An Ilocano Orthography for MTB-MLE

By Sherma E. Benosa

1.0 Introduction

Ilocano, the third most widely spoken language in the Philippines, plays an important role in the everyday lives of its speakers, especially those in Ilocano-speaking provinces. It is widely used in mass media, in governance, at home, and everywhere, except in school. That is, until recently.

For decades, Ilocano did not play an official role in education. In many cases, its use was even prohibited. But with the change in the country’s system of education from bilingual to mother-tongue-based multilingual education (MTB-MLE)1, Ilocano — and all the other major Philippine languages — will now play an important role in education.

This shift in the educational system requires a hard look at the various Philippine languages. One of the main concerns in the implementation of MTB-MLE is the supposed lack of intellectualization of Philippine languages (e.g., lack of local equivalents for technical terms, lack or absence of efficient orthography, etc).

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MTBMLE: far beyond the Aquino administration

By Ricardo Ma. Nolasco
Philippine Daily Inquirer, May 18th, 2012


I immersed myself in two major training activities on Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTBMLE) in a span of just two weeks. I joined the Training-Workshop on Bridging between Languages in St. Louis University (SLU)-Baguio City, then I moved farther up north to Lagawe, Ifugao, to speak at a training session that formed part of the regional mass roll-out training of Grade 1 teachers on the K to 12 curriculum for the Cordillera Autonomous Region. Dr. Modesta R. Bastian told me that there were to be four waves of 5-day training activities at the CAR for 1,864 Grade 1 teachers.

After four sessions at SLU, it became abundantly obvious to participants that mother tongue-based multilingual education is very different from everything they know. One former SLU professor initially believed that she already understood MLE because she assumed that it simply meant using the first language (or L1) as medium of instruction along with good teaching strategies. Now she realizes L1 literacy (or learning to read and write in your L1) is critical to teaching in her own language, and she isn’t even literate in this.

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SIL International: Partners in Language Development

MALI—Trained in an SIL- sponsored literacy program, a local teacher writes a sentence and lists the seven Minyanka vowels. Translation: “She is very beautiful!”

SIL International® is a faith-based nonprofit organization committed to serving language communities worldwide as they develop the skills and capacity necessary to preserve and revitalize their languages. As an international nongovernmental organization (INGO), SIL actively participates in networks and partnerships—with government organizations, local groups and other INGOs—which are vital to the support of minority language communities in their own language development efforts.

SIL International grew out of one man’s concern for people speaking ethnolinguistic minority languages that lacked written alphabets. William Cameron Townsend started SIL in 1934 as a small summer linguistics training program with two students. It has expanded into an organization of more than 5,500 people coming from over 60 countries. SIL has conducted linguistic analysis in more than 2,590 languages spoken by 1.7 billion people in nearly 100 countries.
SIL’s field linguists work in partnership with minority language speakers to collect, analyze, organize and publish language and culture data. SIL workers serve as technical advisors, teachers, consultants and facilitators. As an international advocate for ethnolinguistic minority language speakers, SIL is dedicated to supporting ethnic minority peoples worldwide in their efforts to preserve their languages and cultural identities in the 21st century.

SIL makes its services available to all without regard to religious belief, political ideology, gender, race or ethnic background.

Click here for the complete SIL International: Partners in Language Development document.