Posted in Personal Essays

“Sorry for My Bad English”

When an interviewer tells you that your résumé is very impressive but they cannot give you the job because of your accent, you can’t help but ask yourself, “Is my English that bad?”

I never liked the way I speak English. I hate how my vowels are never as smooth as they sound in my head. My tongue sometimes does not know how to position itself in my mouth. I always clear my throat before I speak as if there is a solidified saliva stuck in my larynx. Six years of studying the English language and I still do not sound like a native speaker, not even close. I am aware of that. However, the truth hits differently when someone else throws it at you.

“I am sorry for my bad English.”

This is a sentence I have heard a lot of times when I was teaching in an ESL academy. It has become part of every ESL student’s introduction. I heard it a couple of times from my non-native classmates here in Sydney. They apologize when they stutter during their presentations, when they pause to reach for that English word trapped at the tip of their tongues. Yet, I have never heard the British guy in the class apologize when his talk was all fillers and when grammatical errors jumped out at every corner of his sentences.

“Sorry, my English is very poor.”

An old Chinese woman said these exact words as she called her daughter to help her understand the nurse’s directions. She smiled apologetically the whole time. When they went out of the clinic, another patient remarked, “Ugh. These old Chinese people, they keep on coming here in Australia not knowing how to speak basic English. The government should not let them get in that easily.” That statement would have horrified me but I have heard them a lot from old white men that my ears have learned how to filter them out. Then, I think of the old white expats in the Philippines drinking their black coffee in Ayala terraces. They have stayed in the country for years but they still manage to butcher Cebuano words and most of them do not have an interest in learning the language at all. No one expects them to speak Tagalog or Bisaya. No one thinks they should go back to their countries for knowing only their native language. I think of my friends and former ESL students who cried when they failed their first IELTS examination whilst Western backpackers in Thailand beg for money in the streets.

I am in love with the language that has been used by colonizers to oppress my ancestors for almost five decades. The same language that subconsciously made me believe that Western books, movies, and songs are inherently superior. I love the language that has instilled in me the feeling of inferiority.

The interviewer who told me that my English isn’t good enough offered me another job and I was in no position to say no. He said that I should study English in an Australian university. He said that I can learn more about Shakespeare and other classical authors if I enrol in their university. I did not tell him that I have spent the last six years studying about Western literature. I did not tell him that I spent most of my free time reading classic novels. I just smiled, nodded, and shook his hand.

I got a cappuccino for free. I won.

Author:

Lynde Grande is a curriculum writer by day and an armchair media critic by night. She is fuelled by junk food and frozen yoghurt. Lynde is currently enjoying life with her lovely partner and two cats in the heart of Sydney. The previous statement is a lie. She is actually an angry and sad potato.

5 thoughts on ““Sorry for My Bad English”

  1. That was great lynde you have come beyond your expectation… Everything is going smoothly and you just have to let your flaws go with it… Take it easy you will be already in anyway… Great job…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Lynde,
    As I read your post and your struggles with finding acceptance as an English speaker in this country where so many Australians butcher the language so badly, you touched my heart. I would like to encourage you to embrace yourself as you are and no longer apologise for being you, or being a more cosmopolitan person who has seen more of the world and had the guts to leave your homeland and move to a new country and not just potter along with the English in this new country but to try to master it and adopt it as your own. You are made of strong stuff and deserve to give yourself a huge pat on the back. I go to a home group with my church which is run by a couple from the Philippines and so I’ve had some exposure to your culture..
    I lived in Germany for 6 months relying on my 3 years of high school German and heritage to get me through and that was humbling. I’d be with friends and they’d be walking out the door before I could work out where we were going. It sounds to me like you’re on the right track and just keep speaking and chatting with people, which is not so easy at the moment but starting to improve.
    I hope that helps.
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for these kind words. ❤
      I am doing my best everyday to be less apologetic for being who I am. Living in a foreign country has taught me the beauty of being different and I look forward to the day that I will be able to fully embrace that.
      Your words mean so much to me.

      Liked by 2 people

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