Magandang umaga!

Or if you are reading this in the afternoon, magandang hapon! Good afternoon!

My conversational Filipino class started last week and I’m practicing.

I admit it. I’m a language junkie. I want to know all of them. If the world is my oyster, I want to be able to open up a conversation where I go. Or at the very least, find out where the bathroom is. I started learning French in elementary school. Then in high school I added Latin. In university I studied Spanish and German. Once I was done with my formal education, I bought myself home study books on Italian and Japanese. (Okay, I haven’t used the Japanese one yet but I’m on chapter 6 of the Italian one.) I was this-close to signing up for an ASL (American Sign Language) course but the timing was bad for the winter. The big one I want to learn is Hawaiian – mostly because I want to spend a semester in paradise. Preferably a winter semester.

Then over Christmas, I saw a listing for a five-week conversational Filipino class at the McNally Robinson Community Classroom and thought, “hey, that would be fun!”

I haven’t studied any non-European languages so this is my first shot at an Eastern one. Fortunately for me, they use the Latin alphabet for writing. Even more fortunately, a lot of Filipino is Spanish-based and I’ve taken that already. This is a new study approach for me. Usually, I’m all about the grammar, starting with the basics. This jumps right into the practical. I’m almost missing my conjugations and irregular verbs: to have, to go, to be. (Those verbs are always irregular. Always, always, always in every language. And you have to learn them first.)

I like it. Filipino – formerly known as Tagalog and prior to that, Pilipino – is different. It’s much more… bouncy than any other language I’ve studied. Yes, I’m a languages major and a professional writer and “bouncy” is the most accurate adjective I can come up with. It’s accurate.

I didn’t just choose this language because the opportunity came up. There is a character in my upcoming book Screen Idol who is Filipino, and she is going to be the heroine in the second Hollywood to Olympus book. Originally, I had planned to go much deeper into her family life and I wanted authenticity. However, book outlines work fine in theory but when the fingers hit the keyboard the story goes where it wants. I may not get to use the vocabulary I was planning on learning but hearing about the culture is helping me mold her behaviour and is giving me great insights into her character. You’re going to love her. Well, first you’re going to hate her, then you’re going to love her.

So, I’m off to my second class tomorrow. Paalam na. Good-bye. (Gee, I hope that’s right. We’ve only learned “hello” so far.)