Educating Filipinos on English Language

Manila Bulletin, September 18, 2004 | Go to article overview

Educating Filipinos on English Language


Byline: RAYMUND F. ANTONIO

Is the fast slipping mastery of English language a grave threat in our economy? Is the proposed law by some legislators designating Filipino, the national language, as the sole medium of instruction in school onot realistico? Or has it affected the decline of English teaching through the years?

After the recent remark made by the US ambassador Francis J. Ricciardone about the FilipinosE incapability of English usage, many scholars reacted, and have started to raise questions if we really are literate enough when it comes to oral and written English communication.

The U.S. ambassador has urged the government to improve English Education in the country or lose foreign investment to other countries.

Professor Jose Wendell Capili, a former Associate Dean of UP College of Arts and Letters (CAL) and currently a Ph.D. candidate at The Research School of Pacific and Asian Studies of Australian National University agreed with RicciardoneEs observation. "I think U.S. Ambassador Ricciardone has articulated what has been happening all along. While I maintain that Filipinos do have a higher functional command of the English language compared to most of our Asian neighbors, we are slowly losing our competitive edge, because our political leaders are less concerned about investing in good teachers especially in the primary and secondary level," he explained.

Capili, however, argued that Filipinos are not illiterate. "It is amazing how Filipinos use English visavis the other Philippine languages to enrich their daily lives. Meanwhile, how many Americans or British would actually take the initiative in learning a language other than English? Certainly, many Filipinos do not speak with an American or British twang, but they use English to fit their respective styles and exigencies. Compared to the rest of the world, Filipinos have a respectable command of functional English."

Michael Andrada, another professor from UP Departmento ng Filipino at Panitikan ng Pilipinas (DFPP), said that RicciardoneEs concept of development is tied in the proficient use of English.

He views the AmbassadorEs effort to urge the government to improve the countryEs English literacy as a way of reinforcing English as the global language.

However, he thinks that the problem is not in the language itself but in the ideology the language has. "Implementing Filipino is still problematic because itEs not yet systematized and homogenized. The more if we promote English which is complicated to learn," Andrada explained.

Meanwhile, Virgilio Almario, dean of UP College of Arts and Letters (CAL), thinks that it is natural for the U.S. ambassador to make such comments and actions. "HeEs a good Ambassador and should be lauded by their president. As the Ambassador of U.S, it is his duty to promote the interest of the Americans, and the propagation of the English language is one way to do that," he added.

Legislators propose Filipino as the medium of instruction

In the recent statements made by Ricciardone, he also said that the legislatorsE proposal of a law to designate Filipino as the medium of instruction in schools was "not realistic,"citing the difficulty of foreign companies as outsourcing firms to hire good English speaking Filipinos.

From AlmarioEs point of view, he explained why "Why not realistic? Because itEs not in favor of the Americans, and itEs not according to their interest."

Almario cited countries that use their own native language but have been experiencing progress without the help of the English language. "European countries like Russia donEt use English but itEs a developed country. Japan as well uses its native language and yet itEs competitive when it comes to technological innovations."

Capili agreed in the importance of using the national language. "In Europe, people speak several languages, but they do not lose facility in their own. …

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