Don’t English Me!

Howie Severino

Howie Severino

While riding around on his bike Bughaw, Howie Severino assesses the quality of English in the streets of Manila – noting numerous misspellings on signs, the ignorance of students, and even grammatical mistakes engraved in the monument to a journalism icon.

He later learns that this sordid state of communication reflects a general decline in education, exemplified by an elementary school student named Jayson who managed to reach grade six without learning how to read despite parents who sell books and magazines for a living.
Howie delves into the debate about the causes of this decline, dwelling on the role of language. He meets a legislator who blames the use of Filipino as a medium of instruction and wants a new emphasis on the use of English.

Language experts at the University of the Philippines believe that learning is most effective using a student’s mother tongue.

Howie’s documentary team travels in search of multi-language education in action and finds an example in remote Lubuagan, Kalinga province, where students are taught in their native tongue and score much higher in standardized tests than their counterparts in more traditional schools.

Join this journey through a multi-language society on “DONT ENGLISH ME!,” Howie Severino’s I-Witness documentary this Monday midnight after the late night newscast Saksi.

NOTE:  Watch the following YouTube videos of “Don’t English Me!” as it aired:

My friend, Clifton Pascua, posted the following link to another video of “Don’t English Me!”  at Ilocano Online:

3 thoughts on “Don’t English Me!

  1. Ever since the resurgence of Filipino as one of our 2 national languages, English being the other one, we have had this love-hate fascination with English. Perhaps we could take a closer look at the example of Singapore where they are taught any two of four national languages, namely, Mandarin Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English in school–that is English for EVERYBODY and a choice of Mandarin Chinese, Malay or Tamil. English is the medium of instruction (MOI) in everything else, except in Mandarin Chinese, Malay and Tamil.

    The Singaporeans seem to be doing exceptionally well, such as in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) tests wherein, since 1995, about 90% of Singapore’s students did as well or better than half of the students in all other participating countries combined. They take the tests in English.

    The MLE basic precept under DO 74 s.2009 that students learn other languages and the other required course requirements better if they start school using their respective mother tongues as the initial media of instruction (MOI)–sort of a bridge–should evolve somewhat. Each regional language group, including the Tagalogs, should be taught their common mother tongue as a language course. After the third grade, perhaps, we could switch into the Singapore model all the way up. Anyone could still choose to study Tagalog/Filipino as a language course with English as the MOI in everything else; anyone could choose to study Ilocano, or Cebuano, or Hiligaynon, or Kapampangan, or Pangasinense, or Waray-Waray, etc., as individual language courses, with English as the MOI in everything else. Why not?

  2. Over here in the U.S., misspelling among all people from all walks of life–whites and all people of color–from preschool to post graduate school, is probably just as bad as anywhere including the Philippines. Texts on TV broadcasts get misspelled, student compositions and emails, in spite of the spelling checkers, get murdered. Even street conversation is not grammatical. Jay Leno, that stalwart of comedy and formerly of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” used to have a segment of his show in which he showcased misspellings and the ungrammatical or weird use of words; some nights, he featured interviews with the intellectually challenged. In that aspect, I think we, Filipinos, shouldn’t take it so hard when we misspell in English (of course, we misspell in any language like it was an equal opportunity thing) given that English is not even our native language. The problem exists and it has just been exacerbated by the cellphone and the liberties in spelling we take when texting. The point is, average Americans are generally not inhibited to speak their minds in spite of their misspellings, horrendous grammar, poor choice of words, or a combination of any of these. I think that’s the general problem with us, Asians: we tend to shy from offering a piece of our mind because of our traditional sensitivity over misspelling what we write, or our reticence to speaking ungrammatically or with an accent.

    As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t make a big issue about our misspellings, ungrammatical sentence constructions, poor choice of words, or our accents–these don’t necessarily equate to ignorance, or mean that we are bobo. The important thing is we should not be too circumspect in our dialog as to stifle what we wish to say in the first place. If God meant for us to always spell correctly, be grammatical, or speak without an accent, he would have inserted a chip in our genes that would take care of those issues. In the final analysis, what is important is a healthy curiosity and quest for knowledge and skills, certainly the ones we can use to survive. NOT the correct spelling of that knowledge, nor its grammatical construction, period. If we can spell correctly and be grammatical as well, those are just icing on the cake.

    All these, however, do not constitute an excuse to tolerate the imperfections mentioned above when YOU–not I–engage in formal discourse, in which I expect you to be squeaky clean, your words correctly spelled, your sentences grammatical, and foremost, you are communicating some sensible idea, in a manner of speaking. Just don’t ask me why it is not declared illegal for your medical doctor to write his prescriptions with such elan and in a manner that would stump your National Spelling Bee Champ! Pharmacists probably spell well as an occupational requirement, but then we can’t all be pharmacists…

  3. The problem is that English is a studied language not a native one to the archipelago. Could there be more native Spanish speakers around the country than native Anglophones? El problema es que el inglés es una lengua estudiada no nativa del archipiélago. ¿Acaso hay más hispanohablantes nativos esparcidos por el país que anglohablantes?

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