the huge (comparatively) Tagalog community, as my first language is Latvian, and that’s a different story. but i spend most of my time in English (now, this sounded like a language could be a place, but sometimes it feels that way).
    i find English easier to think in, because it has all those words, those nuances and precision that my first language lacks. so, i quite often find myself in a situation quite opposite from what you describe – my Latvian stops for a while, till i translate my thoughts from English…not very successfully at times.

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