Even when Jaguar Paw was still inside my tummy, dear hubby and I already had a debate on what language will we expose Aki to. I am an advocate of culture preservation so speaking in Filipino was my bet. Nowadays, I see a lot of kids having a hard time speaking in Filipino. If the kids now are having a hard time speaking, reading, understanding and appreciating our native language, what can we expect from the generations after them? If the kids these days have tutors for Filipino, three generations from now, Filipino might just be a special elective in college. Some may argue that being fluent in English gives one the competitive edge in the corporate and in the real world. That is true. It is, however, also true that many of us, hubby and I for example, grew up speaking in Filipino, learned English in school and now work in American companies where English is the primary language. One more thing, I think there are more role models for the English language. We hear English being spoken in TV shows and movies all the time but there are very few local shows where proper Filipino and not Taglish is used as the medium. Another argument is that if we leave it to the helpers to teach Aki the national language, what message will that send to Aki? No offense to the yayas but for our case, I want Aki to learn the Filipino language from us, his parents. If we don’t show him that learning the Filipino language is important, how can we make him appreciate Filipino music and literature? Lastly, Franco and I speak in Filipino all the time. It would be unnatural if we change how we normally speak when Aki is around.
On the other side of the ring was my husband who wanted his son to learn the English language first. Franco’s stand on raising an English spokening dollar son was not as passionate as mine. He wanted us to speak with Aki in English so he, my hubby, can practice his English. Hehe.
And so, I won that debate ….or so I thought.
For Aki’s first two years in Earth, we talked to him in Filipino. The first song that I taught him was Tong Tong Tong Pakitongkitong. When I read books written in English, after reading the text, I would try to translate in the native language. I noticed though, when I was making a draft of a blog post early this year, on Aki’s speech development, that his vocabularly is a mix of English and Filipino.
I had several realizations. First, even if we were not speaking to Aki in English, he is learning the language. He is learning it from TV, from his books and from us. We were unconsciously exposing and teaching him English words. After observing myself, I had a big realization that even for adults it is hard to speak straight and proper Filipino all the time. We are so exposed to the American culture that we incorporate English words even without trying. Can you remember when you last said “paaralan” (school), “larawan” (picture), “berde” (green) and “kamiseta” (t-shirt/top)? Third, I also realized that young kids are indeed like sponges. There is no need to choose which language to teach first because they can learn two languages simultaneously.
We talked to Dra Saulog about bilingualism . She confirmed that kids can really learn both English and Filipino at the same time. She suggested that one parent speak to Aki in English while the other in Filipino. We tried that for a day or two ( or was it an hour or two, Be?) It was too unnatural. It is an effort to speak in straight Filipino but I am trying. What I also try to do now is always translating in the other language. Example “Halika na. Let’s go.” People who hear me probably think I sound like a broken record but so long as my methods are working, I try not to care about the opinions of the people that do not matter to me. Aki knows Head Should Knees and Toes and Paa, Tuhod Balikat Ulo songs. He calls his french fries ‘Tatas Fries (Patatas Fries) and refers to pigs as Baboy Pig. Lately, he is using “po” more often. So cute!
Lesson Learned: Never underestimate a child’s capacity to learn.