Sunday, October 14, 2007

No English, Please!

A few months ago, we got an off-the-boat babysitter from the Philippines. I was excited because we'd have someone to teach our baby Filipino. Well, she kept forgetting to speak Filipino, and I gave up on reminding her to NOT speak English.

Then, when I found out that my mother-in-law was coming to stay with us for a couple of months, I thought we'd have another opportunity to immunize her against monolingualism.

That was not to be... It's been a month now, and though my mother-in-law will speak her native dialect when talking to my wife and to my parents, she can't help but speak English when she plays with the baby.

I should have known. You see, even though my wife grew up in the Philippines, her first language was English too. She even grew up watching the same television shows I did: Sesame Street, Scooby Doo, Flintstones, etc. And none of it was dubbed into anything other than English. Not even Voltron, He-Man, or the Transformers.

I came to realize that for a lot of folks in Philippines, English is the language you use when you talk to children. They can't help it. They speak their native tongue when speaking to adults, but when they talk to babies and young children, they can't help but to break into English!!

Oy vay, at this rate, it looks like the only other language she'll be picking up is the Yiddish I picked up from the neighbors when I was growing up!


mamazilla said...

my husband was just complaining that my mom doesn't speak tagalog to our kids. and i said, well, why would she? she speaks bisaya. :)

i've taken it upon myself to try to teach myself and the kids tagalog and use it in daily life - i'm using the dora (the explorer) approach.

this week, my daughter is going to help teach her preschool class some tagalog for filipino american heritage month - how to count from one to ten, basic colors and the days of the week.

Anonymous said...

it's times when i see the kids having difficulty communicating with their halmoni and hadabogi that my heart breaks a little (for being "too lazy to keep up my mother-language").

and because i speak everything else BUT korean, my heart breaks just a little bit more . . .

Anonymous said...

you oughta write a screenplay

called "chinglish"

it'll be a parody of the ups and

downs of a couple trying to buy

back the cultural values they'd

lost coming to wal-mart america.

Anonymous said...

Your off-the-boat babysitter from the Philippines forgot how to speak "Filipino?" Huh, well, that's probably cause one doesn't speak Filipino, it's likely Tagalog or Ilocano.

Jumping on non-Asian people's insensitivies regarding race and then saying, "Oh, they don't speak Filipino" makes you look just as ignorant

If you're going to take pride in your Asian heritages, better get yourself in check and know what you're talking about.

Professor Pinoy Papa

SoulSnax said...

I apologize, senor Anonymous.

I probably should have said "off the plane." I'm off the plane too, since we just got off the plane from the Philippines a few weeks ago.

But I'd much rather have my daughter speak Filipino (or Pilipino, take your pick). That's because my mom speaks Ilocano, my dad speaks Cebuano, my wife speaks Ilonggo, my mother-in-law speaks Kinaray-a and I speak pig-latin, but we all understand Filipino.

Have you ever even been to the Philippines?

SoulSnax said...

oooooooh, check this out:

"Are "Tagalog," "Pilipino" and "Filipino" different languages? No, they are mutually intelligible varieties, and therefore belong to one language. According to the KWF, Filipino is that speech variety spoken in Metro Manila and other urban centers where different ethnic groups meet. It is the most prestigious variety of Tagalog and the language used by the national mass media."

v said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
v said...

Oh I can so relate to this post! My husband is a first-generation Filipino whose parents spoke English to him. He only happened to learn Ilokano b/c his family went back to the P.I. for a time when he was young. I really wanted our kids to be bilingual and have asked him to speak Ilokano to them at least sometimes but he says he forgets. I've also asked my in-laws to speak only Ilokano to the kids but I guess they forget too or something. At best, they use a few words here and there, mostly nouns.

I gave my hubby a really hard time when he was once taking on the phone to his folks (they always converse in Ilokano unless they’re including a non-speaker in the conversation) and our son said, “Hey, Mom! Daddy speaks Spanish!” (I guess he decided that any non-English sounding language must be Spanish; he watches Dora/Diego).

If there were any Ilokano classes offered where I live, I'd take them and then teach the kids myself but there's only Tagalog offered around here and if I'm going to learn a Filipino language I want to learn the main one spoken by my husband's family. I found this book ( but can't get my husband to do the dialog w/ me (he says it's too "cheesy"-- you know, stuff like "Hello, my name is Maria..."). I also found this book w/ CD ( but I haven’t been disciplined enough to use it regularly w/ the kids. I’m frustrated by the lack of Ilokano language books out there but guess I should consider myself lucky b/c I’ve hardly ever seen any in a Filipino language other than Tagalog or Ilokano.

Anyway, I just found this one that I think I’m going to order ( But honestly, I don’t really think books are going to cut it. The only way I’ve seen bilingual families work well is when someone the child sees very regularly (parent, grandparent…) speaks only their native tongue to the child.