Dear Pinoys obsessing about language

Stephen Fry wrote this kinetic language on language, and it is obviously in English. He strikes a cord about people who cringe when grammar becomes “informal”. Like verbalizing nouns should be frowned upon. We should stop using googling then.


At the heart of the matter is the same isn’t it? Filipinos look down at those who speak taglish; or people who prefer Filipino over English as if English is “high class”, and those who speak in Filipino is “low class”. I know, we’ve all been in that mindset whether we think it consciously or not. Whether we mean to, or not. I know I have. And the whole debate on Filipino versus English or Tagalog versus whatnot dialect; what’s that about?

I’ve come to realize, over the years that it isn’t the language we use, but how we are able to clearly communicate our words and ideas to another human being. So what if i could speak or write in perfect Americanized English if neither American nor Filipino could understand it? So what if I could perfectly craft sentences with “Neither, nor,” instead of penning it, “Neither, or” if you the reader could scarcely understand it.

It both amuses the hell out of me, and drives me absolutely nuts when people say, “program” the computer, when they mean, install a new operating system. It’s true. Try talking to a non-techie, whose basic understanding of a computer is five years behind the road. I blame computer technicians who don’t explain-frame things as they are.

Programming is definitely different from installing.

Doesn’t that make your blood boil in both amusement, and craziness? Doesn’t that make you shake your head? Should people like me who understand computers, a little better than the average Juan ought to be able to communicate to the general public what’s it all about? We’re not suppose to be Wizards or priests in our temples and pyramids or majestic cathedrals and ivory towers translating technology as if it was a rosette stone? Technology is a language on to itself that needs expression doesn’t it? Isn’t that the whole point of the post-pc era?

We get each other don’t we? “Program” is how they express themselves, don’t they?

It is the same with blogging being viewed as more “amateurish” than a professional writer writing for the New York Times. I love the New York Times and the Guardian, but I love blogs too. Hell, this is a blog you are reading right here.

I digress.

There is just some similarity between all that and this whole debate on language.

Communicating shouldn’t require a rosetta stone.

For those people who wants to debate in Filipino— GREAT. Do it. Pass bills that are in Filipino. Write books in Filipino. Get a whole generation of Children to read in Filipino— not just works translated from English to Filipino— but written originally in Filipino. Hell the greatest Filipino novels of our nation’s history wasn’t even written in Filipino, was it? Wasn’t Rizal’s in Spanish?

Why can’t we as a nation celebrate the richness and diversity of our culture? We have spanish in our language, in our food. We have English surrounding us. Chinese too, now that one thinks about it. The poorest of the poor can understand a bit of English, can’t he? And might even speak a bit of it. And most Filipinos whether they can write in Filipino, can certainly understand it when spoken.

The President has been giving important speeches in Filipino. That’s great. It communicates very well to the masses who, may not understand English all that well. That’s what communication is about isn’t it? To be understood. Not to flatter egos. Not to say, “oohh, I speak and write in English, i’m smarter than you”.

Just because one speaks English, doesn’t make one American or British or something else. There are cultural nuances attached in language isn’t it? Filipinos could be the best at English, but will miss certain nuances in language that escape the classic textbook. Just as Americans may not get British English. Hence, just because I can speak English, doesn’t necessarily mean I would entirely understand American colloquiums or vice versa.

The whole debate particularly makes me scratch my head. What’s the debate about? The constitution says we have two languages anyway. There shouldn’t be a debate whether Filipino should primary, or English secondary. Both are equally important.

Whether Filipino is a dying language is perhaps best discussed by experts in the field. There are no novels written in Filipino. Then again @komikero’s Elmer is brilliant, isn’t it?

Scholarly work in Filipino— I’ve not heard about— but then again, that’s not really the sphere I go around in. Should there be Scholarly work in Filipino. I don’t see why not.

The debate on language misses the point entirely. It shouldn’t be one over the other. Filipino, isn’t even pure. Filipino isn’t equivalent to Tagalog, isn’t it? Though it borrows heavily from it. Again— does it matter? Does it matter if the debate on the Congressional floor is in Waray or English? Should there be a sprinkling of Mandarin in there too? How about some Islamic terms in our vernacular since we do have Filipino Muslim brothers and sisters? Does it matter if it is in Filipino or Taglish?

Does it matter if all the I’s were dotted, or the T’s crossed? How about ‘,’ before or after a “? How about a ‘.’ does it fall before or after a ” in a quote? Did you see what I just did there?

Writers, and speakers in English have “bastardized” the language over the centuries haven’t they? Read classical English literature and see if language hasn’t changed over the centuries.

It seems to me the so called debate has all the trappings of Fanboys gone rogue. Instead of a fun debate who the bigger Darth is, or is it Mac versus PC or if Superman will finally kick Batman’s behind in second issue of the new Justice League, we have this equally unimportant debate on… minutia.

Do we make sense to each other? Isn’t that the whole point of media, of the written or spoken, or signed word? Communicating should be fun. Communicating should never be in silos. Communicating communications that’s what it is all about dear Pinoys obsessing about language.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • Cocoy ,

    Joe, I only have two words for you: exactly perfect.

    • Joe America ,

      So many questions and one interesting conclusion. The answer to your questions is, of course, “it depends on what your goal is”. If it is to have fun, speak ithig or pig latin, or tell jokes in any convenient dialect.

      If you like the Philippines the way it is, keep on with the Babel approach of one main set of words among 114 separate dialects. And don’t care too much if the high school graduates are fluent in English. At least they graduated, that is what matters. Got by the exams.

      However, if you want a progressive Philippines, an economically vibrant nation, or want to train up kids from across the country for success around the world (and lose the “nation of servants” stigma), you are mistaken to establish Filipino or Tagalog the main language. No nation outside the Philippines speaks it, so you have limited your audience, and the opportunities for jobs, to those created by Filipinos. Which are limited, to say the least. You have severely limited the horizons of your kids.

      Any language or dialect can be retained as a preserved language, and appreciated by aficionados of that language. Latin is a dead language that anchors many live ones. Millions study it. No one carries out commerce in Latin. Many world citizens study classical Greek because so many scholarly works exist for them to plumb. They are some of the brightest people on the planet.

      You joke about Mandarin, but it should certainly be in the high school for those heading to college, and it should certainly be an optional major in college. China is a big deal. There are careers there, and careers here, dealing with Chinese businesses. But mostly, you can expect Chinese entrepreneurs to work in English, the World Language.

      Every high school student should be fluent in two or three languages. His local dialect and English . . . and Chinese for the more advanced and language-adept kids. Those who will rise above the mundane in building their opportunities for fascinating careers.

      So much of the Philippines is anchored to the way it was, or is, and there is a startling refusal to comprehend that the future WILL change. No matter how hard you try to hold onto the ways of today as an anchor to prop up your self esteem. And the ways of today are, at best, “developing” and at the bottom rung of worldly progressiveness and competitiveness.

      T’s and i’s are important if you want to be high skill and highly respected. For “fun” it is largely irrelevant.

      If a student wants to “make sense” in his communications for career success, he will not limit himself, language wise. He will widen his chances for success. I have just completed a series on education on my blog site. One of the five curriculum planks for college bound students is Language: English and Mandarin. Tagalog and other dialects would be dealt with at the student’s initiative under the section on “Relevance of Roots”. Only peruse my commentary if you have an open mind. That is, if you are willing to wave “goodbye” to the old, struggling Philippines, and fill your kids with initiative and promise instead of emptiness and apathy.