Sunday, April 1, 2012

My Second Language

My eldest daughter, Samantha had always this thing for languages, English, Spanish, French and Korean. She had always been a wide reader since she was a kid, a bookworm and she had lived with that title until now that when we had moved, my other kids and I had complained that most of her things were books that needed to be hauled because some were hardbound bought on sale .

( Sam's books  bought on sale or given as gifts. Picture credits to 

A few days ago we were talking about my second article that  just got posted on the online magazine which happen to be one of the shortest among my earliest posts. 

"I had a chat with one of my American  friends the other day. She told me that I write well considering English is not my first language. " Sam told me and I was not really surprised.

I grew up in a family where we watched mostly American shows and documentaries. My dad saw to it that we rarely watch Tagalog sitcoms and movies that sometimes would start an argument between my parents. My mom reasoned out that we are Filipinos and that we should learn to appreciate our own but my dad would jokingly reply that we should not patronize everything that is Filipino. He does not want us watching tearjerkers like "Flordeluna," "Gulong Ng Palad," and "Inday Badiday's" show about local  gossips and intrigues that we have to go to my Aunt's house just to watch them.  He even added that he would rather see us watching educational game shows , the Oscar Awards, The Grammys and other documentaries because we get to know a little bit of history in them. I could recall telling my dad that I was a having hard time understanding them obviously because my vocabulary was limited. Perhaps as a father he was quite amused how I honestly told him of my limitations when it comes to learning the English language still he encouraged me to continue watching these American shows by just picking out on the words and context of the sentences that I only undertsood.

"What if I understood  wrong? What then?" I was young and  afraid to hear feedback if I spoke in English and somebody would correct me afterwards. 

"Then you are learning. Just practice until you become better,"he said.

I could not remember a time when my siblings and I talked in English. Coming from a public school, I could recall  when we were not allowed to talk in our dialect so we could practice our English which was not followed diligently simply because it was hard. We sounded different due to our cultural accent  that sometimes when we ran out of words we just laughed  because we felt stupid trying to learn a language that was not our own.

So how did I learn to communicate well then, be it oral or written for that matter ? Allow me to share some of those tips.

1. Never stop reading. You do not have be a total bookworm like my daughter, but if you are then that is just fine. Have the time to  read even short posts, quotations , articles , print advertisements. Even comic  or music magazines will help. You do not have to buy new ones . My kids and I are fans of book sales that when I take them out for a treat, I let them choose books or magazines that cost as low as ten pesos. The idea is to read and learn new words, sentences and phrases.

2. Start watching American shows and movies. Choose family and kid friendly ones either animated or not. The plots, the twists and turns plus the story's dialogue are great topics for you and your kids to start a short discussion  even after you had  watched them. You not only bond as a family but learn from each other as well.

3. Be open for opportunities. There are a lot of short courses where you can improve your communication skills, workshops where you can hone your talents. The internet has lots of venue for it just be careful on  what groups to join or the people you interact with. Choose a community where you can share your opinions  but still be mindful of basic courtesies.

When I had been a stay at home mom for 13 years, I thought I will not be able to work again. I am an undergrad and my chances of getting work so I could send my kids to school were very slim. But when there was a free call center training in our place I grabbed that opportunity and applied. I was discouraged because of my educational background but there was one interviewer who gave me that chance and encouraged me to take advantage of it. And the rest was what they all say, was history.

It took awhile for me to learn. But with every feedback, coaching and mentoring came humility, focus and understanding. It may have not been easy but the rewards were tenfold. Now after six years of hard work most of my clients over the phone would know that I am not an American but would commend that the clarity and spontaneity of how I communicate could be mistaken from that of another country, of another culture.  In which I am grateful but would admit to them that I have never been to any other country other than my own.

It is true that English is my second language. It may had helped me tremendously to be financially independent and creatively share my true self.

But it also helped me realized that our world is not really that big for me to forget where I originally came from. 



  1. Hi Sarah.. I enjoyed this article. I cant imagine how difficult it is to learn another language. I took Spanish in high school but couldn't understand it well enough to learn. Great job!!

    Thank you for sharing this story...

  2. I would love to learn new languages. Was never much of a french student in school (being a kid lol), but now see the value of having this knowledge. Great advice for others in the same position!
    thanks for stopping by my blog.

  3. What an encouraging post! Learning a second language is so difficult. Good for you!