Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Photo courtesy of The Philippine Star

I've been wanting to write a piece of Buwan ng Wika (National Language Month). However, my views on language differ heavily from nationalist linguists that publishing it in August might be very insensitive to them and their followers. Hence, this September piece.

The thing with nationalist linguists is their fanaticism over the pure use of Filipino as a means of instruction and business. While I understand their fanaticism (being a purist myself back in college), going gaga over Filipino just isn't gonna work in the 21st century, let alone for a country with over 150 dialects and a least two major religions, Christianity and Islam.

We all know the fact that Filipino is superseded by English and the local dialects as medium of instruction and business in Visayas and Mindanao. In Madrasah schools, Arabic, the language of the Quran is taught to learners. This complex variety in language use is what makes proficiency in Filipino even more difficult for the rest of Filipinos and irks nationalist linguists even more. The problem is even more complicated by the rise of text lingo, gay lingo, jejemon, and other sub-culture languages.

The Department of Education is hopeful that the Mother Tongue Program would address these problems once and for all. The program decrees that the medium of instruction should differ based on the vernacular of each region. Hence, beginning school year 2012-2013, lessons and educational materials for subjects other than Filipino and English will now be offered in Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, and 12 other dialects. The DepEd believes this will increase students retention of learning since lessons are taught in a language they can relate with, as research has proven.

Honestly, I welcome Mother Tongue. I hope it paves the way for the preservation of local dialects especially those nearing extinction. But if Mother Tongue was given the opportunity, the same should be the case for sub-culture languages, in particular, the use of Taglish. In classrooms nationwide, the reality is that teachers code switch between English and Filipino (or English and vernacular for other regions). And the students have picked up their teachers' practice without the decrease in learning, as is the case in Roger M. Thompson's book "Filipino English and Taglish".

Students acceptance of Taglish as a medium of instruction only shows that choosing a language as a medium of instruction or business is not just an issue of national pride or location but also an issue of utility. And by utility, I mean, the ability of the learner to relate to the medium of instruction. Nationalist linguists should accept the fact that not all English words can be translated to Filipino. Hence words like lakas-kabayo (horsepower), sinupan (archive), and pahatid-kawad (telegraph), should not take prominence over their English counterparts if students cannot relate with them. Nationalist linguists should know better that language is not about national pride but understanding and culture.

However, I don't prescribe standardizing Taglish as a medium of instruction. Why standardize something that's already a prevailing practice? The thing with Taglish it gives users the freedom to code switch and thus, standardizing its use will limit such freedom. The key to its appeal is its informality and educators must keep it that way. What should remain (or should be) standardized is the learning of English, Filipino, and at least a dialect for a specific region--English being the language of profession, Filipino being the national language, and the dialect being the native language of individuals.

Our thrust towards language should be the preservation of balance between languages. All languages must be allowed to flourish and evolve without superseding each other. People must adapt to changes in language by learning new ones rather than imposing a language over others. Just take our national hero, Jose Rizal, who spoke in a multitude of foreign language and local dialects. His ability to communicate with different people is what made the entire nation, relate to his works and deeds.

In the Bible, God promised the apostles the gift of speaking in tongues so that they may spread the Gospel to the world. If God did not desire to give us such gift, then he wouldn't confuse our language in the first place. TSS

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