The Struggle is Real: Translating Tagalog to English

Being bilingual is undeliably fun, as I can communicate with whoever in the world I want, and quite a battle too in terms of matching more appropriate words that counterpart what I’m trying to say. In a dreamy state I love poetry—those elegant use of metaphors and how it rouses the most delicate of human emotion. Oooh, what a beauty! But in everyday life I’ve known myself as sharp, direct to the point, and I don’t always have a sweet word to explain what exactly my thoughts and feelings are. It takes more time for me to sugarcoat everything I have to say in order to seem nicer and avoid argument or misunderstanding.

What I think: Oh, good lawd, that drawing SUCKS—So UGLY—why in the world would anyone waste time to display it in a museum?

What I end up saying: Gosh, that…doesn’t speak to me. But I have a gut feeling that it’s as profound as it may seem.

See what I did there? There’s still the presence of honesty, although not as much—harsh—as it appears on my mind. Mission accomplished. At least what I say to my friends resemble the closest to what I think of. Because everyone knows the drill: friends are the people you can be stupid with.

However, despite of my sugarcoating, I believe that honesty and truth must be spoken out regardless of how ugly and unacceptable it may be. When it comes to criticism, though, I try and hold myself back from blurting out the rudest words I can think of to express my thoughts. It’s something I learned in directing. After all, who wants to hear rudeness coming out of someone’s mouth? Might as well adapt a skill of charming people around. (Remember I’m still talking about translating my Tagalog thoughts into English)

Bottom line: I feel like I’m not able to express myself in English as accurate as my Tagalog thoughts.

I can’t just simply say “fuck off” to whoever I don’t like. That’s not how I was taught by my parents and teachers, regardless of how much I dislike a person or situation. I can’t just say “shut up” to someone offering an opinion which I find extremely irrelevant. Words are freedom, liberty and power—they come with great responsibility. And besides, I never wanted to be the rude one. I have to be nice. Always. I have to be nice, even if others are not. I have to be nice. Just don’t anger the evil out of me. Other than that, I’m mostly nice. *insert angelic smile here*

We have a common courtesy of “po” and “opo” in the Philippines. Both “po” and “opo” means yes and it has to be answered when someone older asks.

“Naghugas ka na ba ng pinggan?” (Have you washed the dishes?)
“Opo.” (Yes)

These words are also inserted almost always half through a sentence or just before it ends. On the other hand, when someone at your age (or younger) asks a yes or no question, one would simply answer “oo” or “hindi”. “Oo” means yes, “hindi” is no. My parents strictly raised me with the “po” and “opo” manner that I would still communicate with it even to people at my age. Because it’s a sign of respect, it’s become my way of talking to always address people politely.

One thing I find hard in communicating with foreigners in English is that I want to acknowledge them (older than me) politely, but can’t. And if there’s a way, I  don’t know how. I encounter this trouble most of the time in the blogosphere when I’d like to comment on someone’s post and I just couldn’t help but address them as Sir/Ma’am even if I can simply call them by their first name (honestly, though, calling older foreigners by their first name feels like I’m violating something so sacred as much as creating an unpardonable sin). I used to do that on my previous years of blogging but I can now consciously hold myself back from calling each person “Your Highness”.

Po” and “opo” is like a lubricant that makes my talking smooth and outright polite to older people without necessarily addressing them by Sir or Ma’am. Apparently, the English language has yet to come up with a word that counterparts “po” and “opo“, and so my struggle is still real.

And will remain as always…

…Unless someone out there reads this post and invents an appropriate English word. Bless you!

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Author: Danica Aquino

Tied the knot with performing arts since fourth grade; is an amateur writer (currently on her quest to writing her first novel); book and animal lover; always entranced by nature.

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