Newfound tongue | Inquirer Opinion
Young Blood

Newfound tongue

/ 08:28 PM September 28, 2013

I left Australia two years ago convinced that it was horribly stressful to live and settle there. I studied business management, but I was not happy with the course. It was not my passion.

I was a registered nurse before I left the Philippines. Now that is my true calling, but I was really eager to leave the country and spread my wings. I wanted to escape my parents’ shadows, and be free. But youth, for all its freshness and vigor, does not have the wisdom of experience. So I soared and took off. I was full of confidence. I thought that it’s always greener on the other side of the fence. I believed that I could do anything with determination and perseverance, plus passion and a positive outlook in life.


I was partly wrong. When you’re in a lot of stress, you may find that the grass is not always greener, and the sky not bluer, and that no matter how hard you try and how patient you are, the outcome will not always turn out to be the way you expected. And oh, did I tell you that I was also a bit of a perfectionist before?

And so it happened: I got quite frustrated when things went out of control. I could not juggle everything—work, school, church activities. It was a lot for me to handle. So I decided to go back to my parents (just as they expected). I missed home, I missed my family, I missed chilling and doing nothing—I missed my laid-back life.


But once you get used to a very busy life, your body will thirst for it; every bit of your muscles will long for stress and hunger for fatigue. And you’ll feel like you have to obey that thirst and hunger. And since I am a fan of Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I will answer to those primary needs. So once again I embarked on another journey, this time to Northern Europe—the land of the midnight sun and the fierce Vikings: Norway.

I had read a lot of stuff on Norway and my sister had told me heaps of stories about it. But if there was one thing that I was kind of skeptical about, it was the climate. Winter in Norway lasts for more than five months, which for me sucks! My body is designed for tropical weather. I may not be into sunbathing much, but I love dressing for summer, and as we know, it’s year-round summer in the Philippines (with the wet season in between). So bye-bye, short shorts. Adieu, miniskirts. Au revoir, sleeveless tops. And paalam, flip-flops and sandals. But I thought:
At least they know English, so I’ll survive. After all, I’ve experienced living abroad. How bad can it be?

Me and my crazy ideas! In the beginning it was a disaster. I felt lost in translation—well, partly. But Norwegians are so different from Australians. They are more private and do not talk much. It’s probably the language barrier, but that’s only according to my perspective. At first people were fascinated with me; they had never seen a Filipino woman speak fluent English. They stared at me as if I were a peculiar specimen. Some of them even found it a little intimidating to talk to me.

I was quite flattered at first, but then later I realized that it was kind of insulting. Goodness me, everyone is capable of being fluent in any language, and in my case it was never a surprise because English is somewhat my first language. I grew up in an academic community, and most of our neighbors were foreign students from Asia and Africa. They brought their families along with them.

English, as we know, is a universal language. You can go anywhere in the world and you will always find someone who can understand or speak English. And so I pushed myself to learn it by heart so that I could play with the foreign children in our community. My mom was my first teacher; books came second. I came to love my English, no offense to my native language. Through English, I was able to meet friends, play with them, and share stories with them. As a child, all I could ever think of was playing with the foreign kids, exchanging cultures, and learning new things about their country.

I am a slave for knowledge. And I am extremely interested in other people’s way of living. To be honest, there is really nothing interesting about my life. To make it colorful and vivid, I absorbed foreign traditions and ways of thinking. Thus my relationship with English as my first language.

I can’t let go of English, but need outweighs passion. I have no choice but to embrace this new language that I have to learn sooner than later. I have to talk the talk. I am struggling and completely lost. I remember the time I took the train to visit my sister. Suddenly I heard someone announcing something over the public address system. I didn’t understand a word. The next thing I knew, all the passengers were getting off the train. I had to ask someone what was going on, and he kindly explained to me that all passengers had to take the bus because the train had broken down.


I was quite stressed, and not really because of the change in vehicle. The thought of getting stuck in a place alien to me was horribly scary. (Okay, I know I am overreacting, but still.) I was frustrated and tired, and so I told myself: I have to learn their language as quickly as possible or I’ll be in deep sh-t.

At first, I found Norsk, the Norwegian language, extremely difficult to understand. I struggled (until now I’m struggling a wee bit). But the fact that I have to learn this language as quickly as possible to get a job as a nurse puts a lot of pressure on me. I need to pass the language exam, to prove that I am fully capable and competent to speak Norwegian. I do have the motivation, but the passion to learn this new language is lacking, and my determination is still in question. I feel like I don’t have the drive to learn it, although I would love to speak it with the proper accent. Learning it wholeheartedly is another story, but necessity leaves me no choice.

I remember my first day at my Norwegian class. I could not understand what my teacher was saying. I felt stupid: Was it me, or is it just hard to grasp Norsk? Suddenly I began to question myself. Will I make the cut? Will I be able to speak fluently after a year? It seemed that my only option was to suck it all up, try my very best, and pray that this endeavor will succeed, that my hard work will soon pay off.

I am versatile. Like melted metal I will take the form intended by my blacksmith, so I pray that my tongue will do the same. I will do whatever it takes to learn this new language. I simply need to enjoy it. And if all else fails, I will go back home and start a business, or help my parents with the family trade…

Well, that will be my very last option, for I have found peace and love in this country.

“Wildflower,” 27, is a nurse from the Philippines who lives and works as an au pair in Norway.

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