Interlude #2 -Tongues
Hello everyone! Kumusta ka! Welcome to today’s episode, which—as you may have figured out from the title and description—is going to be another interlude episode. Now I do have an explanation for this, not that it is entirely relevant. Maybe it is. I’m sure if you were really inclined to get upset or worked up about it, you wouldn’t have hit play at all.
But if you are curious about my reasoning or about the future of this show… I think I’ve finally hammered out what the content on this podcast is going to look like once I get done with all the origin stories (Pause) Yeah, I know it took me long enough. (Pause). Don’t look at the start date. Geez. Guys, I never claimed to be anything better than a hot mess.
To get back to the point, though. (Music shift) These interlude episodes do have a place in what this podcast is going to become, and considering this show is supposed to have a personal element to it, maybe I don’t need to explain that. Maybe I’ve always had the right and reason to borrow some air time to toss my thoughts out there. On the other hand, maybe I should wait to do this episode until the time is right, until I’ve gotten through the origin stories, like I said I was going to.
Which is not bad advice if you were about to offer it. But the way I see it, this is a giant elephant in the room that I need to address. Because—you know—he’s taken up quite a bit of space, and we all keep bumping into him. Then he tries to move, but he just ends up in my way, and I bump into him, which just makes a mess as he knocks over a bunch of stuff.
Whatever. You get my point. Here’s another one. No one’s said anything about him. Does that mean I’m the only one who sees it or maybe is it in their line of sight, and either they don’t know what they’re looking at or they’ve been reluctant to point it out? Or they just don’t want to go through the trouble. But all of that would be there business though
Meanwhile, I’m stuck here obsessing over mine. I see it. And it leaves me figurative sweating bullets, anticipating a very harsh chastisement of some sort. As a normally anxious person, this reaction makes sense to me. And in all likelihood, you won’t be able to convince me otherwise. I’ve really never been all that reasonable.
As a result, I’ve fervently been preparing some sort of response to the completely valid issue of my pronunciation, anticipating it as something that will just inevitable come up the longer the show goes on. Except despite my efforts, the script never feels right. Lucky for me, somehow, it just hasn’t come up yet. But this additional time isn’t really helpful. The longer it takes to come up, the deeper the figurative hole I’m digging for myself, and I’ll just feel the worst when the inevitable revelation comes out.
So let me just say it now. My pronunciation of Filipino words can be pretty bad.
Sure, I’ve covered it up the best I can. I find YouTube videos or pronunciation guides. And then I play or read them over and over again. Then comes time to record, and my brain seemingly dumps all that information, leading to multiple takes that—fortunately—my bad editing skills are still able to cover up.
But that’s presuming there was even a good take to begin with. Sometimes, I doubt that. But in those situations, I also doubt that there’s a good take at all.
You see, Tagalog and really any Filipino words, forgetting the dialect issue for a second, never sit right in my mouth. Almost to the point that there’s an outright incompatibility there, but that seems like I’m being a bit dramatic. Or not. I’m still not sure.
Okay, you might be saying, that’s to be expected. Tagalog is a foreign language for you, you might be thinking. You were born and raised in the US, so English had to be the priority.
Fair enough, I guess, but I think you’re missing the point I didn’t directly put out there.
Tagalog shouldn’t be this foreign of a language to me, should it? A second tongue, yes, but while it’s a bit clumsier than the first, it still fits in my mouth without much trouble. But that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, I’m on the completely opposite end of things. This language and these words don’t feel like they are mine at all. And so, I can use them effectively. And yes, I do have some sort of frame of reference. I took Spanish in high school. Despite the awkwardness that had seized my body at that age, those words flowed off of my tongue far easier than any Tagalog word. Even Inay and Tatay. Despite their urgings, I still call them Mom and Dad exclusively.
My dad tried to prevent this. He wanted me to learn Tagalog, told me to call his extended family by their Filipino titles, and took on whatever household chores necessary to free up time my mom could use to teach me. But while the vocabulary and grammar stuck in my mind, the sounds didn’t seem to.
That’s a phenomena I’ve never found a great explanation for. True, I’ve focused more on discerning one than finding one, which is likely not a good use of my time. It seems like there’s some obscure academic study for everything, so why don’t I just go find it. On the other hand, it always felt important that this description come from me. So I’m stuck.
Really, I may never have a clear answer, and while I might not technically need one for the sake of my survival, a lack of one certainly stings.
To lay out what I do know, I’m anxious about speaking Tagalog, and that likely hinders my tongue. It’s a vice that restricts motion. And maybe that’s all this is. Maybe I internalized what was once a real problem. Or maybe I just think that everyone expects more from me than what I’m actually able to give, and as a result, I don’t want to try at all. After all, I hate letting people down. And sometimes, if you think you’re going to fail anyway, it’s just easier not to start.
(Music fades out and new music fades in)
It’s not that anyone has pushed this thought onto me or fueled it in anyway. My family is trying to be as supportive as they can be. Dad’s gone, sure, but there was never much he could do in the first place He had never learned, citing that by the time he met my mother, he was too old to learn anything new. But he did the best he could for me. Like everyone else currently is.
For the rest of my family, being as supportive as they can be means not correcting me whenever they do manage to pull any Tagalog out of me. I’m sure they think that drawing attention to my mistakes was really what caused the problem. Despite the fact that I already know and have figured out on my own that I have these tendencies. Or—in other words—the elephant in the room have already been introduced and gotten thoroughly acquainted. It’s not going to be so easy to convince me that he doesn’t exist, particularly by ignoring him.
And look, maybe I could chase him away. (Pause) By no longer imagining him. I’m not going to pretend there isn’t a chance he isn’t all in my head, that he’s little more than a manifestation of several of my insecurities and that these building blocks of his body—his cells and tissues—are not real constructs but are made of my ill-directed whims or of things that used to be real but are no longer.
Because there was a time when I struggled, yes. As one could expect, whenever you start out with something, you aren’t going to be very good at it. That’s just how the world works. The sun rises in the east, sets in the west, and when you start something you will be almost comically bad at it. Or so the saying goes. The problem I‘m having, then, is accepting that I’ve moved on from that beginning stage and letting myself organically do and make mistakes with the intention to fix themselves once these mistakes reveal themselves, giving myself a chance to improve rather than obsessing about perceived failures to the point that I can’t think straight and fall deeper and deeper into them.
This evolution in my mind has been much harder than it needs to be.
(Music fades out and new music fades in)
Have you ever heard of the Imposter’s Syndrome? I first heard about in graduate school when an administrator tried to motivate us with it, assuring us that while we might have felt out of place, we really weren’t, and it was all in our heads. She said that a lot of students get this. It’s a psychological pattern of thoughts in which an individual doubts their accomplishments, capabilities, or belonging in a situation, leaving them with a lingering fear of being exposed as a fraud.
Now sometimes this fear is grounded in reality. For some people in that graduate program, it wasn’t a fear but the truth.
And that’s a little heartless of me to say, but now that I’m standing on the opposite side, maybe my attitude can finally soften. Because maybe this is imposter’s syndrome. Maybe I’m just convincing myself that I have no place speaking these words and fear that if I do I will be exposed as the outsider that I really am. Maybe and I don’t like this thought, maybe it is real.
Real or not, I don’t think I’m the only person who thinks this way. If anyone else feels this way. Hi. It’s nice to meet you. Why don’t we talk about instead of gawking at the elephant hiding in the corner under a comically small table cloth? That might be a better use of our time. Eventually, he’ll get bored and leave. And we can finally move on with our lives and do what we want to do. Like speak the language that we think is rightfully ours in some small way without fear of our own failures.
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