Having been married to a Chinese men and living in the city for more than 30 years, Tessie in her fifties is now an owner of a domestic worker agency. Coming to Hong Kong with fluent Tagalog (the official language of Philippines) and Ilocano (a variety of Filipino language), she recounts her interesting linguistic experience in Hong Kong.
"English, English is for sure the language I speak most in Hong Kong."
When asking about the language that Tessie uses the most often in Hong Kong, she points to English without hesitation. Due to her job nature, Tessie has to speak English almost all the time to her clients in her agency. But how about the situation at home? In fact, with her limited knowledge of Cantonese, she often communicates with other family members with a mix of English, Filipino and a few Cantonese words. Since most of the Filipinos acquire English as an important second language when they are very little at schools in Philippines, Tessie never sees speaking Enlgish as a real problem. Despite that, she stills put high values on her mother tongue. "Of course I'll keep speaking my home language to other Filippinos here. I will always consider myself as a Pilipino, no matter how long or how far I've been away from my country."
"Her father doesn’t want me to speak Filipino in front of the children... "
Tessis has two daughters, and both of them speaks fluent Cantonese, which is also their mother tongue. But according to Tessie, they barely know any Filipino languages as she does. "Their father doesn’t want me to speak my language in front of them; he thinks that they will be confused with other languages." She explained. And in her opinion, it is not necessary for the second generation to learn her mother tongue. Considering Cantonese and English as the most prestigious languages in Hong Kong, Filipiono seems doesn't matter in helping them to integrate into the local community. Interestingly, while she is not keen on passing her own language to her children, they actually have the desire to learn it. "Now that they have grown up, they started to ask me why I don't teach them Filipino! It's hard to be a parent, you know!" She laughed.