Moreover, identifying as a Filipino-American has impacted how I viewed myself and others. I remember vividly in elementary where I began to notice a marked difference. Since I attended grade school up to the first grade in the Philippines, the only language I knew was Tagalog. Shortly after, my family made the decision to move back to America, where I had to learn English to properly navigate the school system. My memory of learning a new language was an unfavorable one.
I went to a school where English-learners were not embedded within the same classroom as the English-speaking students. My school’s structure of segregating English-learners and English-speaking students were not as beneficial as they seemed. This structure was assumed to help English-learners to have intensive support to provide more practice and fluency in English. Being placed in a separate classroom with the English-learner students, my teacher’s role was to provide me with individualized help with English in a smaller group setting.
As a student, I was expected to improve my proficiency in English, so that once I am in the general classroom English will no longer impede my learning. That is to say that establishing a separate classroom for English- learners and being a part of that cohort made me foster an assumption that knowing my native language is a deficit and subordinate to the English language in America’s school system. the separation from the general classroom has shaped my preference in usingEnglish and lowered my ability in speaking Tagalog over time. In that moment, being isolated from the general classroom at a young age socialized me to believe knowing my native language is a deficit and subordinate to the English language in America’s school system. For instance, when it was time to reintegrate in the general classroom it became very difficult to culturally “fit-in” with the other students.
I learned how to speak English, but I did not understand the jokes of the American culture. Commonly using Tagalog made me feel unimportant and distant with my peers, which made it difficult to work in group projects or activities. This directly influenced my preference in using English and less of Tagalog. Gradually, English was commonly used at home and school. I had less practice with Tagalog by the time I was in middle school and eventually I can only remember the basics of parts of the language.