JR Lopez Gonzales 10:21 PM 0
In a lot of instances, I can say that Filipinos are one of the best English speakers in the world. In fact, according to this news article, we are the world’s best in Business English. Our Arab, European, and Asian neighbors never fail to appreciate to our intelligibility and fluency in the global language.
But I still pose this question: Are we really “that good” in conversing and understanding English?
Over the years since the language’s introduction to us more than a century ago, the Filipino developed this habit of being too critical on grammar or pronunciation. I can still remember this teacher I had which pronounces the word ‘paper’ as ‘peeper’. And that slip-up would draw some silent snorts and chuckles from the overly-critical students.
Preposterous as it is, we have this tendency to appreciate and thus equate one’s eloquence in English with a person’s intelligence. The more American twang (colloquially referred to by most Filipinos as ‘slang’) you have, the more people would refer to you as ‘sosyal’ (elite) or sophisticated.
Well, being a colony of the United States for close to five decades, I am proud of the Filipinos’ seemingly natural ability of being able to comprehend and speak the English language. I really am. This entire proclivity towards English perfection is but an evidence of how the American culture was intertwined in our roots.
And why would we not love the Americans for this gift? During the American Era, the Americans were able to accomplish the feat the Spaniards never did – make the Pinoys love their colonizers through education.
Unlike the Spanish strategy of Catholicism, the Americans presented us free public education which made us love them with open arms and legs. Among others, this paved the way for the modernity and global-readiness of the Filipino in the Pre-World War II Era.
Aside from an obvious economic rise of the Philippines in the 1920s, looking at the status of education in the Islands in that period would give us the idea how good we use to perform academically. In the field of linguistics, the Human Development Report states that the language skill of both the Filipinos and the Americans at school is identical. I theorize that is due to the public education system spearheaded by the Thomasites (the first American teachers in the Philippines who are actually American soldiers).
I am not against speaking English or the making of it as the medium of instruction together with Filipino (which is but actually a standardized Tagalog). I have to agree that Filpino education should place ample importance on it as it is the language of globalization. Without our distinct skill in the language, we’ll be dishing out all the BPO jobs to India. With the Pinoy’s English proficiency, we are one of the sought-after online tutors of our Asian friends.
English is the most used language in our mass media, both in the dailies and the TV stations. Both are replete with English words and phrase. Uncle Sam’s language is our language of business, trade, and politics. The lingua franca of our courses, especially Science and Mathematics are in English. It would surely be ridiculous if terms in specialized fields such as law are imprinted in say, Filipino or, for my case, be written in Ilonggo or Ilocano.
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Author’s Note: This article, originally written in Filipino, was published in Banwag magazine, the publication of Saint Michael’s College of Iligan in 2010. The author decided to translate and refurbish the article to English.