English is my first language, and I’m a bit fortunate to have it as my first language; it’s a bit of my middle-class Filipino upbringing, and it’s a part of my childhood that does show my privilege. Don’t get me wrong: a lot of Filipinos do speak English fluently, having been once a colony (and then commonwealth) of the United States in the early 20th century. In fact, a lot of Filipinos are bilingual or multilingual – speaking Tagalog-as-Filipino1, English, and sometimes one of the native languages of the country, such as Ilocano or Hilagaynon.
That said, I’m quite comfortable speaking English, and I’m not often in the situation of not being able to express myself in English. Decades, however, of code- switching does have an effect: I do find myself on occasion unconsciously reaching for Taglish, as appropriate for the particular situation.
Usually, those occasions are marked by concentration and focus, where I’m often comfortable thinking out loud. Debugging, for instance.
In the past few mmonths, I’ve found myself sometimes muttering some Taglish phrase, or interjecting in Tagalog, when trying to work through a particular mental model of the problem at hand, and in a few cases within earshot of my colleagues who probably are thinking I’m swearing in Tagalog.
Yes, I swear – a lot. However, I often swear in English while frustrated, although some of my former colleagues can attest to some choice invectives I’ve spouted in Tagalog. In these cases though, I’m often just working through the problem in my head, and sometimes that means talking in Taglish.
Case in point: a few weeks ago I was discussing an open ticket that one of our users sent to us with a Malaysian colleague in our sister team here in Sydney, and I found myself quietly using the conjunction/verb parang2 to describe the model to my colleague. I instantly recognized that although Malay and Tagalog are related to each other, I doubt he would have understood the word in itself, except maybe to piece its meaning contextually.
Admittedly, it’s not often that I find difficulty expressing myself; being bilingual in such an environment though does mean I sometimes find it a bit frustrating that there are certain shades of meaning that somehow get lost when expressing myself monolingually – shades which have a particular effect I’m reaching for.
If you’re not Filipino, there’s a whole complicated debate/discussion on whether to accept Filipino as a language on its own, or just more evidence of Imperial Manila dictating to the rest of the country; see here for example of one summary it. ↩