Some people look at their reflection in the mirror and say, “You are beautiful” or “you are amazing.” On my first day of school here in the United States, I spent ten minutes staring back at the face I knew oh so well and persuaded that face, “You can speak English…fluently.”
It was the beginning of sophomore year, and I was scared beyond my wits. My mother kept reassuring me about how I was a good English speaker since I did well in English class, but I was not convinced. I came from the Metro Manila area in the Philippines, and, like most Manilenos, I was brought up speaking Taglish. Taglish is a fusion of both English and Filipino (Tagalog). In the streets of Manila, it is not uncommon to hear people say, “pakicarry po yung groceries sa tricycle.”
I would not proclaim that there were not any times when I focused on a single language.
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In fact, about 95% of the books I have read in my entire life were in English, and I am confident to say that I am an avid reader of fiction. Nevertheless, my first day of school made me very anxious. Are my classmates going to make fun of my accent? Should I correct my teachers when they cannot pronounce my last name? The ridiculous thoughts were endless.
Finally, I began my first day. It was not as bad as I thought it would be. I paused a lot in between saying my sentences, but my teachers were mostly understanding of that. I was then introduced to the concept of Socratic seminars in AP World History. A Socratic seminar is basically a discussion circle where students analyze a certain text, idea, etc. then have a collaborative and intellectual dialogue about it. At first, I was very shy to talk about my opinions and ideas during these seminars. After all, I have always thought that school was a one-way system where the teacher just talked and the students just listened. Either way, these seminars forced me to speak my mind. Suddenly, I did not care if I made mistakes, because not only should I communicate my thoughts in pure English, I also needed to organize my thoughts fast so I could present my ideas at the right moment.
It has been more than two years and a half since I first came here to America. I believe that I can now speak English separately from Filipino as opposed to Taglish from before. I have even somehow lost my Filipino accent in speaking English, while I also caught up with the trends of using the word “like” in my everyday language. Trying to draw a distinct line between these two languages has been my biggest challenge. As English is the universal language, I want to keep improving my skills of communicating with this language effectively. At the same time, I also hold Filipino close to my heart, as this language is the mirror of a culture where I belong.