Part I — VOCABULARY
I learned my first English word when I was in Grade 1. And that word was, “Hi!” It’s the second expression I could speak with confidence next to: “Thank you!”
None of my classmates in grade school conversed in English. I mean, no one had ever used the language in our daily conversations. I know this fact very well. These were the same kids I had played games with in school. The only chance we could speak in English was when the teacher wanted us to:
- Open an English textbook and read something from it.
- Sing a song with English lyrics.
- Read a sentence on the board written in English.
- Recite an English poem.
- Count numbers 1 to 10.
- Stand up and give our answers in English.
The last one would scare the shit out of us. Even the mere mention of the word English signaled terror. Every time our teacher called out names, we would cower behind our desks.
Back then, Good Morning, Good Afternoon, and Goodbye were the only greetings we could abuse.
But almost always we could use them only when the teachers stepped inside and out of the room, when we bumped into them outside the classroom, and when the principal or any other top school figure paid our class a surprise visit.
Strangely enough, we would say these greetings in a very unnatural way like a tape played in slow motion. And it sounds like you’re going down the hill on a sleigh and up again:
“Goooodbyeeee, Mr. Suaaareeeeez!”
Class dismissed, and my close friends and I would then race out of the room. Goodbye had always been the last English word of the day — every day until the school semester ended.
No one has encouraged me to speak English. Not even my parents. They have been busy people with other priorities.
At home, we communicate with our dialect. I admit you’ll hear some occasional English.
It is not unusual. In the Philippines, we normally incorporate a couple of English words into our own language. We do this if we can’t express our thoughts in our native tongue.
The only downside is words are spoken in a heavy accent you can hardly recognize them as English!
But then, who in a small village like ours, dares to speak English with either British, Irish, or North American accent anyway?
If I do, chances are my neighbors will never forgive me. In this remote part of the world, talking to somebody in English with or without a fancy accent is abnormal.
Next: Know Your Why