How fitting it is that in this "Buwan ng Wika" we see an article written by an Ateneo de Manila University student and a columnist on Manila Bulletin online about the flaws and inadequacy of the Filipino language. Understandably, the write-up has raised a more than a few eyebrows, but before we lash out the argumentum ad hominems that will sure to follow once this news hit the pinnacle of internet fame, let us first try to fully understand the writer's sentiments and dig out the naked truths behind the crude almost-insults.
"Language, learning, identity, privilege"
by James Soriano
MANILA, Philippines — English is the language of learning. I’ve known this since before I could go to school. As a toddler, my first study materials were a set of flash cards that my mother used to teach me the English alphabet.
My mother made home conducive to learning English: all my storybooks and coloring books were in English, and so were the cartoons I watched and the music I listened to. She required me to speak English at home. She even hired tutors to help me learn to read and write in English.In school I learned to think in English. We used English to learn about numbers, equations and variables. With it we learned about observation and inference, the moon and the stars, monsoons and photosynthesis. With it we learned about shapes and colors, about meter and rhythm. I learned about God in English, and I prayed to Him in English.
Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English. My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.
We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”
These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino.
That being said though, I was proud of my proficiency with the language. Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province, so I never had much trouble reciting.
It was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult. I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English. And so, in much of the same way that I learned German later on, I learned Filipino in terms of English. In this way I survived Filipino in high school, albeit with too many sentences that had the preposition ‘ay.’
It was really only in university that I began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect. Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language,derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.
But more significantly, it was its own way of reading, writing, and thinking. There are ideas and concepts unique to Filipino that can never be translated into another. Try translating bayanihan, tagay, kilig or diskarte.
Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.
But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.
It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.
So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.
Source: http://showbiznest.blogspot.com/2011/08/james-soriano-language-learning.html (Manila Bulletin's copy of the article is not accessible.)
Let's see. First of all, I don't think this is satire. And if it is, then I think it's a badly written one. That said, I think this article is a perfect mix of downright insulting statements and stinging facts.
Let me tell you a story. When I was a kid, I was also barraged with the English language. My parents spoke to me in English, read to me books in English and later on I learned to write in English. I am not kidding when I say I cannot write a passable paragraph in completely grammatically correct Tagalog. I would struggle with our composition writing in Filipino in high school yet the words just flow through me when it was in English.
Now, almost everything that I write on the Internet is in English, including blog posts, articles, status updates, tweets and comments. I also aced my IELTS exam with two 9s and an 8.5 over-all band score (9 is the highest possible score).
Am I proud of having a decent command of the English language? Yes. Do I think lowly or make fun of people who can't string two English words together? Sometimes, that I will admit. Do I think of the Filipino language as the dialect of the poor and the unlearned? Definitely, NOT!
Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.
It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”
This, my friends, is the language of the rich, with the American accent and the posh cadence with pieces of Tagalog words thrown in between sentences. It's the "Let's make baka, don't be takot" kind of vernacular only heard from the elite. I've had the unenviable chance to actually hear this peculiar language with my own ears a few years back. I always thought the impressions I've heard from other people were just exaggerations, but it was real.
The erroneous thing about these paragraphs is labeling the Filipino language as the language of the streets just because it is the common people who mostly use it. But what about the timeless literature written in this beautiful language? Or the OPM songs that still holds boundless power with their burning lyrics and melody?
Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language,derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.
Halfway through the article, I thought we're finally getting through the heart of the piece. That after whipping our dialect to pieces, he would then rebuild it again with patriotic messages that would make the language shine with beauty and grace. But then he followed it up with sentences that I think were both the best and the worst of the piece.
For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.
It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege.
Although I do not agree with the writer's sentiments that Filipino is the language of the streets, I do concur that it is, somehow, the language of the learned.
|"Ako Mismo" Photo by Yjanas|
Now the painful part. My dear countrymen, let us admit it. How many subjects in the classroom are taught in Filipino? How many subpoenas and legal documents are written in Filipino? How about in the hospital or in any facets of the medical field? How do you translate Caesarian Section to Filipino anyway? What about Engineering terms? Chemistry? Math? Heck, even our educated senators in the senate were arguing recently on the use of the Filipino language during the RH Bill interpellation.
Before we charge at James Soriano with pitchforks and smoking ears while simultaneously proudly baring the patriotic stance, let us first look at the world around us.
How many public signs in the metro can you spot written in Filipino? What about restaurant menus? Instruction manuals? If you call somebody using your cellphone and you could not contact them or inquire for your load balance, what language is the message in? If Google was set by default in Tagalog, can you actually find your way around without getting confused?
Lastly, how far can you go without speaking a single non-Filipino word in a day?
My point is this. The author may have carelessly labelled Filipino as the language of the streets and the unlearned but we, ourselves, have degraded the language into something undecipherable. Something that would have trouble standing on its own without foreign help.
Globalization plans, proliferation of call centers training agents to have fake accents, the mentality that English equals Intelligence, Jejemon and text messaging culture have ripped off the glory from our national language.
Though the article may have the tone and the content to rub people the wrong way, it delivers a semblance of truth most citizens would not dare swallow. I guess until we learn to open our eyes to the facts and do something about it, our own language would still continue on being the second best and indefinite.
And so will our identity.