Native Tongue

English is not my first language.

Yes, you read correctly. I am bilingual. I didn’t learn the King’s English until I was in school. Fortunately, I was brought up in Houston and was surrounded by educated people. I had excellent teachers, and they taught me well. Most people would never guess that English isn’t my native tongue.

But my parents both spoke a different language, as well as all my relatives. I spoke their language as a small child, and often revert back to it when I am around close family and friends.

The language?


Yep, that’s right folks. Texun is mah native tuung. East Texun, ta be exaact. But I’ll try to write the rest of this article in English, as I understand some of you may struggle with mah – oops – my original language.

The language barrier did affect me in certain areas of my life. For example, when the teacher asked me to read the word w-h-e-n, I proudly said, “wheeyun.” And I was a teenager before I realized my Aint Darse was actually my Aunt Doris.

So, I continued to eat my greeuts (grits) for breakfast, all the while learnin’ to “tawk fancy” (speak properly). My sweet mother, who has the sweetest Texas lilt you’ve ever heard, insisted on it. She didn’t want her children to be singled out for their drawls, so she pushed us to perfect our pronunciation. Eventually, I learned to blend in with the city folk.

Since then, I’ve been a language chameleon. When I need to sound like a city girl, I do. But git me around mah kin-folk, and I switch gears faster ‘n a two doller pistol.

A strange thing has happened in the last couple of decades. Believe it or not, it has actually become cool to “tawk Texun.” Outsiders are trying to learn our lingo and our pronunciation.

Our national language (yes, Texas was a nation before it was a state) is distinctive from other southern states. We aren’t southern. We aren’t western. We are Texan. Linguists are actually conducting research on the language of the Lone Star State. They’ve made some interesting discoveries, too!

Apparently, we have different accents in different parts of our state. The East Texas lilt is soft and musical, while the West Texas twang is a bit more nasal. But for those of you who “ain’t frum these parts”, some of our defining characteristics are listed below:

1.We add syllables. (cat = cay-ut)

2.We take away syllables. (going to = gonna)

3.We take away letters. (goin’ fishin’)

4.We change ing into ang. (thing = thang)

5.Long I is pronounced aaah. (night = naht.)

6.We say “fixin’ to” instead of about to, or getting ready to. Don’t question it, just do it!

7.We like to paint pictures with our words. A girl might be as “purty as a june bug,” and your boss might be “meaner’n a skillet full o’ rattlesnakes.”

8.Ya’ll is plural. Only those trying too hard to sound Texan use it in the singular.

9.“Yes” is pronounced, “Yep.”

10.Slow down! Nothin’ will give away a foreigner quicker than a speedy delivery. Stretch out your words, and slow down your sentences.

11.If all else fails, stick a cowboy hat on yer head, chew on a long piece o’ grass, and keep quiet! Everyone’ll assume yer a native.

I’m proud of my native language. But though I’ve learned to speak educated English pretty well, there’s another language I’d like to learn—the language of love. That’s a language that’s spoken through our actions more than our words. It’s a language that is spoken through patience and kindness, goodness and self-control. It’s a language that seeks to live at peace with everyone. It’s a language that longs to make everyone feel loved, accepted and special.

Yeah, that’s the language I wanna tawk. I mean, uh, want to speak.

Psalm 119:103 “How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!”

4 Responses to Native Tongue

  1. June 27, 2008 #

    We share a common language. Though I don’t think I have an accent, everyone else thinks so. 🙂

  2. June 27, 2008 #

    Lillie, we don’t tawk funny. Everbody else duz. 🙂

  3. June 30, 2008 #

    Dear Renae,
    I come from a country with just 5 million inhabitants and nineteen counties. In my county there’s a dozen different dialects. When my mom from the southern part of our county was hospitalized, doctors from this city could not understand what she was try to tell. I had to be the interpreter. My Mom was mobbed for her dialect, and in her stubbornness, she just refuses to change it. Rather than risking to be misunderstood or needing someone like me. I just love her.
    We also have to different ways of writing Norwegian, equalized in value, and the children have to read and write both languages perfectly to got their exams.

    I am turning my brain inside out, without any success, to remember the name of an old TV show, which I do believe must have had the Texan language in it.
    It pretended to be from the thirties. An old grandma, her children and grandchildren finding an oil well on their property, then setting off to Hollywood in a wreck of a car.

    I had may a good laugh of the way the Texans had their way with the more sophisticated Californians.
    Can’t remember the name of the series though. You are probably too young to have seen it.

    Thanks to the Babylonian crisis and God who gave us all our beloved mother tongue.
    From Felisol

  4. June 30, 2008 #

    Dear Felisol,

    Isn’t it fun to be able to laugh at ourselves, and to take pride in our heritage? I believe the show you are referring to is called, “The Beverly Hillbillies”. It still plays in reruns here, and my children love it!

    That family is actually from West Virginia, I believe, but yes, you have the right idea. Their accent is a little different, but viewed the same – people who speak with that accent are viewed as being uneducated. That viewpoint is changing though, as so many of our leaders are from the south! 🙂

    I’m sure your mother’s dialect is lovely. I’m sorry she has had a hard time with it. She is blessed to have you for her daughter.


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