Globalization and Its Implications for Language

Manila Bulletin, March 30, 2002 | Go to article overview

Globalization and Its Implications for Language

Byline: Wilfredo V. Vilacorta

MUCH has been written on the influence of globalization on culture, politics and the economy.

Hardly has its impact on language been examined.

In the global marketplace where services and information are of prime importance, language has become an economic commodity. This has a bearing on how and why a language is taught in a society.

Givens in Philippine Language Education

Filipino language educators are faced with certain realities that they must address: Reality No. 1: English has become a much more dominant international language - as the language of science, diplomacy and media, the language of prestige, and the language of business and cyberspace.

Reality No. 2: The telegraphic language of electronic communications has significantly transformed the lexicon, syntax and orthography of languages, requiring more brevity and precision.

Reality No. 3: Filipino has effectively become the lingua franca of most Filipinos here and abroad.

Reality No. 4: The vernaculars have endured as home languages and as languages of initial literacy, serving as effective bridges to learning Filipino and English.

Needed Responses

Given these realities, how are language educators going to respond, in order to maximize the competitiveness of Filipinos and the opportunities available to them? One thing is sure, we can no longer teach Filipino and English the way we have been teaching them for the past 30 years.

First of all, we have to examine the objectives of language learning in our country. Proficiently in English has always been regarded as the bridge that will ensure access to advances in world science and technology. For these reason, the bilingual education program has mandated that mathematics and the sciences be taught in English.

We also believe that teaching English necessitates mastery of grammatical rules, in order to perfect the student's understanding of the different parts of speech. We tend to give less emphasis to the communicative aspect of language learning.

We should now recast our premises about the objectives of learning English. We should stop treating it as a foreign language, for indeed, English is already a Philippine language, a language that we have successfully colonized. It is said that we are the third largest English-speaking country. But alas, how many of our people really speak good English?

We should not regard English merely as a "bridge to the world," but as a necessary tool for daily communication. In this globalizing age, English is the language of both work and play. We have to come to terms with their reality; we cannot forever be in a state of denial. Oral, not only written, proficiency in English is our main competitive edge in the global contest.

In order to be relevant to the task of national development, English teaching should now take into primary consideration the demands of global competitiveness. This requires reorientation towards a philosophy of teaching that is student-centered, rather than teacher-centered. The teacher should no longer be the fountain of knowledge. Instead, students should be empowered through a more participative approach to learning in which communicative competence is encouraged and developed.

Such competence will optimize advantage of the Philippines, which with its vast pool of professionals can serve as a source for entrepreneurs, executives and researchers here and abroad. Moreover, Filipinos are known for their talent in IT - a field that requires communicative and logical skills.

A new perspective on Filipino

There is likewise a need for us to reasses our view of the national language. There are those of us who cling to the hope that Filipino will someday replace English as the medium of instruction. Still others wish that the national language will replace the vernaculars as the mother tongue of all Filipinos, in the name of nationalism and national unity. …

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