. . . at least, from an American’s perspective.
Yesterday I spent some time calling campus administrations. I was trying to set up True Love Waits seminars for February. One of the secretaries needed to put me on hold and uttered a phrase that I’ve heard hundreds of times over the last five years: “For a while.”
I remember hearing this expression at fast food restaurants when I first arrived. I was then intrigued by the almost universal acceptance of its use. I’ve heard it from almost everyone—from McDonald’s cashiers to college deans.
Let me explain why this is awkward English (for native English speakers). “For a while” is a prepositional phrase. Here how an American would use the phrase:
I’m going to the mall for a while.
I’ve been here for a while.
I waited for quite a while (implying a longer time).
He’ll be here in just a little while (implying a shorter time).
I’m guessing that my beloved Filipinos think that “for a while” is the English equivalent of sandali lang. It isn’t. Sandali lang is best translated, “just a moment.” Here are some better-sounding alternatives for formally asking someone to wait:
“One moment, please”
“Hold, please.” (for telephone situations)
For informal situations, you could also use these:
“Just a minute/second”
These phrases may not look any better, but trust me, they sound much better to Americans (and other native English speakers). The missing nouns and/or verbs are automatically added in our minds.
I’ve traveled to other parts of Asia, and I can say that the Filipino’s English is quite superior to that of other Asian countries (at least, the ones I have visited). Hopefully this little tip can help my readers improve even more.
Note: I recognize that each country tends to develop its own peculiar English expressions. This is even true among countries where English our first language (England, USA, etc). My point is not to ridicule Filipinos, but to help you better express yourself to native English speakers.