My parents are migrants from the Visayas. My mom is one hundred percent Ilongga and my father, a true Boholano. My two sisters and I were all born in Marawi where almost everyone speaks Minaranao . We moved to Iligan in the late 70s where we all learned to speak Cebuano.

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My elder sister used to say that our home is both a linguist’s treasure trove and a language teacher’s nightmare. Sure, everybody at home can understand Inilonggo/Hiligaynon, Binol-anon, Cebuano, Tagalog, English and bits of Minaranao. But code switching, a no-no in communication, is an integral part of our tongue. Like, one Cebuano sentence may contain words borrowed from other languages or dialects. For example: normally, we construct our sentences like this before our Cebuano-speaking friends: Nakuratan ang iro mauna nidagan sya sa tindahan. But at home, that simple sentence is deconstructed like this: Nakuratan ang ido mauna nagdalagan sya sa store. Or even perhaps like this: Na-surprise ang doggie so nagdagan sya sa store. See, the first sentence contains 2 Ilonggo words (ido and nagdalagan) and 1 English word (store). The second contains 4 English words meshed in an Ilonggo-Cebuano construct.

Another stuff at home that would probably excite linguists (or make them cringe) is our ‘carambola’ dialogue. A classic example during mealtime:

Younger Sister: Makantano! (Minaranao for “Let’s eat!”)
Me: Busog pa ako.(Tagalog for “Im still full.”)
Elder Sister: Lami ang sud-an. Friend chicken! Sige na! (Cebuano for “The food/viand is delicious. Fried chicken! Come on!”)
Mom: Abaw, sin-o nagluto sini? (Ilonggo for “Oh, who cooked this?)
Dad: Aw, kinsa pa kundili ako! (Cebuano for “Who else but me” but delivered in the usual brusque Boholano way)
Elder Sister: Ok, let’s pray … (English)

People often find these disconcerting so we try to tone down our code switching ways or just stick to one language or dialect whenever we have guests at home.

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My sisters and I used to wonder how my dad courted my mom given their diverse ethnolinguistic backgrounds. My father, back in the 60’s, can’t speak Ilonggo and my mom, being a genuine Ilongga, neither understands Binol-anon. The mystery was solved when my elder sister found a chestful of letters hidden behind my grandmother’s aparador. My mom and dad’s love letters… written in English. Definitely, this was my parents’ version of ‘love will always find a way’. Mwahahaha!

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Code-switching is a term in linguistics referring to alternation between two or more languages, dialects, or language registers in a single conversation, stretch of discourse, or utterance between people who have more than one language in common.- wikipedia

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