I’ve only known how to speak English my entire life. As a writer, my life revolves around the English language. Even in the seven years that I’ve lived in the Philippines, I haven’t learned the language of the area where I live.
But that has to change.
I mentioned in my last post that in 2019, I am going to be Santa Claus. This year, I want to focus in the area around Iloilo City where I live, but eventually, I want to travel all over the Philippines.
In this area, Hiligaynon is the spoken dialect. I am going to learn as much as I can this year, and then move on to Tagalog, which is the most widely used language in the Philippines.
Having never tried to learn another language, I know this will be difficult, but I am motivated.
Last week my wife started sharing Hiligaynon phrases with me. I must say that I am having a terrible time trying to remember them. I am stretching parts of my brain that I haven’t used before, and exercising others, like memory, that aren’t used as much.
We started simply:
How are you? — Kamusta Ka?
I am okay — Maayo Man
Let’s eat — Kaun Ta
That is half the conversations I have right there. It seems I am always eating. If I’m not eating it’s because:
I’m tired — Kapoy Ko
I’m lazy — Tamod Ko
I know this doesn’t seem like much, but it’s a good start
The burning question was: how can I spice up the language a bit? I don’t swear all the time, but you never know when I may need one of the “terrible three:”
Fuck — Puta
Shit — Ta-e
Hell — Impyerno
And, you can hardly even leave the house unless you can say:
I have to poop — Ma Mus-on Ko
I think I am definitely making some serious progress. I’ll be a polyglot before I know it!
That is all in fun, but there are other reasons I want to learn new languages. There are, in fact, many great benefits of language learning. Here are two:
Improves Memory — Boosts Brain Power — Sharpens the Mind
I just passed 50 years, and it won’t be long until my brain doesn’t work as well as it used to. I am already becoming forgetful. Learning a new language exercises the brain. The process in which your brain reorganizes itself by creating new connections is called neuroplasticity. Language learning aids in this process and improves brain function.
Enhances Skill with your First Language
We are always looking for ways to improve our writing, and believe it or not, learning a second or third language will help you become more proficient with your first. I love the thought that increasing my vocabulary and becoming better with grammar in English will happen while I am learning a new language and culture.
Since I’ve decided that the Philippines will be my permanent home, it only makes sense that I know the language. It’s not just playing Santa Claus; I need to know how to interact with everyone without needing a translator.
It’s silly that I haven’t learned more until now. I guess I always harbored the thought that one day my family and I would migrate back to the U.S. and live there. But as the years go by and I establish myself here more and more, I know that this is my home now and there is no going back. Truthfully, even if I had the chance to go back, I would stay here in the Philippines.
The bottom line is that life is better for me here. Everything that was lacking in my life in the States is fulfilled here, and I wouldn’t want to change that.
So if I am going to be a permanent resident here in the Philippines, I need to start being able to speak to the people who have so graciously taken me into their lives. I’ve done okay so far, but if I want to make an impact, I need to make an effort!
My very pregnant wife decided to take a nap, but before she did, I learned one more phrase. This phase is crucial because it seems as if every day it comes up in a conversation:
I’m a writer — Naga Sulat
In a few months, along with my impressive gesturing, I should be able to carry on some conversations. It will be nice to feel like I am part of the community.
Now I can do something that I haven’t fully done until now — I can give back.