Language Barrier

My very first Korean friend’s regrets made me decide to write this column. He shared to me about his wish to learn Bisaya more. He thinks that he was unable to make a lot of Filipino friends because he could not express himself in Bisaya. Although he can speak English fluently, learning our mother tongue, he thought, would have been better since most of us speak in the dialect.

Silliman is comprised of many international students. Not only does my friend, I presume, have the same problem. That is why I’m challenged to prevent the language barrier between us and them. If they are willing to learn a new language in order to gain a lot of friends, why can’t we learn their mother tongue, too?

A month ago, a Japanese friend of mine asked, “What’s this?” and “What’s that?” to be translated in Bisaya and Tagalog. She was happily trying to learn our Filipino language. I was with my Korean friend at that time, and surprisingly, my Japanese friend can introduce herself in Korean. My Korean friend and I got amused and amazed.

Learning a new language can be cumbersome, but I still think that it is a way of abolishing that invisible barricade. We should at least try to know and to speak their languages as a form of welcome and respect.

But what if we don’t have the time to learn their mother tongues? Can’t we just speak in English?

Yes, of course. I have encountered a lot of foreigners who would grab their portable dictionaries from their bags when they communicate with me. Some English basic words for us are sometimes the most difficult for them. Another Korean friend of mine goes to the library almost every day just to study his English grammar books. He would tell me that the questions on his books are too easy for me, but for him, it’s really difficult. Their dedication is commendable.

Most of the foreigners whose mother tongues are not English, definitely would like to articulate with us. In fact, Silliman offers foreign language subjects that will help us learn their basic conversational phrases and sentences. Or with just a click on the internet, we can access various sites that offer free language lessons. A simple “Bonjour” or “Konichiwa” will not only capture their interests, but will encourage them to express their kept ideas and thoughts, most especially their interesting culture shock stories!

Trying to learn different basic language conversations, for me, can somehow make the international students feel more welcomed and at home in our campus. No matter how obscure that language is, I still hope that we, as locals, will be the one to start learning and conversing to them in their mother tongues. And then one day, through our own little effort, we will see that barrier vanish.

The Cold Paw
Nicky F. Maypa

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