Who among us had to talk to a foreigner every day when we were studying? I bet not a lot. So when an actual foreigner talks to us, we get intimidated, we stutter, and we say “nosebleed”, or that our English has already ran out. But I would like to believe that there is an inner English speaker in almost all of us, and that it comes out when we’re drunk.

In a tweet on May 29, 2016, Ethel Booba (@IamEthylGabison) said, “Kapag lasing na uwi na, wag ng paEnglish English pa. Charot! #AngTunayNaPagbabago”.

We find it hilarious because it’s true. Alcohol lowers our inhibitions and gives us courage to express things we normally keep to ourselves. So as we drink with our friends, the topic we talk about often lead to religion, politics, philosophy, and yes, love. The discussion tends to become serious or intellectual that it compels us to speak in English.

On a normal day, however, we do not talk to each other in English simply because—off the top of my head—it’s not our first language. It’s not practical. We usually just speak in English in school, when it’s required. And even then, I remember some classmates back in high school who, during recitation, would request, “Ma’am, pwede po Tagalog?

We are too afraid to speak English for many reasons. Maybe we think we’re just not good in it. Sure, we have been studying it since elementary, but many of us do not really have the opportunity to practice it regularly. Who among us had to talk to a foreigner every day when we were studying? I bet not a lot. So when an actual foreigner talks to us, we get intimidated, we stutter, and we say “nosebleed”, or that our English has already ran out.

Then there is this fear of being labeled conyo. We don’t want to be known as the one who shouts, “Yaya, please fetch my tubal!” Tubal, by the way, is the Batangan (or Batangas Tagalog) term for dirty clothes. Somehow, this conyo culture has taught us to associate speaking English to being maarte and pa-sosyal.

Or maybe, we know how to speak English, we know the rules in our head, we have enough exposure to the language with all the TV series we’ve watched and all the novels we’ve read, and that exactly is the problem. We’re too afraid to commit mistakes because we’ve learned enough that we became too hard on ourselves.

In Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition, this process of planning, editing, and correcting is called the “monitor”. Over-users, or those who use the monitor all the time, are usually introverts and perfectionists. And lack of self-confidence is mostly attributed to the over-use of the monitor.

But how important is it really to be technically, grammatically precise?

A video produced by TED, Does grammar matter?”, explains that in linguistics, there are two positions in studying language patterns: Prescriptivism and Descriptivism. The former prefers deciding the standards on how to use a language, while the latter favors observing and describing how people actually use it. While there is still an ongoing debate as to which of the two is right, we can agree that each has their own strengths and criticisms.

So if we think that we will feel embarrassed if we commit mistakes when speaking in English to a native English speaker, say, an American, realize that they are most probably already used to communicating with people of different social and cultural backgrounds that they are no longer bothered or affected by our local accent or grammar mistakes.

At the end of the day, what’s important is that we feel free to express ourselves and get our message across clearly.

But if we really want to be confident in speaking in English and learn it quickly, Irina-sensei of the anime Assassination Classroom said that the fastest way is to get ourselves a lover who speaks the language. I know it sounds silly, but she has a point when she explained, “You want to know what they’re feeling, so you try your hardest to understand what they say.”

And with constant communication, speaking in English will become second nature to us. This is important because what’s making it challenging really is that when we speak a foreign language, we think first with our native language and then we translate it in our head, self-correcting and rephrasing when necessary (not to mention the time pressure to respond promptly during the conversation), before we finally speak. There is actually a lot of internal struggle going on. To solve this, we need to not just speak in English, but think in English as well. Good luck!


(n.d.).Thinking in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and Why. Retrieved from: http://www.lingholic.com/thinking-in-a-foreign-language-how-to-do-it-and-why/

Schütz, R. April 1998. Stephen Krashen’s Theory of Second Language Acquisition. Retrieved from: http://www.sk.com.br/sk-krash.html