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tambok

Unmentioned Annoyances of Being Able to Speak Filipino Languages

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tambok

I am an avid language learner, but a white man in the Philippines ( and most of E/SE Asia) will always run into major annoyances when learning how to speak the local language. Meaning- people will often refuse to speak it to you, refuse to give directions in the language, and sometimes laugh at you and mock you. Also, speaking a few words makes you sound cute, but carrying on conversations in the language may not be seen as a good thing by some.

 

Service staff will most appreciate it but will usually answer in English, and very poor people will appreciate it and talk back to you in that language.

 

But quite often, regular people will just answer in English and try to switch to English period. While, at the same time, turning to brown skinned people and speaking Tagalog or Visaya. Their English will also often be rude starting with "Whaaaaaaaat? " instead of "Excuse me?" or "Pardon me?". Many will not use" please". Some will make fun of your accent and mimick the way you pronounce it while laughing at you. Otoh, if you spoke only English, they would often kowtow to you and treat you with deferal.

 

When in Japan, I was told by a very well meaning friend not to speak Japanese when invited to a party in Tokyo. And even in Manila, there was a woman who said-" I will invite you to my home, but don't speak Tagalog!". Then, another one glared at me and said in a low voice- "Speak English, they are making fun of your accent". Some simply lose respect for you if you start speaking the local language.

 

Once, I was in uptown Cebu and I asked a person in Visaya in front of KFC if the restaurant was open. He said " Whaaaaaat?" I asked him why he was not answering in Visaya.

 

He got very rude and started shouting at me that I was not a Filipino ( and had no right to speak it) and that he was in his country and could speak anything he wanted. He also mimicked my accent with mockery. Had I just spoken English, nothing like this would have happened.

 

A very similar phenomenon occurs in Thailand. The happiest expats are the ones who DO NOT speak Thai except for numbers and some set phrases. Instantly, they are sheltered from all the evil around them.

 

Now, granted that majority of people ( over 50%) will still appreciate it but many will be so shocked than instead of just talking to you, they will be commenting with surprise that you can speak it. Over and over again. It gets annoying after a while. They do not treat you as an equal!

 

And occasionally you get mocking and hostile reactions accompanied by overall "reduction" in the level of respect.

 

A friend of mine who was a long time resident in Asia noted that "an Asian will never consider you as his equal so you have no choice but to come off as being superior".

 

Those expats who have money, speak only English ( some 99%) and act superior do not seem to have all these weird conflicts that a Visayan speaking "poreigner" has. They walk around with a spring in their step, the nose in the air and a proud announcement of their nationality- "I am an American! I speak English!" And they get instant respect.

 

And then you have a linguist like me, who runs into all these weird situations from narrow-minded locals. Some start shouting- "What nationality?" What nationality?" Very annoying.

 

Anyway, sometimes I feel like giving this advice- for peace of mind, speak English and carry a big dollar. And you will be loved and respected by all.

 

Is there any use for local languages,though? I'd say , some 10-20% of people will respond to you in those and treat you OK. Also, if you are a missionary or a philantropist who wants to work with common, poor masses, you should learn them.

 

Otherwise, a nose in the air, a puffed up chest and English Only is all you need.

Edited by tambok
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Art

I was told by a friend when visiting their place in Cebu not to speak Visayan yet her mother when visiting me encouraged me to learn Visayan so we could talk and understand each other better.  It puzzled me and I only used English while in her place.   I wonder about your experiences too why they are like that?  I was so surprised it never occurred to me to ask why I shouldn't try to speak their language.   OTOH when I was in Paris the snobby Parisians appreciated my clumsy attempts to speak French and treated me well and switched to English to converse while my brother at another time who knew no French was given a hard time and often accused of being Anglais and overcharged in cafes. 

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thebob

It is my experience that you can gauge your progress in an Asian language, by the phrase that you speak xxxx really well. When people stop saying this to you, you know that you are making progress.

 

One of the most amusing weekends I spent in Tokyo was escorting a young Japanese - American girl on her first visit. People just did not believe that she couldn't speak Japanese and found it hard to speak to me, a tall blond European.

 

As for the code switching, you need to develop certain strategies to initiate contact. I find that if the first few utterances are halting, and you purposely appear to speak at a lower level that you are capable of, your attempt is received in a more friendly manner. Slowly you can introduce more complex language and it won't be noticed.

 

Another tactic is to claim to speak only Nordic languages, or reply to English replies in heavily accented, slang laden vernacular. Spanish is also useful in this case, as it sounds familiar to them but is mostly unintelligible to most.

 

Also developing a "local" accent is also in your interest. The "Boholano" inflection common in Moalboal, is useful in the city, because people assume that you would need to speak Visaya there due to perceived educational differences between the city and province. It panders to their local prejudices.

 

 

OTOH when I was in Paris the snobby Parisians appreciated my clumsy attempts to speak French and treated me well and switched to English to converse while my brother at another time who knew no French was given a hard time and often accused of being Anglais and overcharged in cafes. 

 

 

Try visiting North Wales. Much the same attitude exists.

Edited by thebob
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broden

 

 

It is my experience that you can gauge your progress

 

i must say that's some pretty good english there my friend

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passingby

Totally disagree with the above comment!!  " A very similar phenomenon occurs in Thailand. The happiest expats are the ones who DO NOT speak Thai except for numbers and some set phrases. Instantly, they are sheltered from all the evil around them."  I have lived there over 10 years and DO speak not so bad Thai.  Most Thai do NOT speak English or enough to understand most foreigners unless they are in business or taxi drivers and the like.  Speaking Thai is important to get the best deals with buying things in street markets or small shops.and will let them know you have been there long enough to KNOW the local price and not get ripped off.  Also it eliminates problems when asking directions.  It does to me seem appreciated IF you speak MORE than the few "Tourist" words.  Most of all I WANT to know "all the evil around" me.  I enjoy hearing them say "Oh he speaks Thai" when talking about me.  For my own personal and economic safety and personal enjoyment I am GLAD I do speak Thai. And when I run into something I do not know or how to say correctly I ask - even street market sellers have always been glad to help me learn a new word or correct way to say it!  Never had someone make fun of me for my Thai!

 

And NO I do not speak the local language - English is too common here and I am too old to learn another language.  In addition to English I do speak a bit of two other Asian languages where I have lived and worked.

Edited by passingby

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CebuJohn

I am an avid language learner, but a white man in the Philippines ( and most of E/SE Asia) will always run into major annoyances when learning how to speak the local language. Meaning- people will often refuse to speak it to you, refuse to give directions in the language, and sometimes laugh at you and mock you. Also, speaking a few words makes you sound cute, but carrying on conversations in the language may not be seen as a good thing by some.

 

Service staff will most appreciate it but will usually answer in English, and very poor people will appreciate it and talk back to you in that language.

 

But quite often, regular people will just answer in English and try to switch to English period. While, at the same time, turning to brown skinned people and speaking Tagalog or Visaya. Their English will also often be rude starting with "Whaaaaaaaat? " instead of "Excuse me?" or "Pardon me?". Many will not use" please". Some will make fun of your accent and mimick the way you pronounce it while laughing at you. Otoh, if you spoke only English, they would often kowtow to you and treat you with deferal.

 

When in Japan, I was told by a very well meaning friend not to speak Japanese when invited to a party in Tokyo. And even in Manila, there was a woman who said-" I will invite you to my home, but don't speak Tagalog!". Then, another one glared at me and said in a low voice- "Speak English, they are making fun of your accent". Some simply lose respect for you if you start speaking the local language.

 

Once, I was in uptown Cebu and I asked a person in Visaya in front of KFC if the restaurant was open. He said " Whaaaaaat?" I asked him why he was not answering in Visaya.

 

He got very rude and started shouting at me that I was not a Filipino ( and had no right to speak it) and that he was in his country and could speak anything he wanted. He also mimicked my accent with mockery. Had I just spoken English, nothing like this would have happened.

 

A very similar phenomenon occurs in Thailand. The happiest expats are the ones who DO NOT speak Thai except for numbers and some set phrases. Instantly, they are sheltered from all the evil around them.

 

Now, granted that majority of people ( over 50%) will still appreciate it but many will be so shocked than instead of just talking to you, they will be commenting with surprise that you can speak it. Over and over again. It gets annoying after a while. They do not treat you as an equal!

 

And occasionally you get mocking and hostile reactions accompanied by overall "reduction" in the level of respect.

 

A friend of mine who was a long time resident in Asia noted that "an Asian will never consider you as his equal so you have no choice but to come off as being superior".

 

Those expats who have money, speak only English ( some 99%) and act superior do not seem to have all these weird conflicts that a Visayan speaking "poreigner" has. They walk around with a spring in their step, the nose in the air and a proud announcement of their nationality- "I am an American! I speak English!" And they get instant respect.

 

And then you have a linguist like me, who runs into all these weird situations from narrow-minded locals. Some start shouting- "What nationality?" What nationality?" Very annoying.

 

Anyway, sometimes I feel like giving this advice- for peace of mind, speak English and carry a big dollar. And you will be loved and respected by all.

 

Is there any use for local languages,though? I'd say , some 10-20% of people will respond to you in those and treat you OK. Also, if you are a missionary or a philantropist who wants to work with common, poor masses, you should learn them.

 

Otherwise, a nose in the air, a puffed up chest and English Only is all you need.

I have very limited experience in this topic, I had never been to Asia until ten months ago, and the Philippines is the only place in Asia I have ever been.

I have noticed however that what appears to be rude construct to anglophones is not considered rude among Filipinos.  For example, the sari-sari clerk, among others, will say "Ano?" to any customer who is not the first to state what he or she wants.  This translates to "What?", and the old gentleman at my local sari-sari greets my each visit by saying "What?" to me.

 

I have also noticed that in Tagalog at least, there is no easy way to say "Please", while "Thank you "  and "You're welcome" are available and easy enough for anyone to learn or say.  I tried "Pakiusap" a few times, I was told by companions that nobody says such a thing, "Pakiusap" is too formal and only used in writing, such as on signage "Please do this", or "Please do not do this", etc.

 

I was told that to say "Please", I could say "Paki" as the first word of my request, but only if the second word was the imperative/command form of the verb.  But to pull that off, you have to know the verb and its correct form of course, then the pronouns and objects, and the correct order of all of those components....something beyond me at the moment.

 

I've been in the same subdivision for 8 months, the locals here know me and help me with my Tagalog whenever I ask or try, they seem glad to know that I try their language -   or, I should say their national language, as I am in Pampanga and the local language here is Kapampangan.  Nobody here has ever ridiculed me or laughed at me (to my knowledge) for my having tried to converse in Tagalog.

Edited by CebuJohn
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tambok

Oh, but Pampanga is different. For one, Tagalog is not their tongue but it is used as a lingua franca among so many ethnic groups living there. And a foreigner speaking Tagalog to a Waray in Pampanga will not evoke laughter. Both are non native speakers.

 

It is different in Cebu where most people are of Cebuano stock and it's their own language.

 

"Please" it Tagalog is expresses often by " nga" + "po". "Bigyan mo nga po isang coke". "Bigyan mo isang coke" is kind of rough but most are non native speakers and do not care. In more formal, you can use: "mangyari lang ho+ request".

 

Inserting po and ho will make any sentence polite.

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Paul

Man, I lived in the Philippines for over eleven years. I was never told, anywhere I went, to not speak Cebuano in someone's home I was visiting.

 

I was never mocked, and only "talked" about prior to someone knowing of my learning Cebuano. 

 

In every case, from early on when I was learning only a few words, until the date I left the Philippines, the fact that I spoke Cebuano / Bisaya, on any level, was appreciated by native speakers.

 

Of course, I never have learned more than a few words of Tagalog. But, knowing how arrogant many of them can be, I could understand that happening in the larger cities on Luzon.

Edited by Paul
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tambok

Man, I lived in the Philippines for over eleven years. I was never told, anywhere I went, to not speak Cebuano in someone's home I was visiting.

 

I was never mocked, and only "talked" about prior to someone knowing of my learning Cebuano. 

 

In every case, from early on when I was learning only a few words, until the date I left the Philippines, the fact that I spoke Cebuano / Bisaya, on any level, was appreciated by native speakers.

 

Of course, I never have learned more than a few words of Tagalog. But, knowing how arrogant many of them can be, I could understand that happening in the larger cities on Luzon.

All personal experiences are anecdotal and situational. The same goes for war- most people who go to war never get shot. But those who expose themselves repeatedly to military missions increase the risk. I am a very sociable and talkative person who has met thousands of people. Among those, maybe 10-14 mocked me. But those experiences stick with you because of the pain of unfairness and envy to those who speak English and carry a big dollar and have plenty of friends, a nice wife, nice condo etc. While proclaiming smugly: "Not a word! I don't need it. I am an American!" and the locals just lapping it up!

 

Another anecdotal difference is that I was almost never mocked by Tagalogs, it was the Visayans mostly. And again, most did not. But 10-15 experiences just stick in the memory.

 

But outside of mockery, the refusal to reply in the local tongue and them using English is a daily event for me.

Edited by tambok

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Paul

 

 

Among those, maybe 10-14 mocked me. But those experiences stick with you...

 

Personally, when I experienced (usually) young Filipinos stating stupid things that they had no business stating, usually addressed to the woman I was with, I would simply turn and reply to them in Cebuano. That pretty well sorted any issues, then and there. Personally, I found most of the incidents quite amusing. Perhaps I can include them in my memoirs at some point in the future.

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Brucewayne

So, my wife doesn't want my daughter or myself to learn Cebuano because it would make us look like we feel superior to her, but if we speak only English it would would appear that we are indeed superior to her?

Sounds logical if one knows anything about Filipino pride.

Personally though, I think they don't want us to know what they are saying, it gives them an edge over us in that they can talk about us in front of our faces and we won't have a clue as to what they are saying.

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nomad4ever

Also, I wouldn't generalize the whole of Asia. In Indonesia, which still has the easiest Asian language to learn, any little word you say will bring you further anywhere. Mistakes are gladly overlooked and if you can hold just a little bit of conversation, it opens you doors that would otherwise remain shut. That's the same for Bali, Jakarta or the smallest kampung on some remote island. Yes, they still have their local languages and dialects, but it seems Bahasa Indonesia has a greater uniting effect there than Tagalog or Filipino has here.

 

Sent from my LG G2 using Tapatalk

 

Edited by nomad4ever

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Headshot

Personally, when I experienced (usually) young Filipinos stating stupid things that they had no business stating, usually addressed to the woman I was with, I would simply turn and reply to them in Cebuano. That pretty well sorted any issues, then and there. Personally, I found most of the incidents quite amusing. Perhaps I can include them in my memoirs at some point in the future.

 

They say that ignorance is bliss, but in reality, ignorance is just ignorance. Although I have a really hard time learning Bisaya, I keep trying because I find it important. I do not find it so important to be able to speak it as I find it important to UNDERSTAND it. Why? I believe it is important to know what is being said around (or about ) you. You can nip things in the bud by replying to someone who is acting rudely by answering them or commenting back. Suddenly, they realize that they cannot talk with impunity behind your back, and usually they will back off immediately. I don't worry about what they might think of me afterwards, since they thought so poorly of me in the first place. So, even with what I do understand, I seldom try to speak the language...since to do so would prevent them from saying what they feel in the first place...and it is important to know how those around you feel about you. Once you know, then you can spring the trap effectively and shut them down in their tracks. You don't have to answer them back in their own language either. Answering in English is probably more effective, since now they know you understand them but CHOOSE to speak to them in English (which is considered a "language of power" here).

Edited by Headshot
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passingby

"Personally though, I think they don't want us to know what they are saying, it gives them an edge over us in that they can talk about us in front of our faces and we won't have a clue as to what they are saying."  More truth here than we may think.  My former boss was retired Canadian Navy and had a big tattoo of an anchor on his arm.  In an elevator after lunch one day two girls were making fun of it and he said in THAI would you like to hold on to it?  If these two girls could have melted through the floor they would have while most other Thais in the elevator broke out laughing.  It is nice to know what is said about you AND often when shopping I will start in English and listen to what they say to each other on the price, etc. Then change to Thai and watch the price tumble.  IF I were in any long/short term relationship here and I am not, I would want to know enough to see just how badly I was getting (financially) screwed.

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tokyoman

 

 

Why? I find it important so you know what is being said around (or about ) you. You can nip things in the bud by replying to someone who is acting rudely by answering them or commenting back. Suddenly, they realize that they cannot talk with impunity behind your back, and usually they will back off immediately.

 

I hate it when taxi drivers start asking my woman personal questions in Tagalog while in the cab

I can't pick up all of what is said but enough to know the taxi driver is going too far

Spitting out a few words in Tagalog usually shuts them up and gets you some respect

 

Unfortunately not understanding anything makes you look like some dumb tourist who is happy to be ripped off

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