Multilingual situation but non-verbal

Someone emailed me the following as a Lent offering:

Several centuries ago, the Pope decreed that all the Jews had to convert to Catholicism or leave Italy. There was a huge outcry from the Jewish community, so the Pope offered a deal: he’d have a religious debate with the leader of the Jewish community. If the Jews won, they could stay in Italy; if the Pope won, they’d have to convert or leave.

The Jewish people met and picked an aged and wise rabbi to represent them in the debate. However, as the rabbi spoke no Italian, and the Pope spoke no Yiddish, they agreed that it would be a ‘silent’ debate.

Continue reading

Dinabaw Language

From Xandra Holazo Marfori via Lino Gerona comes this gem:

[Written by a friend…]
How can one distinguish a Davaoeno from a Cebuano? Or to a Cagayanon? Difficult? Easy.
Davaoenos are one of the most unique people in the world.
If the Filipino language is a conglomeration of all the dialects and languages in the Philippines, you might as well say that the language we speak in Davao City is the real Filipino language, and not Tagalog.
However, since it is a hodgepodge of different  tongues, it is sometimes funny to hear our language “bastardizing”, for lack of better word, the other  dialects. Strangely, that distinguishes us from the  rest. . .   Try these:

In stating a fact, Manilenos say, “Talagang mabait si Weng.”
In Davao, we say. “Mabait bitaw gyud si Weng”.
Too assertive? One asks, “Ano nga `yong  pangalan mo?”
In Davao we say, “Ano gani `yong pangalan (or worst, ngalan) mo?”
When somebody commits a mistake or surprises someone, we always never fail to say, “Halaka!”. Duh!

Singapore Education System: What We May Learn From It

The other day I asked Dr. Ricardo Ma. Nolasco, professor and head of the Linguistics Department of the University of the Philippines, Diliman, Quezon City, what he thinks about how the MLE issue is handled within the Singapore education system and here’s his response:

(Click here to enlarge the chart below.)

“The first thing that comes to mind is the fact that there is a substantial number of the Singaporean population that speaks English as a first language, a situation that is not present in the Philippines. This is a very crucial element in the equation that must be taken into account. If you have a fourth or a fifth of the class speaking English, the potential for learning English as a second language for the rest of the class is multiplied several times. A second factor is the type of multilingualism in Singapore in which there is a homegrown language that has come into contact with immigrant languages (Indians, British nationals). The motivation to have a common language, a lingua franca, whether homegrown or foreign, appears powerful. It looks to me that the Singapore education model matches well with the demographics of its population.”
While it’s true that there’s a substantial segment of the population of Singapore that speaks English as a first language, we in the Philippines have spawned a generation for whom code-switching (English, Filipino, and the mother tongue, etc.) is common in every walk of life on account of a bilingual education program using English and Filipino as the MOIs, as well as more than half a century of using English as the MOI. A sizable number of parents start teaching their children English at home. Ironically, that was one of the early problems encountered by the MLE advocacy in its plan to use the L1 as MOI from pre-school to Grade 3: parents who would like their children taught using nothing but English as the MOI the moment they start school. Continue reading

McEachern’s observations re our language attitudes

Wednesday, September 8, 2010 8:19 AM
From: “ched arzadon” <>

The articles, “Diversity shock“, “Quest for a multi-culture“, “Losing the mother tongue“, “Customer is always right, right?“, “Kankana-ey being replaced by Iloko?”, and “No longer cool to speak IloKo?“, were forwarded to me by Atty Manuel Faelnar. I found out later that they were written by Firth McEachern, a young Canadian Harvard graduate who is presently stationed at La Union. I don’t normally look kindly at outsiders/foreigners who criticize us. But I would take this one as an exception because I know that the writer’s intention is not to put us down but to help us by denaturalizing things that we thoughtlessly do or say on a daily basis.

The articles should make us (especially Ilocanos) pause and ponder.  I used to think (quite to my shame) that a language is just a commodity that we can use, replace or dispose of. It was actually not too long ago that I came to realize that my language is a major part of my soul and identity. And so when I let go of my language, a part of me dies too. This is the other side of MTBMLE which is not simply an instrumental view of language as something that mediates learning, but something that defines who we are.

No longer cool to speak Iloko

By Firth McEachern

“ANO ang paborito mong pagkain?” the emcee asked.

“Pizza po,” said the little girl.

“Ayan! Masarap!”

I guess they think Ilokano is not “cool” or “fancy” enough for a Little Miss Barangay contest, I thought, as I watched the event. Don’t they realize that Ilokano is just as rich and old a language as Tagalog? And don’t they realize that by excluding the local tongue from high profile events like Little Miss contests, they further undermine its prestige?

I turned to the gentleman to my right, the Hon. Vice-Governor Aureo Q. Nisce, and said, “I’m sad that these little girls are being forced to answer in Tagalog. The emcee should set an example and speak Tagalog AND Ilokano interchangeably, so that the girls know it’s acceptable to answer in either. Continue reading

Customer is always right, right?

By Firth McEachern

“ADDA Black Forest Sundae yo?”
“Wala po,” the Jollibee cashier replied.
“Adda Beef with Mushrooms?” I asked again.
“Mayroon po.”
“Ilocano ka?” I probed.
“Oo, Sir.”
“Tapos, apay agtagtagalogka ket Ilocano ti pakisarsaritak kenka?” I asked her, curious.

She blushed and looked surprised. “Diak ammo, sir.”

This is the scene I go through practically every time I go to establishments like Jollibee’s, McDonald’s, Greenwich, KFC, and the CSI mall here in San Fernando. Even though I speak to them in Iloco, they frequently respond to me in Tagalog, even if they are Ilocano!

Whatever happened to the maxim, “The customer is always right?” If I am a paying customer, it is up to the establishment to be as accommodating to the customer as possible. If I speak in Tagalog, they should respond in Tagalog. If I speak in Iloco, they should respond in Iloco. Of course, this is not always feasible because not every waiter is guaranteed to know the local language, but if he or she does, there is no reason not to. Continue reading

Losing the mother tongue

By Firth McEachern

THERE are very significant and unfortunate reasons why Filipinos devalue their mother tongue. Whether you are Iloco, Bikolano, Pangasinense, or from any of the other 120+ language groups, you are more likely to view Tagalog and English as more important, and might even fail to teach your child your own language. Why is this? The first factor I’ll deal with is education.

Teaching Filipino (which uses Tagalog as its basis), is mandatory in all schools, but there is no formal instruction of vernaculars like Ilocano alongside it, at any level. Rumours have it that next year DepEd will start incorporating local languages in early primary school curricula, which would be an excellent idea. Like many great ideas, however, it may fall short in implementation. So far the vernaculars have been consistently excluded from educational settings, and have even been outright banned: the antiquated penalties for speaking local languages in schools are widely practiced in private schools and unofficially practiced in some public schools, decades after European countries have removed such discriminatory policies for their minority languages. Continue reading