Not My First Language

Not My First Language
Posted on Dec 4, 2016 in Devotions
By:  Shiela Bernardo
English is not my first language. I have had to study it, practice it and to keep on learning it everyday. There are a lot of times when I am at a lost for words – literally not able to find the most suitable term to express my thoughts on point. It almost feels like I have to pull out a mental Rolodex with my vocabulary card indexes, and manually browse through the rotating spindle with the same file entries, which denotes my repetitive play of the same words that are accessible in my head.
There may be things that don’t come natural to you, but you can observe practical ways to bolster your own growth and lead the evolution of your knowledge and skills. It takes effort but it can be learned. It took me going to school, studying the subject, incorporating it in my speech, writing bad drafts and rewriting to fully express the realness of my ideas.

I grew up in a household where we speak using our native tongue. But the baseline expectation in my current environment is that I better know how to speak English since I live in America. I have had to muster the acuity of the entire process to express the accuracy of my thoughts into this second language, as effectively as I can relay it that’s understandable to others. So I take into account the grammar, wording choices, the order of my thoughts, correct pronunciation and even accent switch, all before I open my mouth. A lot of involuntary work happens in the back-end at lighting bolt speed, and what appears to be a complicated process has smoothen out.

In the same light, there’s a certain language my soul speaks that I need to digest and pacify. The words that I choose to use do not default as encouraging all the time. Gratitude is not laced into my speech especially when I feel backed up in a corner or pinched in my situation. My immediate response is complaining. My own self-talk is energy draining, promulgating doubts, fears, and spitting out fires saying that I am not good enough. There are times when I just want to air out my frustrations and say life’s hard*. Things simmer in my devious heart that I’d like to blurt out loud to someone else that I better restrain. When I let it loose, does that help in lifting up the spirit of someone else? If I feel tired and drained, why would I want to get others to absorb the same energy?

There’s a point where you have to hold yourself back and suppress your true feelings. You make the choice to not be fully transparent all the time while still preserving your sanity. If I want to complain, then what makes sense for me is to direct that heaviness to God in prayer. If I want to scream and shout because I have this emptiness that I couldn’t figure out, this emotion does not have to be directed toward another person. What can another person do for you but be a listening ear; who would be better deaf if all they have to hear all day long is just negativity and a rundown of an exhaustive list of all your problems.

If I have the right channels to express the real me, directing uncensored feelings toward the right ear who pays close attention not only to my words but the rawness of my very spirit, then I can discover a power that can change me internally through the alleys of prayer. I can be true to myself with no holds barred and speak out my mind. Nothing is too heavy for my God to listen to. I can babble on an on about the same frustrations. He will eventually bestow wisdom and teach me the way I should approach it, and instill a change of heart.

So being positive is not my first language either. But I have to train myself to open up this course to improve my mind, to change my attitude, to be conscious of my words. Though frothed with resistance, I want to be deliberate about my words being used as a platform that inspires, encourages, supports, motivates. It might not come as easily, but I think it is worthwhile to put more effort into making it a natural response. It doesn’t poison or pollute the mind. It doesn’t add arduous weight into an already weary soul.

If I am seeking for others to listen to what I have to say, what I’d like for it to be is something worth listening to…a message that builds up, and not tears down.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. – Philippians 4:8
*Content revised  This article originally appeared at the author’s personal blog page. Re-posted with permission.

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