I Miss My Language

You know the saying, “You don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone”? It struck me today: That’s how I feel about Tagalog right now.

We’ve just hit the one-week mark in Spain and I realized that in all this time I haven’t spoken my native language out loud, in conversation, to anyone. This, I believe, is the longest I’ve ever gone without it. In Boston, I have a group of Filipino friends with whom I can easily chatter away. Here? Nada. I’m speaking in either straight English or the caveman version of Spanish (read: halting, broken, painful, slow).

It never occurred to me how wearying it can be to not have anyone to talk to using the terms and phrases I’ve used all my life. I find myself slipping into Tagalog at random moments, especially when I’m talking to my roommates. At this rate, they’ll be rattling off Filipino expressions before the end of our stay.

And the lack is never more apparent to me than when I’m interviewing. Whether it’s with a translator (usually Maria) or on my own, my ignorance of Spanish only serves to emphasize how much I rely on the languages I know. It makes me appreciate English, yes – but it also makes me miss my own language all the more.

Still, there’s a bright side to all this: I’m definitely learning. Between Spanish class and my host mom and talking to cute fine arts students for a story and just walking around, I’ll be upping my español before I know it. Not to the level of fluency, of course. But I’m hoping to be much better.

And when I finally find myself around my countrymen again, ay, magtatagalog ako ng todo.

I love how Google can’t translate that phrase correctly.

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