Monday, March 4, 2013

Yeah, I understand...actually, hold, I didn't get it! - Philippines

This message was written on a wall in Puerto Princesa. Not sure what that means.
We're watching a program on a Philippines TV channel: a beautiful and fast-speaking lady is interviewing two students at some event. She speaks English as if it was her mother tongue, with a heavy American accent, maybe too heavily American.
I'm not surprised, a lot of Filipinos, especially the well educated ones, speak English like this. Many of them might use the sound P instead of the F one, so that a coffee and a copy sound pretty much the same, but the level is still very good. 
Back to the TV program. The students answer the first question in English, with ease. The lady proceeds with a second question, and her accent sounds more and more nauseating. Surprisingly the two girls answer in Tagalog, the official language, or rather the other official language, as English is also widely used: in the airport announcements, ad signs, TV programs etc.
The lady looks unperturbed, nods, listens carefully, doesn't translate the answers in English, as the program is not meant for us but for the locals - who can all understand Tagalog -, then adds her comments in English and asks the following question in that same language. The girls will keep answering in Tagalog. Anyone else who has something to say will do it indifferently in English or Tagalog, in the latter case dropping a word in the first language here and there, the only ones we are able to understand, together with a few terms inherited from Spanish.
At the beginning of the program they made us believe that we would have been able to follow it. You keep having that impression for a while longer, deceived by those sudden comments and words in English and Spanish, then after a few minutes you realize that you understand shit and you forget about it. 
If it were only for those silly TV programs it wouldn't be much of a problem. Unfortunately though the same thing can happen when you are talking with someone on the street or at a bar. Those elegant terms, spot-on expressions and irritating accent (not because it's American but because it's so annoyingly affected) give you the impression that you are following what they are saying, and you even nod while you listen to them. When the number of words in tagalog makes the whole thing unintelligible you realize that you are irremediably lost and from that moment on the smile you paint on your face will conceal your embarrassment rather than represent your illusion. 
And you just hope that it will be over soon. 

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