Here In America, We Speak English
“Can you order for me, anak?” asks Lola, though she has lived in America longer than I have. It doesn’t matter, not when her accented English labels her an outsider, and though this country is now her home as much as it is now mine.
Many Filipino-American children have gone through this, especially if their parents or grandparents immigrated here later in life. Elder Filipinos would rather have kids speak for them, kids that speak English “normally”. Embarrassed of their accents, they call their children, who have assimilated so much that not a trace of an accent is heard in their speech. I’m sure that this isn’t just for Filipinos, either.
However, in the Philippines, though Filipino is the national language, around 76% of Filipinos understand English (according to a survey done by Social Weather Stations in 2008). In my own household in Baguio, we spoke English more than Tagalog, with the adults discussing amongst themselves in Ilocano when they didn’t want us kids knowing what they were talking about.
In my school in the Philippines, if I spelled any word wrong, the teacher would make me rewrite the word 20 times. When writing, if the loop of the letter ‘l’ went beyond the lines, it was wrong, and I was told to rewrite it. I was only in second grade, mind you. The basis of my grammar, writing, and reading comes from my teachings from the Philippines, something I have become grateful for.
My point is that Filipinos know English.
Of course, coming from a different country, and speaking more than one language, the English is going to sound different. But where did the stigma behind accents come from? Even in different parts of America, people have different accents. Why is it different for people of color? Why are Asians made fun of for having accents? It is a part of why Filipino parents are so hesitant on teaching their children Filipino. What use would Filipino be, in a country so keen on being monolinguist?
“Here in America, we speak English!”
This line is followed with cheers and hollers, with people nodding their heads. If it’s delivered as a comment on Facebook, there are hundreds of likes, dozens of angry reacts. “Go back to your country!” comments another, an American flag on the background of his profile picture.
These are people that worked tirelessly for years to get to this country, a country that now discredits them, because the way they speak English is different from “everyone else”. It’s not even that they don’t speak English, because they do. But because English is not their first language, and they didn’t grow up here.
I was only in the Philippines for the first seven years of my life, and we spoke English in my household, so my accent faded away as I grew older. There are still times it pops out, like when I’m angry, or around family, or with certain words (I’m never going to pronounce mitten the “correct” way), but for other Filipinos, the accent is who they are. But it shouldn’t be a bad thing. There are many things that are funny in this world, but this is not one of them. We should all be understanding of others, and realize the impact of our words and actions.
That’s all for this issue of The Filipino Times,
Don’t be late!
Until next time,
Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya
Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya is a Baguio-born Filipino immigrant turned U.S citizen, a lover of music, sinigang, and long walks on the beach.
Find her diannepa.tricia on Instagram, Dianne Patricia Matias Verroya on Facebook, and eating fried chicken in the UIC atrium when she doesn’t have class.