Zamboanga City Goes Multilingual

Dr. Aireen Barrios-Arnuco

The following commentary was first posted by Aireen Barrios-Arnuco, Ph.D., an associate professor and dean of the School of Liberal Arts of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, at the Philippine Daily Inquirer, on 02/11/2011:

IN THIS deeply multilingual region, Chabacano is Zamboanga City’s premier linguistic heritage. Chabacano is Philippine Creole Spanish, reputed to be the largest Spanish-based and fastest-growing Creole language in the world with at least 300,000 speakers in different parts of the Zamboanga Peninsula and its environs. The challenge of raising its use to the academic and professional level, including standardizing its orthography and thus strengthening written Chabacano, is one area that concerned groups, such as Consejo de Lenguaje Chabacano, are already seriously looking into.

In our research on psycholinguistics and second language acquisition involving Chabacano as learners’ first language (or L1) within a multilingual environment, Dr. Claribel C. Concepcion and I found that the difference in linguistic systems accounts for errors made by Chabacano-speaking children learning Filipino. We also noted that some of these children were prone to producing ungrammatical Tagalog constructions (like, Binasag ang bata ang bote.) because they were transferring their grammatical knowledge of Chabacano to Tagalog.

Dr. Concepcion, meanwhile, investigated the use of two languages by Chabacano-English and Filipino-English bilingual children. Results of our study show that both groups were able to map the meanings of novel verbs faster using their knowledge of the two languages as syntactic cues to deduce meanings.

Click here for the complete commentary.

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