Notes on Immigrant Languages Here in IL

(1) Walking to a church 2 miles from home (2) Lapida marker showing the hands that built the church were German (3) Sending mails for Christmas

Temperatures has been below freezing for weeks here but there are days the weather allows you to go out and wander around. The other day, I visited the post office to drop off some mails. I then went to the nearest Catholic church built more than 100 years ago by German pioneers. You could still see the original engraving when the church was built in German. I remember a former colleague’s stories about how she managed to trace her relatives in Philadelphia through a website and how it was like meeting them for the first time. Aside from their last name there’s really very little that she have in common with her American relatives according to her.

I have been preoccupied attending diner parties lately. My relative’s Filipino network of friends here is impressively huge. They gets plenty of party invites. We attended three gatherings in a span of a week. One party had an attendance close to 30 people! Filipinos around here organize parties not only to catch up with each other but to experience a piece of the homeland. In a place so far and so cold I could understand why these people throw out parties with regularity. After attending one of these get-together I told my relatives to continue speaking with their children in Tagalog. I noticed that almost all Filipino children I met already lost their mother tongue. Their parents talks to them exclusively in English because it’s convenient.

My cousin in Ohio told me that it’s difficult for the children to learn Tagalog because they have no one to converse with outside their home. So at some point she got tired trying. Her only child could understand Tagalog but could not speak it. My friend Pepe Alas is having the same problem in his home. While he insist for his children to speak only his first language (Spanish) the children are having difficulties doing so. The mother doesn’t speak Spanish so at home they’re not hearing it enough. Outside there’s no one to converse with. Hopefully those kids takes interest in studying Spanish one day. Also, the media, TV shows are all in English and Tagalog. Environment and school plays an important role in learning language. A Belgian colleague in my previous work told me that Belgians could speak multiple languages because they’re part of school curriculum. English he said was easy to learn because the shows on TV have subtitles during his time and he have friends who speaks and read English–and they love watching Hollywood films. He speaks German, English, French and Spanish.

I found out that Spanish is not the only immigrant language flourishing here in Chicago. Polish is also growing. One of the reason why the children are learning it is because they have schools that teach it. As for Latinos, children learn from their parents. Since the older generation religiously watch Spanish shows and movies, the children learns from these too. I once took a cab driven by an Ecuadorian man. He told me that his kids have no choice but speak Spanish because he and his wife speaks it. His youngest he said refused to speak it when he started speaking English but they won him over—the household spoke only Spanish—he simply had no choice. I asked him why the language is important, he said, “because that’s our language, we want them to learn it like we did. It is our past as Ecuadorians and we want them to continue it even when they are already here in America. Even if they would not return to Ecuador, they have a piece of Ecuador.”

I once lived in Singapore with distant relations where the child in the house would mimic gay entertainers and other comedians to impress his parents. They watch Pinoy telenovelas and noontime show like clockwork. I would look away when the children, including one aged 18, would speak and dance like those TV noontime show hosts. When they mispronounce English or speak Taglish like Kris Aquino the parents would laugh. I bought books and spent time to teach the youngest child to draw to no avail. Every time we’re seated together the child would hear his family laughing loud at some Filipino TV show in the sala. He would then get distracted and leave immediately. But the good thing about that household is that they spoke exclusively in Tagalog. Both parents are from Bulacan. So the language was not lost. They even use old Tagalog words I’m not familiar with.

OK. Another plugging for my upcoming project…

Before I left for the US, my buddy Pepe Alas and I organized a trial tour of the historic lake shore towns of Laguna. I’m looking forward to doing the tour regularly next month. I know that we’re plunging into the new unknown with the project, both having zero experience, but I believe it’s worth the try. If subscription turns out to be less than what we expect, then we have to look into doing fewer tours in a month until it picks up and becomes cost-effective.

We’ll do an introductory price of 1500 php for the first few months as long as we get enough people. I have been told by some that this is way too low and would not cut it for us but I felt that we should try to keep the rate low for as long as we can to entice students and other low income tourists. I believe that touring multiple towns with us, transportation included, for an entire day around the lake shore towns of Laguna is not bad a deal for the asking price.

Another addition I envision to incorporate in the La Laguna Tour is doing it for free for students at least once a month. Like what I said before, this historical tourism project is but an extension of our on line advocacy. So hopefully we get enough from the paid tours so we could have free tours one of these days.


3 responses to “Notes on Immigrant Languages Here in IL

  • Myles Garcia

    Good blog, De A. Funny, I will have an article coming out in POSITIVELY FILIPINO exactly on the topic of how much should expats/immigrants use/hang on to their mother tongue. It’s a totally different take from what you wrote above.
    2nd thought: instead of Free Tours, why don’t you try a “Donate What you feel’s right” tour, and see what results you get. Just a suggestion. It might defray your costs a little–and at least whatever they contribute is entirely out of the goodness of their hearts.

    • De AnDA

      I heard of that from somewhere. That’s a good idea. Maybe one day I’ll do it. Now the focus is drawing attention to the project. Please help spread the word.

    • De AnDA

      Thanks. These are just observations. I’m fascinated by languages, how they get used and how they get lost. Looking forward to that article

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