Filipino English, Not Taglish

Manila Bulletin, September 7, 2004 | Go to article overview

Filipino English, Not Taglish


A LANGUAGE encodes a particular system of rules from which we have to liberate ourselves. We must appropriate English, nativize it, shape it (within realistic bounds) instead of being shaped by it. This can only mean that we have to accept Filipino English as a variety of English that really exists; a Filipino English of the formal kind, intelligible internationally, which local book authors, academics, and most media practitioners use. Those words are not mine: I paraphrased what Prof. Corazon D. Villareal wrote in Instrumental Materials for Cultural Empowerment included in the book Philippine Postcolonial Studies, (UP Press) co-edited by Cristina P. Hidalgo and Priscelina P. Legasto.

For those who lament the deterioration of English in this country, Prof. Villareal presents a fascinating alternative view. She said that what we point out as errors in English, whether oral or written, are in fact Filipinisms. Phrases like open (or close) the light or sound off somebody are Filipinisms. There are American English terms which have a totally different meaning in Filipino English, for example, boy, to us a young male domestic, hostess which is synonymous to bar girl, and salvaging which is killing, not saving. Most foreigners consider these incomprehensible, unacceptable literal translations from the vernacular; but, Prof. Villareal says they are reflections of our material culture and knowing that can help us correct our mistakes.

La Sallian Brother Andrew Gonzalez, linguist and erstwhile education secretary, attributes the peculiarities in Filipino English the incorrect use of prepositions in, on, and at discordant tenses and disagreement in number between subject and verb to the native language influence. Consequently, there can be as many varieties of Filipino English as there are dialects or first languages in the Philippines. However, Bro. Andrew argues, it is still possible to speak and write a standard Filipino English. Prof. Villareal goes further by asserting that, ... a non-native model of English is no longer appropriate for teaching the language.

Fortunately, English is tributary as it accepts contributions from every region. …

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