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chelle21689's avatar

Why is not knowing your heritage's language such a disgrace?

Asked by chelle21689 (7719points) August 30th, 2014

This is kind of a rant….Working at my parents’, I can’t tell you how many times daily I encounter people who constantly ask me if I know how to speak my “native” language from immigrants (African, Asian, etc). My native language is English since I was BORN here but I know they’re talking about my parents’ language.

The main reason I think I don’t know how to really speak Thai or Filipino fluently is because my parents are from different countries and they speak English to each other. 2 of the 5 siblings are fluent only because one loved Thai movies and the other one lived in Thailand for a short period of time.

Anyways, this man starts ranting at me in Tagolog (Filipino dialect) and then I said, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” he turns to his wife and says, “See? She doesn’t understand.” and shook his head and said I’m not a real Filipino and continued to “lecture” me in Tagolog until he made me feel bad and my eyes started to kind of tear up. It’s stupid but I’m pretty sensitive. Then he said he was just joking but still lectured me in a nicer way… but was saying it wasn’t right.

I don’t think it’s my fault. _

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5 Answers

LornaLove's avatar

Look at them quizzically and say ‘This is my native language?’. Did you assume I was from somewhere else?

CWOTUS's avatar

If you give them the opening to dig a hook into, some rude, overbearing and controlling people such as the man you have described will use it to pry a hook or a lever into your psyche and criticize… whatever is available to them. (It could as easily be your hairstyle, the clothes you choose to wear, makeup, the brand of phone you use, whether you’re an Apple, Windows or Linus user… and on and on.)

It’s kind of a delicate balancing act that you have to manage as you mature: how to give people enough of an opening, to expose some of yourself, that is, so that they can make a fact-based choice whether to get more closely acquainted with you – or not – but not so much that they will dig their grubby control levers into you and pry, manipulate and push you around. As this person obviously has.

Clearly it’s not your “fault” that you don’t know Thai or Tagalog, but you could also choose to know either (or both) languages if you want to. So you have actually made the choice not to know. And that’s a perfectly valid choice; most people in the world, in fact, have made the same choice. It’s a choice that’s hardly worthy of blame or recrimination; it’s a choice, you’ve made it, and so what is it to him? (As importantly: What is it to you that it matters to him? That’s an issue for you to work out on your own.)

So the next time someone upbraids you for making a choice that is none of their damn business, and if anyone says, “You’re not a real Pinoy,” you can smile and just agree with them (to the extent that their criticism is not even worth arguing about, so it’s better to end this fruitless discussion by agreeing with him, whether you feel his criticism has merit or not) and remind him, “You’re not a real gentleman, either, are you?” It might be best if you’re not trying to sell him something at the time.

fluthernutter's avatar

As a Filipino-American, the emphasis is on American and you have a choice of how much you want to relate to the Filipino culture.

Coming from a mixed background makes everyday language acquisition more difficult. But culture is more than just language. And if it’s that important for you, you can take Tagolog classes at the university level.

But you make that decision. Not some jerk who wants to guilt trip you.

JLeslie's avatar

Even people born and raised in the Philippines only know certain dialects. They also usually know English and whatever the commonly used language is in that country (I don’t know the name). My friends from there when they meet someone else from the Philippines ask each other what dialects they speak and then communicate in the language they both know or English.

When I know a man who speaks a foreign language and his wife doesn’t, I lecture him, let’s call it encourage him, to teach his kids his language. I know very few people who speak their father’s language. Many do speak their mom’s language, but even still I know people who never really learned their mom’s language either, because the language spoken in the house was English.

It’s a shame to not learn a second language as a child when it is easier to pick it up. Part of the reason it is easier is because it is learned in a different way than in school, and you are immersed in it.

It’s not a disgrace, it’s just a shame to waste the opportunity. I don’t mean it is shameful, just a missed opportunity. It is very difficult to learn the foreign language when the household uses English, so it is understandable you didn’t.

Moreover, sometimes languages convey emotion differently. Or, a language is used in a different way. When my husband’s mother speak to him she has a tone of love and affection that does not convey in English. The words she uses, the rhythm of the language, it’s just different. It gives a tone of not only the language, but of the culture.

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