“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 . I was not really surprised.
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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 . We were talking about my second article that was just posted on the online magazine missoandfriends.com which also happened to be the shortest and most commented post on my blog .
I grew up in a family where we watched mostly American shows and documentaries. My dad sees to it that we rarely watch Tagalog sitcoms and movies that sometimes he and my mom will have a short argument about it. 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 these shows. He even added 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. And he would just laugh at me , saying,” Then do not take it word for word. Jut pick the word you understand and take it from there. “
“What if I understood it 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 cannot remember a time that my siblings and I talked in English. Coming from a public school, I can remember when we were not allowed to talk in our dialect so we can 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 honed your talents. The internet has lost of venue for that . Just be careful on what groups you 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 12 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 can 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 realize that our world is not really that big for me to forget where I originally came from.