As a Filipino-American with two Visayan speaking parents, I have always spoke a little bit of Visaya, the Filipino dialect of the Central Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Growing up in the United States, however, has made it difficult for me to practice Visaya and become fluent in the language. Having family and friends of my generation in the same predicament made me realize that I am not alone.
Though I can speak Visaya words and phrases, putting them together to form complete sentences is what continues to stump me. While I am inspired to learn and practice speaking the language, finding lessons can be tricky and costly, and I’m starting to think that without formal teaching or actually living in the Philippines, I will be stuck in this limbo of only understanding Visaya and not being able to speak it.
After learning about concept of "language exchange", I realized that my problem could also be easily solved. Language exchange is the process of learning another language from a partner in exchange for teaching that person a language you already know. For example, a native speaker of Visaya can help me improve my Visayan speaking skills if, in return, I help that person improve on their English speaking skills.
After I learned about the concept of "language exchange", I began searching the web for relevant websites. Although I found a few relevant websites, I only found one that facilitates free learning of other subjects as well as language exchange with others. And that website was Lrngo.com. By typing in your zip code, city, or country of residence, you can find hundreds of people who are willing to teach certain subjects and who want to learn other subjects. By sending a person a message, you can agree to have a free learning exchange lesson. For example, if I see a profile of a person who can teach Visaya and wants to learn English, I could send that person a quick message saying I can teach English and want to learn Visaya. From here, we can agree to have an hour lesson of each language for free. You can meet people around your area for a language exchange lesson like at the public library, park, or university. A person who lives too far is not a problem either because lessons can be easily given through online face-to-face video chats such as Skype, Oovoo, or Google Hangouts. With this convenience, a person can always be guaranteed to find a teacher or student anywhere whether locally in person or halfway around the world online.
I wrote this article not only to encourage other Filipino-Americans to learn Visaya or for Visayan speakers to learn English, but to encourage people of all races to learn new languages. Language is the means of communication that opens doors to new opportunities and allows for connections to a variety of people. Learning something new, like a different language, does not always have to come with a price. Free language exchange is the best way to meet new people, learn about new cultures, teach what you know to others, and in my case, learn the language and culture of the people.
Photo Credit: Reuel Mark Delez