Building bridges through language

Written by: 
Jessica Tautfest

Being multilingual is a common characteristic of students at BYU-Hawaii. For Filipino graduate Kit Nadado, who majored in TESOL, and Tiffany Ng, a TESOL sophomore from Hong Kong, a diverse lingual background has been a bridge to connect with other students on the personal level.

Hello, nei hou, ni hao, and kumusta—Tiffany Ng is fluent in four languages and is learning a new one: Spanish. Ng grew up speaking Cantonese and Tagalog. In Hong Kong, people speak Cantonese, but she grew up in a home where her mother and Filipino grandmother spoke Tagalog. In school, Ng was required to learn Mandarin and English. At BYUH, she decided she wanted to learn Spanish as well.

“First of all, I think that Spanish is really cool. I think that because I know four languages, Spanish will also help me in my future,” said Ng.

Ng said she wants to learn Korean and American Sign Language to be a well-rounded linguist. She also wants to go back to Hong Kong and teach children the different languages she knows: “In 40 years, I want to teach kids sign language because I want to help kids to be able to communicate with lots of other people,” said Ng.

The Philippines was once ruled by Spain, and because of this, Ng said the verbs and other words in Spanish are the same in Tagalog.

Although Ng speaks English on campus, she most often speaks Cantonese with her friends. Tagalog has also helped Ng make more friends by being able to connect with Filipinos. As she said, “At BYUH, I have a lot of Filipino friends. When you speak their language, no matter what they think that you are a part of them.”

She added, “I feel like, because I know a lot of different languages, I have a lot of different friends. I have learned a lot from our differences. It is really nice to be a student here.”

Kit Nadado has a similar story. Knowing four languages, Nadado finds English, Tagalog, and two dialects from the Philippines—Ilocano and Cebuano—most comfortable.

Nadado said he has picked up each language as he’s moved around. “I grew up with Ilocano, then went into English, which is started in the Philippines in kindergarten, but not spoken a lot.

“My family moved to a Tagalog-speaking area and they also speak Ilocano there. Then I served a mission in Bacolod, Philippines speaking Cebuano.” Laughing, Nadado said, “It’s kind of a lot.”

Now at BYUH, Nadado said the language he uses the most on campus, beside English, is Tagalog. “A lot of Filipinos around here come from different parts of the islands, and we have kind of decided to speak Tagalog because everyone in the Philippines is taught Tagalog in school.”

As a common language for the Filipino students, Tagalog creates an instant connection Filipinos from different cultures to come together.

Nadado said there is a sense of ownership and identity that comes with being able to know another person better through language.

Learning a language for the first time is not like learning how to ride a bicycle. Rather, Nadado explains, going through the process of learning different languages gets easier through the skills you acquire while learning.

“The techniques I learned when picking up one new language I can apply to learning another; there are just different rules and different vocabulary with the new language,” he said.

Nadado said being multilingual helps him to be informed, not fooled, and aware of what people are saying. As he said, “I can react correctly and respond correctly to people. It is easier to defend my beliefs and share my opinions.”

Uploaded on January 21, 2015