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BEING LAUGHED AT. There are a lot of non-Filipino speakers in the Philippines. Filipino, which in my opinion is essentially Tagalog is considered the national and official language of the Philippines. There are dialects unique to various regions in the Philippines and I believe Tagalog is not even representative of these dialects. That was one of the issues raised for making Filipino – Tagalog, the national language. It appeared to be the language of the privileged ones as most people in Manila, the political and economic capital of the Philippines, speak Tagalog. Some Filipinos in Manila have this notion that those who don’t speak Tagalog come from the province. Others would even comment, “Ay promding promdi naman siya.” Promdi = from the province But what is a province anyway? Those what some would refer to as provinces are technically cities too- urbanized areas.
I understand and can speak some Ilonggo (Hiligaynon) as I grew up in a home where some members converse with it. The intonation is definitely very much different from that of Tagalog. Unless needed, I dare not speak Ilonggo because it might appear that I am trying too hard to speak it and I am afraid to be laughed at. Besides, my vocabulary is very much limited. One time at a McDonald’s store in Iloilo, I ordered something by saying, “Ma-order ko sang… “. She understood me. After I paid, she said to me, “May ara ka sang salapi, ga?” I froze. The gears in my brain whirred. Salapi. I know salapi translates to money in Tagalog. Why was she asking me for money, when I already gave her money? Confused. I don’t remember what happened, but I learned that salapi was something like 25 or 50 cents. Being in a situation like that is embarrassing. So whenever I encounter someone who doesn’t speak Tagalog and is having a hard time expressing herself/himself, I recall my experience on thought processes concerning language translation. No matter what language it is, there is always a fear of being mocked when trying out a new one for your tongue. Just like when you try out a new clothing style and people will tell you upfront, “Ay hindi bagay sa iyo.”
NOW. A lot of school subjects are taught in English. Inevitable? Yes, as there are materials that are more effectively understood in English. Unfortunately, infusion of the English language had side effects. If it used to be, “Uy, kursunada ko siya. Maginoo ngunit medyo bastos.” Now it is, “Uy, crush ko siya. Maginoo pero medyo bastos.” Our brains now try to process two languages within a single sentence. Does it even sound good? Well, it sounds short, automatic, and convenient. What’s not good about that in fast-paced world? Some would ask. And unfortunately too, language has become a measure of one’s social status. Ironically, a system like language, that was developed to improve communication between individuals seem to widen the gap even more. As the writer, Mr. James Soriano had pointed out, “English is the language of the man in the mansion, while Filipino is the language of the man on the street.” Mr. Soriano, who published an article on Manila Bulletin entitled “Language, learning, identity, privilege” (http://mb.com.ph/node/331851/language-learning-identity-privilege), caught the ire of some Filipinos for his elitist views. Was there some truth to what he said? Maybe. Case in point, we still can’t get away with laughing at people who are not well adept with a certain language. If we laugh at those who can’t speak straight Tagalog before, now we are amused by those who can’t speak straight English. Manny Pacquiao after bringing forth prestige to the Philippines through his victory, then becomes a laughingstock in his post-game interview. We find it hard not to make fun of beauty pageant contestants who can’t go beyond “First of all, good evening and thank you for that question.” in response to a judge’s query.
Language is a dynamic system that can embody one’s culture. Words evolve. New words are continuously added to the dictionary, while some are removed. The question is how do we want our language, our culture to change? Is it really practical to master English alone as it can bring you to places with “greener pastures” or will it be more beneficial to become multilingual in the future? Is it necessary to choose between English and Filipino? If we know how to speak Filipino, does that alone make us wholly and sincerely Filipino? Should we, especially the younger generation, eventually learn to embrace the other dialects to preserve the culture that we have? I find it futile to castigate Filipinos who think that English is superior to his/her own native language, especially if they were made to believe that English is their native language. I think it would make more sense to find out what can be done to cure that mentality. The challenge lies in all of us Filipinos but most especially in our educators, both at home and at school to encourage the younger generations TO REMAIN INTERESTED in learning the language native to their place. I think it is a SIGN OF RESPECT to acquire the language of the majority, in one’s place of residence or work.
When it comes to learning a language, Filipinos are smart. We struggle for a while with pronunciations but when we hear a lot of examples as to how the words are pronounced, we can easily follow. Interestingly, we are more inclined to learn the words when they are part of a song- being the music lovers that we are. When I first heard this boy sing (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ik37QpZ-xg0) and how he enunciated the words of the song, albeit with a melody, I was impressed. If it’s possible to learn English through a song, surely the technique will be applicable to Filipino too. Of course you can argue that a singing voice is still different from a speaking voice. My point is, if language is dynamic, then the way language is taught should be made dynamic as well.
With all the write-ups as to what the language of the learned is (in response again to Mr. Soriano’s Manila Bulletin article), I think it is now possible to make a compilation of the snippets. My take is: the language of the learned is not just one language, like English. It is the combination of various syntaxes that make an individual a SENSIBLE and SENSITIVE communicator. And I think, we Filipinos should aspire to be one.