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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 . We were talking about my second article that  was just posted on the online magazine which also happened to be the shortest and most commented post on my blog .

“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.

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.

Through The Years

I told my mom that there will be a medical mission near our place where people can have their usual laboratory tests- uric, blood sugar, urinary and what have you at a discounted rate. She immediately told me to have her registered . She added, “Take care of the registration fee and I will give it back when I get paid.”

I can not help but smile on how smart that sounded. My mom had gone back to tutoring kids. In our place, where word gets around easily, she was always referred to by other people as “the  old woman who had a reputation for teaching, ” a profession that she had always been proud of until now. It was not just her bread and butter, but her vocation,  just like motherhood.

My mom came from a dysfunctional family.  Being the eldest of 3 kids, she had learned the word responsibility at a young age. She once mentioned that there were days that she wanted to come out and play but instead  stayed indoors to look after her siblings. Good thing she loves to read. Perhaps she may have not realized it then but it was by reading where she met many friends, gone into places , and where she started building her dreams.

And that was what she did.

Every time she went to school she made sure she excelled.  Every task given to her , she gave her  110 per cent. She was  focused, driven and pro active. It did not matter if she had to cross a river just to study when she was in high school or  tutor her landlady’s kid just to pay for her rent when she was in college. She wanted to become a lawyer, an ambition that was far fetched at that time because they can not afford it , so she chose teaching instead, but  made sure, she will not just be any ordinary teacher.

She left her hometown when she married my dad. She was barely 23 years old then, perhaps even younger. She was obliged to learn a dialect she never knew and get along with people, including those that were hard to deal with. Enviousness,  perhaps runs  in every family circle, negative traits that my mom have no time for. To her, every man is basically good, and  it is his choices that makes  him what he is.

Mom has always been a source of inspiration to me and my kids

It was not surprising that my siblings and I had fared well in school. I thought then that was because  my mom taught in the same  school where we went to. When all of us had gone to other schools, even stopped schooling for a while, especially in my case, I found that it was not true. She tells us often  not to stop reading and to continue learning, be it watching informative shows or meeting people. She also  reminds us to remain humble of one’s achievements and to always look back at one’s humble beginnings.

There had been a year when my mom had been in and out of the hospital due to multiple strokes. My family  knew that she was not getting any  younger. That things were not the same as they used to  especially now that she has diabetis and osteoporosis. Year 2009 had been a bad year for all of us.We lost our eldest brother  due to a heart condition. All of us had been devastated especially my mom. All of us could not believe that my brother had gone too soon. We were worried  that she might  not be able take it all.

But my mom had never been a quitter. She had always faced life heads on. A few days after my brother’s cremation, she told one of my  daughters, that she  does not want to live in a hospital anymore.  That she is still needed especially now  that my brother left a wife and 3 sons. Besides, if she was able to move on when my dad left us ,  she can not see any reason  why she can not do that again.
And so that’s what she did but this time, she did more than that.

Mom and I enjoying a cozy afternoon with our relatives

She decided to be productive by accepting tutorials even though she was underpaid. She continued to be active in our place’s’ senior citizens group where she used to be the auditor, but now the vice president which worries me at times because that would mean more responsibility to the group, in which, she just gave me, a deaf ear. Lately, I have learned she attended birthday parties of other senior citizens’ members, even telling me that  she had worn the blouse I gave last Christmas.  She had never stopped reading that she  knows Harry Potter very well after reading all seven books. And never grew tired of knowing Dan Brown, James Patterson and Patricia Cornwell thru their novels.

Life had been kind to my mom. Financially we may not be well off, but  both mom and dad made sure my siblings and I were brought up with the things that really matter. Basic things like the times spent with each other, stories and laughter  shared, and the freedom to know and learn what life is all about. To be good in one’s  chosen field, and by paying things forward  especially to those who need it. It may not have been  much, even trivial to others, but as we go along our lives, when most  of the people who matter had gone before us, we may realize that it is not  the fancy, worldly  things,  that you long for, but the very simple ones that you want to take back,  hoping that this time it may not be too late.
My mom just turned 77  last January 20th. When I talked to her  over the phone, she said that my daughters’ classmates had read my blog and mentioned how they liked it. She added that she will find the time to read it,  now that she knows what a blog is.  And that really made me smile.

In fact, it really made my day.