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.
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!”