As an adult, English is one of the hardest languages to learn...or so I've heard. It was my primary language since birth, so I never realized just how frustrating and challenging it can be. Silent letters, same spelling but different pronunciation...etc. Living in the Philippines for a few years helped me to realize that sometimes, English just doesn't make sense.
One of my favorite things about Filipino languages is how phonetically accurate they are. Once you learn how to pronounce all the letters, you can say almost any word correctly on the first try. On top of this, Filipinos are much more literal. I've learned that English leaves a lot of room for misunderstanding.
As an American English speaker, Filipino expressions didn't seem to make sense at first. However, on closer inspection, I realized that they actually make more sense! Here are 5 examples:
I'll never forget the first time I saw this on a menu. I just laughed to myself. It's not a sandwich, I thought. It's a hot dog. Then I started thinking about the strange fact that in the U.S., it's called a hot dog with or without the bun (bread). So if the meat alone is called a hotdog, then putting it between 2 pieces of bread is in fact creating a hot dog sandwich. Mind blown.
Foreigners in the Philippines always find it funny when customer service reps ask us to "please wait for a while". In our countries, this is sort of like asking us to wait for a long time. You would never say that. Instead, we might say "just a second, please", or "wait a moment, please". However, Filipinos are just too literal for that. they know that in reality it will will take longer than just one second, so they are just being honest. Haha. I like that.
It took me so long to get used to the way Filipinos pronounce this word. It just sounded so different to me. The truth is that they're actually pronouncing it in a very straightforward way - just as it is spelled. That's when I realized how ridiculous my own pronunciation of it is. In the U.S. we say "cuh-ler". Filipinos see an "o" , and they pronounce it "oh". Always. That makes sense! What did we Americans do with the "o" sound, and why do we pronounce each "o" in the word "color" differently??
I noticed that one of the bus options in the Philippines was an "extra ordinary" bus. To me, saying extra ordinary is saying that it is more ordinary than a normal bus. Like if the premium bus had seats, air con, and a bathroom on board, the ordinary bus might just have seats and windows that open, and the extra ordinary bus might have no seats or windows at all! Haha.
In the Philippines, extra ordinary is actually the upgraded version of the regular bus. That's when I realized that in the U.S., if you put a space between the word extraordinary, it starts to mean the opposite. Strange.
This one sounds very strange to a non-Filipino. For the longest time I thought it was bad grammar, then I was at a friend's house one night and I was told to put the lid on the candle to put out the flame. Suddenly it clicked. I was closing the light! I felt so foolish. It makes sense that this expression has persisted so long, because many provinces might have been using candlelight up until the last 10 or 20 years.
This also reminds me of the word "viand", which believe it or not, I thought was a Tagalog (Filipino) word when I first heard it. My Filipino friends laughed and told me it was in fact an English word. I have never heard the word in my life; I don't think it's commonly used in U.S. conversation or literature. Now I've started to wonder if many Filipino expressions come from old American English - words and phrases that are no longer used back home.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to live in the Philippines and see my native language in a whole new way.
I actually prefer the way that English is pronounced there. In general, yes...it really makes more sense to me. In fact, when my friends and family talk about "the accent" I came back home with, it's probably just because I speak like a Filipino now:)
- Nathan Allen
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