I’m so glad I found this forum and website: I’ve only just begun to scratch the surface and it’s helped me tremendously!
Here is some background:
- I am from the Philippines, but my first language is English. I was exposed to Tagalog tangentially on overheard television or in the streets, but was forbidden to speak it or expressly watch things in Tagalog. When I started school, our curriculum was entirely in English with a subject in Tagalog that I wasn’t very good at. I would say that I got a real grasp on it by age 7, the same time that I started French. By age 13, I had more friends that spoke Tagalog and I would say I was completely fluent by the time I finished highschool. As an adult, I am absolutely fluent in “pure” Tagalog and have an extensive vocabulary of “deep” words that the average Filipino would not understand. If any of you have heard Tagalog, you’ll know that it’s a mix of the native language, Spanish and some Chinese…and a LOT of English.
- My husband is French and speaks English fluently. He speaks only French to our son. We speak French to each other unless there are non-Francophone guests present. As a result of this (and my in-laws being in town) my primary language during my son’s first few months of life was French.
- The daycare that my 18 month old attends twice a week is conducted in English.
My problem is that I am trying to speak only Tagalog to my son but have run into some roadblocks like the fact that nobody speaks pure Tagalog but mixes English in liberally. Also, I’ve found that when I try to speak emotionally (“I love you”, “You’re the best son”, “I miss you so much”, “I’m so proud of you”) that the words don’t really exist in Tagalog and, if they do, feel inauthentic in my mouth, kind of stunted, and I’m afraid doesn’t communicate the depth of feeling that would be so easy for me to convey in French or English.
What he ends up hearing from me, despite my best efforts, is a mishmash of whichever language happens to be the most convenient at the time. I would say it’s 70% French, 15% English, 15% Tagalog, which has a bit of English in it.
Is it alright for me to switch back and forth like that? Is it ok that I prioritize really being able to tell my son, “Mama loves you so very much” rather than saying “Mahal kita” and have him feel my discomfort at the inauthenticity of my statement? Can I just speak whatever I feel like and trust that he will sort it out since Dad speaks French anyway and he hears English everywhere?
Thank you so much for reading, I would be grateful for your insights!
PS: Interesting to note “I’m proud of you” does not exist at ALL in Tagalog! AT ALL! Must be a cultural thing.