Filipino English and the Acquistion of a Cosmopolitan Identity

By Ched Arzadon

I’ve been thinking a lot about Manong Resty’s post below. Yes, why did nobody raise the issue that the base language of Filipino was not identified in the Constitution? Was it intended (to avoid further debates) or there was just no linguist around? Maybe it is a blessing that it was not identified so that we can reinterpret from a pedagogical and global perspective.

I think the learning of Filipino (as intended in the Constitution) can provide the space for the acquisition of a cosmopolitan identity. This would resonate with the oft expressed sentiment of parents that they want their children to be “globally competent.” Oftentimes this explains the reason that some oppose MTBMLE (in one area, the parents went to bombo radyo to raise their complaint about the use of MT in school)

Appadurai wrote about cosmopolitanism (“the urge to expand one’s current horizons of self and cultural identity and a wish to connect with a wider world”) that is non-elitist, something that starts where we are, “builds on the practices of the local, the everyday and the familiar, but is imbued with a politics of hope… which builds towards global affinities and solidarities” This is the kind of identity we promote in our MLE program.

And so now i think we can re-interpret Filipino to be the so called “Filipino English.” There are two possible variants. One is the use of English vocabulary but spoken using the grammatical structure of the Philippine type language (Btw, Filipino English is now recognized as one of the World Englishes) Dr. Nolasco and the LSP people can show us convincingly that the English we proudly speak now is actually spoken the Filipino way.This is the reason that our call center agents have to learn the kind of English that their clients in the west use and can understand.

The other possible meaning of Filipino English is the Ceblish or Taglish or Ilocalish. Among us Ilocano we would often say “be careful, bog kunana.” Some Singaporeans are actually making a strong case for the recognition of their own Singlish in schools.

I would rather choose the first type–the Filipino English. This would simplify our work in implementing MLE. This means that in MLE we start with the local language as L1, then L2 is the Filipino English and L3 is another local language (can be the regional lingua franca or one of the most common languages in the country). This would make all regions at an equal footing. I once heard that non Tagalog parents would say it is unfair that the Tagalog pupils moved to English (their L2) more quickly while their children have to learn in the local language first (L1) then “Filipino” as L2 then English as L3.

6 thoughts on “Filipino English and the Acquistion of a Cosmopolitan Identity

  1. I actually like the idea. There is a trove of information readily available in English–info that remains locked if we don’t learn English–it matters not that it be Filipino English. Most of this information trove in English is not now readily accessible in any Philippine language such as Tagalog or Filipino. And if, as the oft-repeated goal, we want to be globally competitive, it makes more sense to learn in English, the undisputed global language, than it is to learn in Tagalog/Filipino.

    I really don’t have a bone against the following Filipino-English constructs:

    “You’re going to lend me 100 pesos, no?” and “You’re going to lend me 100 pesos, ‘no?”

    Of course, we usually mean the latter ‘no which is short for ano.

  2. @Joe i think we got that ‘no from the Spaniards, i am living here in Gibraltar /Spain and can always hear those at the end . hehehe

    As English is concern, i can say we are being recognize as American English here(because they got the British Accent here) and even thought i was from America. But they were surprised to know that i was born and bred in the Philippines. ( i am speaking to maybe a nice and proper way of english (i am not being offensive to our other kababayans , i know i still am not that good.)) They always got this question when they heard us speaking in English.

    but if we just speak a lot of them and hear a lot of people around us it will surely give us the edge. Just like in schools before when it was the English subject, we don’t need to speak in our local language.

  3. Ched and All,

    Your post offers delicious food for thought, to say the least. Some in the group would probably have pointed out by now that the silence on the base language for Filipino in the 1987 constitution was a compromise position. Lacking any explicitly identified base for the national language, and lacking any provision to exclude Tagalog either, the status quo prevailed. And what was that? Well, one has to go back to the 1973 constitution, but there the basis of Filipino was not specified either. So one has to go back even further, to the 1935 constitution, where Article XIV, Section 3 states that “The Congress shall take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages.” In 1937, Tagalog was selected as the basis of the national language of the Philippines by the National Language Institute. So by fiat until 1973 and by default since then, Tagalog serves as the basis of Filipino, and will be the de facto base until an amendment or a court ruling changes the situation.

    Enter your clever suggestion, Ched, that Filipino-English may just as well be selected as the basis of Filipino the national language. While the constitution was silent about the base language, it did not exclude any language either, for that matter. English is, after all, a language spoken in the country. As Filipino-English evolves, “it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.” This will be accomplished naturally by speakers of the different language groups, substituting local words and short phrases for English words and phrases, while at the same time making all sorts of grammatical “errors” due to the influence of their native tongue, errors that are, as Bro. Andrew Gonzales, FSC suggested, on the way to becoming features of the Filipino-English language. When speakers from different regions meet, incomprehensible regionalism will ‘temporarily’ shake themselves out of the conversation.

    The choice of Filipino-English will gain overwhelming support in all regions, including the Tagalog regions, as it caters directly to the national ambition for cosmopolitanism, as you put it, and, with some tweaking of accent and pronunciation, will put our young people in a good position for global competition. After a generation or two, the question of a single common language of communication will be put to rest, as today’s young people will then be speaking Filipino-English. Designating Tagalog as an optional L3 for non-Tagalog students and other Philippine languages as L3 in Tagalog schools will even out course load.

    All that said, in reality, there is no preventing us from designating English as L2. The constitution says:

    Article XIV

    Section 7. For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English.

    As far as I know, there is no law that removes English as a medium of instruction in the education system. Since Filipino in the strongest interpretation is non-existent, and under-development in a more lenient interpretation, there is only one sensible implementable language of instruction, and that is English. We cannot teach in a non-existent language and we wouldn’t want to use a language that is still under-development, would we?

    Resty

  4. To Resty and Ched and All:

    Let’s give this idea some vigorous life, especially among those contemplating a constitutional change. Better yet, let’s draft the appropriate, carefully worded BILL and I suppose it would not be difficult to find sponsors in the House and Senate. After all, those congress types are the ones now using Filipino-English.

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