The Fuss about English

Manila Bulletin, May 22, 2005 | Go to article overview

The Fuss about English


EVERYBODY from Malacanang to know-all king of people in the streets is blaming the deterioration of the Filipinos command of English as one fo the causes of our countrys miseries. Things have gotten mixed up here and there confusing us on identifying where our real concern should lie. Some say Filipinos do not understand instructions and information written in English. This they say could affect their performance in work. There are successful individuals who will argue that a person does not need to master English at such level that he has to know everythig about instructions and information written in English.

The trick that is in language

The truth is language can hide everything, even the mean intentions of a person who presents himself good-hearted to another. What is important is there is an ongoing communication. When we talk about communication we are dealing with exchanges which can utilize every medium and channel available to achieve agreement and commonality. Sometimes agreement may not be achieved, but at least, there is an understanding that matters are not settled satisfactorily between individuals. What we mean is there is an understanding that something causes a disagreement. Something or everything is not understood from some people in even better because they see at least the communication is still at the stage where interlocutors cannot be dishonest without revealing his scheme.

In our days, people find it easier to identify the cause of a problem and come up with a solution. All you need are statistics and studies. However, no matter how gritty the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data is, those who trumpet them out can not claim with al honesty that funding and working out solutions from their results will really jumpstart something that at the end will ripple out positively to our GNP and the lives of more than 70 millions Filipinos. Could it be true that other peoples, especially those who live in First World countries, do not really care how proficient we are in English but more on we as a people are regarded in the world today?

They may not give the same lame excuse on us that the reason why they would prefer overseas workers or professionals of other countries is because the latter speak better English than us. Communication is more than verbal language anyway. Could it be our image? With the decades we have been exposed to English either through education or media our race has already produced a dialect of English. Our comprehension and articulation of English is functional. English-speaking foreigners who visit the country can attest to the fact that will surely find their way home here than any parts of the globe because almost every Filipino can communicate with them the way they will understand. However, the problem is they are not like that when Filipinos are in their country trying to make themselves understood in English. They are not that patient with us when we are in their lands. Hence the question is "Were the English-speaking peoples (native or not) of the decades 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s more condescending to us then those in the present? If so Why?"

This discussion has nothing to do with the use of English other than to communicate with people to carry out common day-to-day activities. So much premium has been put on learning English, particularly Standard American English grammar, that young and old Filipinos have gotten to wary of rules that the natural acquisition of the language is detrimentally affected. Everybody speaks a dialect or dialects of a language. English is no exception. Perhaps some of us have to be more open mind on how the idiosyncrasies of our culture interact with the language we are wanting to speak. The thesis in this discussion is to open alternative ways to look at our problem by not necessarily pinning it with such compunction on our peoples loosening grasp of English language or more correctly Standard American English.

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