New British envoy to PH struts his stuff
by FFE PH News staff
Be careful what you say around newly appointed British ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad, he might just answer you – in Filipino!
The ambassador has just added Filipino in his foreign language portfolio, which includes his native English, Bengali, Urdu, Kutchil, Farsi and French. In a meeting with reporters on Wednesday, he said ‘I’ll tell you when I am best in [Filipino]: When someone sits down and says I’m not going to speak to you in English at all. And after about 10 minutes, I can switch off my other six languages and focus on Filipino and make myself understood.’
‘I’ll prove it to you one day.’
To show his dedication to learning the local tongue, the ambassador studied the language under a Filipino-born language tutor in London months before coming to Manila.
Ahmad was the British Ambassador to Thailand from 2010 to 2012.
The ambassador revealed that he studied the complex grammar and pronunciation of the Filipino language for five months. He got the hang of the language when spoken to, but froze when it was his turn to speak.
But before leaving for the Philippines, the ambassador passed the British Foreign Service’s language proficiency test with a ‘confidence level’ rating. Today, he uses words most Filipinos rarely use, like pulong (meeting), natatangi (unique) and lumalago (growing).
He however confessed that since coming here, his Filipino ‘has gone worse’ because ‘everyone speaks to me in English.’ He added with a laugh that ‘when I start speaking in (Filipino) to my colleagues in the embassy, they all run away.’
Ambassador Ahmad closed his speech to the president with a paragraph entirely in Filipino, which he re-edited even after passing the strict scrutiny of his local staff.
In his speech, however, he expressed his wish for the Philippines and Britain to have improved bilateral ties, as the Philippines was becoming a valuable hub of operations for the British Foreign Service. He said he hoped to spur trade between the countries during his 4-year term.
‘Nais kong pagtibayin ang ugnayan ng ating dalawang bansa.’