Language Wars (updated)

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The other day I attended the second session of taping for GMA7’s “Isang tanong, isang sagot” senatorial forum, which will be broadcast this Sunday and the next (I represented the Philippine Daily Inquirer for the second session, the first session had Conrado de Quiros). It was interesting watching the different candidates react to the questions and their interaction (or lack of it) with one another. As the first shift was leaving, I ran into de Quiros and in our brief chat he expressed concern over what people are going to do if and when the massive cheating in the coming elections takes place, and people start to find out about it. Something worth thinking about.

During the taping, the scuttlebutt among media colleagues was that Senator Joker Arroyo didn’t show up, because he was in an emergency meeting because of upcoming survey results (the results came out a day or so later, for SWS and most recently, for Pulse Asia: Joker’s concern seems to hinge on the need for a candidate to be safely in the top 8, otherwise it’s a mad scramble to protect votes during the counting). From what I gathered, Joker’s survey results were such, that he was very much concerned over the possibility of being junked. It wasn’t clear to me, though, who would be doing the junking, although afterwards reading the views of colleagues such as , perhaps the danger is this: a loose cannon (from a Palace point of view) like Joker could be junked, to accommodate the election of a more malleable candidate like Gringo Honasan. As it is, the various camps are already in the thick of speculating -and accusing- each other of preparing to junk candidates.

One thing concerns me, as the campaign enters its final stages, and the Palace tries to frame the election favorably to itself. The decision by the Left to endorse a mixed list of senatorial candidates is, I think, a strategic mistake. So is Senator Lacson’s decision to endorse non-members of his slate, but his decision is less of a mistake than the Left’s: they are still oppositionists. The Left’s endorsement of a mixed bag of candidates blurs the line between the administration and the opposition -it makes it politics as normal, when there are issues that are abnormal and which thus require a more rigid line between those siding with the President, and against her. When you start blurring the issues, what your group stands for gets blurred in the minds of voters, too. You’re just another political player in a disreputable exercise. That may account more for Bayan Muna’s drop in the surveys, for example, than it’s merely not hogging the headlines.

In the punditocracy, My column for today is Misplaced emphasis on English. (For those who read the language, see the reaction of Sulat Kapangpangan to my column).

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See the Pleading that will be filed before the Supreme Court tomorrow. Philippine Commentary pens a rebuttal.

Speech Randy David-1
Randy David’s views.

Conrado De Quiros-1
The views of Conrado de Quiros.

Licuanan Speech-1
The views of Patricia Licuanan. See also the views of Juan Miguel Luz, formerly of the Department of Education, in ‘English First’ policy will hurt learning.

My views on the English-Filipino debate were put forward in a column I wrote in November last year, Practical Languages. I believe a distinction has to be made between the need to provide a solid, basic, education to the public, and the requirements of advanced learning in various academic disciplines (see also the chef at chez panda, for her thoughts on whether a food blog can help teach English).

As for other columnists: Federico Pascual writes about the candidacy of Fr. Panlilio for governor of Pampanga; Billy Esposo on the candidacy of Manny Pacquiao; Bel Cunanan on the candidacy of Speaker de Venecia. Regarding the political bounty offered by our glorious Secretary of Justice, the Inquirer editorial gives him a good thwack. Now Gonzalez has recanted -but it has to be asked, is he getting senile?

In the blogosphere, my entry in Inquirer Current yesterday was The Wily Filipino.

Uploaded my talk on diplomacy at San Sebastian College in 2005, to ourmedia: there’s part 1 and part 2. At long last.


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    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 1:46 pm

    The point Petitioners make about the Constitutional provision mandating the govt to “initiate and sustain the use of Pilipino as the medium of official communications and instruction” is utterly absurd.

    “How many Supreme Court decisions for example have been rendered in Pilipino by the High Court itself? since the 1987 charter was ratified. NONE! How many have been translated into Pilipino? NONE! And if an adverse decision is rendered against them, will it be written in Filipino as Petitioners demand of the government, or do we expect the High Court to likewise participate in such patent absurdity?

    And what of the Petitioners own official communication to the Supreme Court? It is guilty of the very charge they make against Respondents!

    Thanks for this delicious fish in barrel, MLQ3.

    • janie on April 26, 2007 at 1:58 pm


    and to add.. our constitution is not in Filipino.

    We call our pangulo, PRESIDENT (at least most of the time).

    Government agencies are often referred to as DEPARTMENTS, BUREAUS, COMMISSIONS, ETC.


  1. Thank you for the entry. It’s a help for me because I’ve been thinking about a strange idea for teaching English to Pinoys on the Internet, and the insights from all sides of the debate have been quite helpful.

    • Blackshama on April 26, 2007 at 2:11 pm

    There is a heap of evidence that learning and cognitive development is enhanced when learning is in the first language of the speaker.

    This is most evident in learning numeracy and science.

    Another point I want to make is that why is he use of Filipino is relegated to teaching the social sciences? Is the learning of social science better in Filipino? Is there a major cognitive difference in learning science and and social sciences? Why can’t we teach both in Filipino? or in English?

    It seems that there is a perception that the social sciences are “less intellectualized” so Filipino is better in teaching it. This is language discrimination in our own country!

    Social scientists should raise a howl!

    I’m sure Filipino can be an effective medium in teaching science. We really don’t need to translate the Latin and Greek roots of scientific terms. So phylum can still be phylum.

    I agree that English should be a second language. In fact the government should PROMOTE it. But imposing it is another matter. Students should learn it as a second language when their cognitive skills have been developed.

    • inidoro ni emilie on April 26, 2007 at 2:24 pm

    “I agree that English should be a second language. In fact the government should PROMOTE it. But imposing it is another matter. Students should learn it as a second language when their cognitive skills have been developed.”


    • inidoro ni emilie on April 26, 2007 at 2:26 pm

    but why only Pilipino? we are an archipelago of 100 languages spoken. i say, promote mother tongue education!
    mother tongue first, english later.

    • inidoro ni emilie on April 26, 2007 at 2:39 pm


    been to your link.

    singlish is no way near taglish or engalog. singlish is english, singapore style lah. while taglish is like you know making halo-halo kasi nga we are semi-lingual na in both languages. and engalog, ask the conos in the ateneo bench, pare.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    “Amen” — that’s Latin ain’t it?

    • mlq3 on April 26, 2007 at 2:44 pm

    “Amen” is Hebrew.

    • inidoro ni emilie on April 26, 2007 at 2:48 pm

    o siya, siya:

    siya nawa.

    • Jeg on April 26, 2007 at 3:24 pm

    So now we’re allowing a legally-mandated language? What next? Will we also allow the government to ban certain words? The government should stay out of this and leave it to educators to choose which language is most effective in specific subjects and specific classrooms. We have already pushed native languages to insignificance by mandating Filipino and English.

    English is the de facto official language of government. There’s no need to legislate it. There is no de facto language of education, and none should be mandated by fiat.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I think it’s the academic and media elites just working off their guilty consciences and loathing their personal success, at least in public. It’s a kind of self-conscious radical chic.

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 3:38 pm

    What is absurd is for someone to learn how to speak, read, and write in a second language first before he can study math and science.

    Let our kids study basic math and science first in their own first language even if we have to use technical terms in English (Tagalog: Ang radius ay kalahati ng diameter. Bikol: An radius ay kabanga kan diameter. What’s wrong with that?), while at the same time learning how to speak, read, and write in English as a second language. Once they have acquired enough competence in English, they can access materials written in English. The Japanese do it. The Koreans do it. The Chinese do it. The French do it. Why can’t we?

    Try studying math or science in Japanese while taking up basic Nippongo lessons. Absurd? Just as I thought.

  2. @ emilie

    I was kind of under the idea that Singlish also incorporated other languages [Chinese, Malay, etc.] into its syntax.

    Which was really not the point of including Singlish in that part of my entry – my point was that are Taglish and Engalog creoles, pidgins [as Singlish has been characterized by some], or just local adaptations of the English language?

  3. It’s all the communists fault.

    • manuelbuencamino on April 26, 2007 at 4:22 pm

    Blackshama is correct – “There is a heap of evidence that learning and cognitive development is enhanced when learning is in the first language of the speaker.”

    Arguments for English are unscientific and fall into political or practical considerations

    Basically English proponents say we should learn it first because it is the universal language. Or at least it’s struggling to be.

    But if practicality is the only consideration then we should start learning Mandarin.

    But that will create political problems because then we have to translate british and american history and literature into chinese….

    …and those precious “nuances” that made their cultures and race seem so superior might get lost in the translation.

    But a word of caution to shaman of malilipot.- “Try studying math or science in Japanese while taking up basic Nippongo lessons. Absurd? Just as I thought.”

    Let’s not underestimate Filipino intelligence and capacity to learn.

    Former Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon didn’t speak a word of Nippongo but he went to Japan after high school to study nuclear physics… in Nippongo. He graduated with flying colors.

    I don’t see Siazon as an exception. Given the same opportunity and challenge I think most Filipinos can do what he did.

    English is a foreign language to Filipinos. and to americans like Snoop Dog and Bush.

    • janie on April 26, 2007 at 4:24 pm

    why can’t i post?

    • manuelbuencamino on April 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm


    “It’s all the communists fault.”

    And the islamofascists.

    And paleoliberals.

    • janie on April 26, 2007 at 4:25 pm

    I agree with Shaman.

    But another problem arises, the books are in English.

    This story has nothing to do with the medium of construction issue but could be relevant:

    In 2nd year college, we made a documentary entitled “Klasrum”, its basically about the conditions and needs of public schools in the city. One major issue that arose is the implementation of MAKABAYAN (i assume we all know this), but the teacher we interviewed cannot fully implement teaching this because the books weren’t made to comply such curriculum. So we asked if there were new books and she said there was none. In the process maybe? And she says, if it was indeed in the process it is taking too long. So we asked if she could teach effectively, she says, she’s trying her best.

    Bottom line, the government can try as much to improve, but they should be ready for the other necessities that may arise in the process.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 4:51 pm

    Not only the books are in English, but 99.9% of all new science is being done in English. (Or choose any other large percentage). Therefore, we are asking to lame ourselves by demanding a translation-based education in math and science. IN the first place you need linguists good enough to be scientists and mathematicians to both understand the subjects and still be able to render it into Filipino. That is crazy given the speed and volume at which science and math developments are occurring.

    The harder and more seriously you look at this petition, the sillier and more absurd it gets. Unless they can get the Supreme Court to start with itself, as the protector and interpreter of the constitution, it hardly stands to reason, or even humor, to demand that the education system do the same.

    Bro. Andrew wanted a curriculum with just Math, Science and Language (any language! let the locals choose!) which to shaman’s point is the right answer. Besides people go to school to learn something they don’t already know. And MB, yes it is the fault of the communists and paleoliberals, who are doing this for a twisted reason that has nothing to do with education, unless it is ideological education.

    The psychology of it has been noted in other places. They are ashamed of their personal success in a land of poverty, hunger and deprivation. So they wring their hands in shame and make pious noises, because in all the rest of their writing they are talking about how bad it is for every body else.

    Just like the Spanish Taliban, they don’t think the natives CAN learn English just as easily as Filipino, who unnatural provenance and artificial construction cannot hide the amalgam of dialects that it actually consists of. Pilipino is simply the wrong tool for the job. Would you use a screwdriver to open a can of beans? You could, but why? Sure trig and physics can be described in Tagalog which you would have to invent, popularize and teach any way. Again why?

    What really matters is what really works. Just look around the world. Even the chinese communists, (your idols), admit it!

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 5:03 pm

    Certain realities are ineluctable and unavoidable. It’s nobody’s fault. But virtually the entire superstructure of our culture, business, Law, medicine, science, industry, entertainment, are conducted with English as the medium of communication, documentation, information, transmission and reception. There is no way to change that within anybody’s lifetime. We shall have to content ourselves I am afraid with Filipino the way the entire Western world treats its Greek and Roman heritage–for the plays and poetries, the honorifics, monuments, medallions, decorations, etc. There is no shame in this! But accept it, even this argument could not fruitfully be conducted in Filipino. We’d be reduced to curses and dirty words, or other infantilism, which is what the meat of the Petition actually is.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 5:16 pm

    What after all, would be left of Conrado de Quiros, Randy David, Pat Licuanan, indeed, Manolo Quezon, if you took away all their work in English? Why can’t they be proud of that and urge others to follow?

    As a society, we just don’t have the people and talent left to reverse History or Time and bring about some great Tagalog Renaissance in math and science, or anything else. I love Florante at Laura, but not passionately–it’s just not that good. What else is there in classical Philippine literature? Ibong Adarna? Some awits and corridos in Kapampangan? Unreadable and largely unread translations of Rizal? Again there is no shame in this.

    Being a great human being really has lil to do with being a Filipino or an American or a Chinese. It simply more subtle than that!

    • jumper on April 26, 2007 at 5:49 pm

    “Former Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon didn’t speak a word of Nippongo but he went to Japan after high school to study nuclear physics… in Nippongo. He graduated with flying colors.”

    i’m not doubting the Filipino’s capacity to learn, but i believe the fact that he was IN Japan contributed greatly to him learning the language.

    which brings me to my point: i believe it’s pointless to argue whether english or filipino or whatever should be used in schools. it doesn’t matter. i studied in a chinese school and had 12 years of chinese education, where the medium of instruction and the books were all in chinese, and i still can’t speak nor read nor write chinese (as are most of my classmates). bottom line is, you’ll never effectively learn a language without consistent exposure and use/practice.

    • mlq3 on April 26, 2007 at 5:54 pm

    DJB, I think you’re missing the point entirely. The first problem is that the constitution sets forth a language policy. Officials are required to uphold that policy. Second, if an executive issuance proclaims a certain policy, but the fine print turns out to represent an entirely different, and possibly illegal, policy, it has to be questioned at the very least.

    The third problem is at what point English will be promoted, what resources will be devoted to that promotion, and what those decisions in turn entail for Filipino and other Philippine languages. The educators seem to have reached the consensus that education should go something like this: the basics in the local language; then on to Filipino and also, on to English.

    What is not being debated is the importance of English, or how advantageous/sensible it is to teach it. what is being questioned is the appropriateness of English for basic instruction.

    When you and I write 1+1=2 we’re using the language of math. Which is why math (for those who understand it! and that doesn’t include me) and things like physics can be similar to the Japanese and Koreans of the old, prewar generation who could communicate by means of Chinese script even if they couldn’t speak each other’s language. I’m sure you could get two physicists, a Russian and an American, neither of whom understood each other’s language, to argue about e =mc2 by means purely of scientific notation or whatever it’s called.

    I remember when I was a kid, my dad got quite worried over my being taught “new math,” and he was fretting he might get stumped by one of my homework assignments. So I remember his taking my math book, and going to his sister, and her spending a couple of hours with him explaining the “new math” in Spanish. And then afterwards, after he’d internalized it, he was able to try explaining it to me (which didn’t help, as I’m dense in math).

    My father spoke Spanish and Portuguese like a native, was competent in Tagalog, and was fluent in French, Latin, and German, while I’m only competent in English though I’m trying to do my best in Filipino. Now I bring this up because I remember his telling me that one has need for two languages at the very least: the language of the heart, as he put it, and the language of the mind, by which he meant the need to be understood, and understand, one’s fellow citizens and the need to understand and be understood outside the borders of one’s country. Lacking one, he said, was a handicap. And I think most people know this, instinctively. Mastery of a foreign language, and that includes English, which has always been a foreign language for many Filipinos, is a plus. A very big plus.

    Personally, my concern is that basic instruction in English, by teachers who aren’t English speakers, will teach neither English, nor the thinking required to be productive citizens. I encounter Filipinos all the time who refuse to speak English, even though their comprehension of it (as judged by their ability to follow conversations and media in English, and respond to questions) is superb -but they will not speak it, because they lack an upper-class accent. I have had many encounters with students where they tune out when I use English, and when I use Filipino, they tune in: and personally, while sometimes difficult, because it’s not my instinctive language, I haven’t been stumped in trying to explain a concept or idea in Filipino.

    If you understand it, you can explain it, regardless of the language, and even, mind you, if your choice of language to explain it in, isn’t your strong suit, language-wise. But you have to understand it first in whatever language. If it’s garbage in, then it’s garbage out. And the execrable English of many teachers points to their inability to understand what on earth they’re teaching.

    So by all means teach everyone English, but to get anywhere you’d have to bring the 70 year old and above generation of teachers out of retirement, or you’re going to have to invite teachers from abroad to come here and supplement our dwindling band of qualified English teachers.

    • jumper on April 26, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    BTW, just my 2 cents on the english or mandarin or spanish debate:

    learning any of them will give you the ability to communicate with a large portion of the people in the world. the question is just which part of the world (in general): in europe and south america, spanish. in asia, mandarin. in north america and australia, english.

    but my reason why Filipinos should learn english instead of spanish or mandarin is really quite simple: it’s the language most, if not all, Filipinos already have exposure to. if you already have a headstart in english, it would make sense to just go with that (not that mandarin and spanish doesn’t make sense).

    • jumper on April 26, 2007 at 6:06 pm

    “If it’s garbage in, then it’s garbage out. And the execrable English of many teachers points to their inability to understand what on earth they’re teaching.”

    mlq, i agree but only to a certain extent. garbage-in-garbage-out is what i think the reason is for singlish – their english is so bad (contrary to what they believe) because their english teachers are bad.

    but here’s the caveat: though terrible, at least they’re speaking it.

    • mlq3 on April 26, 2007 at 6:20 pm


    and an important caveat that is: could be that there is less of a class element among all singlish speakers, while here at home, to borrow that line from “my fair lady”, “this verbal class distinction by now should be antique.”

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 6:23 pm

    Patricia Licuanan points out in her paper that there are AT LEAST 150 dialects in the Philippines. But let’s just reduce that number drastically to say 15 major language groups. If we insist, as the Petitioners do upon the principle of “equal protection under the law” this means at minimum that Deped should produce in equal quality and appropriate volume 15 translations of arithmetic and science textbooks for the first three years of basic education program. This is most impractical and indeed impossible given the need to now make sure that teachers are also available who will be familiar with such material. The Petition also demands that the “local lingua francae” be used in addition to Filipino. This is a double oxymoron wrapped up in a contradiction because I always thought of lingua franca as being (a) universal not local and (b) singular not plural. The contradiction lies in the fact that Filipino is not in fact a lingua franca at all, is it? Ask any Cebuano or Ilokano!

    But the point you say I miss actually speaks to this business of equal protection as well. How can the Supreme Court impose what the Petitioners demand they impose upon the President and Deped, when the Court itself necessarily exempts itself from such imposition? It would bring scorn and absurdity upon the Law and the High Court for it to do so. This petition will surely be found to lack any shred of merit for being moot and academic. The Court will agree with the good intentions of the Petitioners but there is no practical, legal or logically consistent way it can grant the Prayer.

    I hope it produces a full-fledged decision and not just some Minute Resolution, or worse, to ignore this Pleading.

    To your other point, if we don’t have teachers who can teach science and math in English, what are their chances of explaining it say in Hiligaynon or lumad-speak. It is erroneous to think that science and math are just a matter of COMMON SENSE and that they can be explained without the specialized language created especially for that purpose. Science and math are hard enough in their “native” languages, meaning to say the language used by *most* of their practitioners and exponents.

    Now if we say, we should first train the teachers in science and math, we have merely squeezed the problem to some other place. How do we now teach math and science in 15 language groups. WHO would do such teaching?

    Look, even the Petitioners could not transition their own work to Filipino, and they are mostly pundits or professors of social science, for practical and logical reasons.

    What equal protection are they talking about when they would not impose their prayer upon themselves or their institutions.

    The basis for the claim by the way that children learn better in their mother tongue when they are young would seem to be reasonable. But it turns out, according to Patricia Licuanan, that the studies were done in the 1950s by Unesco–a time long before globalization.

    I can’t find any of the original sources..only the repeated quotation of quotation upon reference to references. I suspect that this lil chestnut is in fact no longer true, not in a world MTV, Cable, and a globalized world.

    I suspect that it is the same politically correct ideology that was called “liberalism” during the Cold War that produced the idea, for how could the UN and UNESCO, ruled and divided equally between East and West, come up with any other principle than “every language is as good as another.”?

    It is simply inconceivable to me that any worthwhile mathematician or scientist in the 21st century could or should avoid English. You simply cannot do world class science anymore without some facility in it. I’m not saying it’s the best for some intrinsic reason. It is simply the best choice of tool available because of the need for scientists and mathematicians to SHARE the burden of research and development, which requires communication of some kind.

  4. Nabanggit ang Japan sa nangungunang bansa na gumagamit ng sariling wika sa pagkuha ng pagsusulit sa kadalubhasaan sa Matematika at Agham.

    Subali’t ang hindi naisulat ng mga intelektwal na nagtataguyod ng paggamit ng sariling wika sa mga araling matematika at agham na ang Japan, bago nakapagsalin ng mga aklat na nasusulat sa mga banyagang salita noong Meiji era sa Japan ay libong mga banyagang iskolar ang kanilang inanyayahang magturo at tumulong sa pagpaunlad ng edukasyon. Marami ring Hapon ang pinadala sa ibang bansa upang mag-aral sa lahat ng sangay ng pagpadalubhasa. Sa panahong ito, isinulat ang mga aklat na natutuhan sa banyaga sa wikang Hapon.

    Hindi lang dekada ang binilang upang maisakatuparan lahat ang adhikain na makuha ang mga kaalaman ng mga mauunlad na bansa kung hindi daang taon.

    Samantalang tayo bilang bansa ay ni walang maibigay na mga aklat na nakasulat sa Pilipino o sa wika ng mga iba’t ibang bahagi ng Pilipinas tungkol sa agham o matematika o ano pa mang dapat matutuhan ay nagpipilit na yakapin ang
    paniniwalang sa ganito lamang paraan mapapaunlad ang edukasyon.

    Para bagang pinatatawid tayo ng dagat na saka lamang tayo unti-unting magbubuo ng bangka habang tayo ay naglalayag na sa karagatan.

    Mayroon akong isang website kung saan dinadayo ng mga libu-libong mag-aaral dahil sa mga bugtong, mga salawikain at mga katutubong awit (folk songs) ng iba’t ibang lalawigan at madalas ang kanilang mungkahi ay isalin ko sa salitang English.

    Sa pagsasalin ng mga wikang ito, ako ay naghanap ng mga diksiyunaryo sa internet at kung mayroon man ay hindi sapat upang magamit sa kabuuan.

    Kung diksiyunaryo lamang sa English at Tagalog ay wala ka pang makita at kung mayroon man ay hindi sapat, mga kinakailangang aklat pa kaya upang ipatupad ang ninanais ng mga grupong nais gamitin ang sariling wika para sa pagtuturo ng agham, matematika at iba pang kurso?

    Nabanggit ang Thailand at ang industriya nitong turismo na dinadayo ng mga iba’t ibang lahi. Susme, hindi naman ang taong nagsasalita ng English ang dinadalaw sa Thailand kung hindi ang mga tanawin, ang murang pagpapapalit ng
    kasarian (gender)at ang pagpapabago ng anyo. Si Vicky Belo ay sampu-sampera lang sa Thailang kung saan ang rhinoplasty, breast enhancement ay para lang mga kape a Starbucks na maaring orderin na walang maraming kuskos balungos.

    Malaking negosyo ang aklat lalo na kung ang paggamit nito ay nagagarantiyahan ng pagbili ng gobyerno.

    Ang mag-isip ng masama ay masama ang isip. Salawikaing hindi pa natutuklasan.

    • mlq3 on April 26, 2007 at 6:41 pm

    djb, filipino is a lingua franca, unless you don’t watch local television. of course, it depends on what generation you talk to. i remember a decade ago, in vigan, i was being toured by a tourism official and somehow, we got lost and she asked directions from some kids hanging out in front of a sari-sari store. they replied in filipino -which upset her, being a G.I. of the old school.

    I’ve gone to Davao, Bacolod, Cebu, etc. and the students preferred I talk in Filipino rather than in English. Which isn’t to say they love it -immediately, among themselves, they’d speak to each other in their own language.

    And again, the point is: no one is avoiding English. The question is, is English the best means to achieve basic education, and should the language of primary instruction for all courses be English or Filipino? By what means is English best taught?

    If you have a centralized educational system, coming out with basic textbooks (the various proposals involve various approaches to language use -do you use, for example, Ilocano until grades 1, 3, or 6? And Filipino until when? And where, and how, does English then come in?) would be difficult. If you adopted a regional approach, as A Nagueno in the Blogosphere proposes, I don’t see why you’d find it impossible to efficiently, and accurately, produce a Bicolano basic math textbook, etc. You may be only able to produce only one, but that’s all you need, isn’t it, for the area? Our educational system seemed to do fine with the Osias readers, a basic set used nationwide with none of flood of textbooks we see today.

    There is no contradiction between the petition’s contents and the language it’s written in. English is an official language. The only other official language is Filipino. You can submit pleadings to the court in either language; but the Constitution says, unless there’s a law to the contrary, basic instruction should be in Filipino with the local languages as auxiliary languages. The legal system is a reflection of the educational system that produced it: and those who man it. Which is why, long after it ceased dominating official communications, Spanish remained the dominant language of the courts, until the war. Everyone else had shifted, predominantly, to English.

    And again, to your points, there are the Timms thingies -the claim is, we are the only test-takers in our region, who take it in English, while everyone else takes it (and presumably, studies it) in their local languages. I still think you are conflating high math and science with basic math and science teaching. When I was a kid in Don Bosco, when we, the students, would be grappling with our subjects, we’d whisper and explain things to each other in Filipino -with some of my classmates having to slow down and explain things further to me, since my home language was English, and it wasn’t theirs.

  5. Juan Miguel Luz mentioned something about the effectiveness of Sineskwela in teaching Science to the grade schoolers.

    But honey, did he not consider that the effectiveness was due to visual aids?

    And where did Licuanan got the survey that 99 per cent of Filipino households use Tagalog as second language?

    To use it as a second language, one should be able to understand and talk in Tagalog. People may understand Tagalog because of body language or gestures pero siguro dae sinda makataram miski sarong taramon o e la bihasa sasau Tagalog.

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 6:59 pm

    But, MB, the fact is that Filipino schoolchildren are not excelling in math and the sciences with the subjects being taught in English.

    If Siazon is not an exception, shall we then teach our kids math and science in Nippongo, since, as you said, “Given the same opportunity and challenge I think most Filipinos can do what he did.”?

    The idea is to drill in early in school the basic concepts of math and the sciences in the language that our kids can fully comprehend – the language that will enable them to gain a solid foundation on the subjects. Student-teacher interaction in the classroom will be better if discussions are carried on in their native tongue rather than in a language that they are still trying to learn.

    Perhaps, at a certain point, say in high school or in college, the higher levels of math and the sciences can already be taught in English, since, by that time, the students would have acquired greater proficiency in English. But by then they will just be building on the strong foundation laid in their elementary years.

    So, take comfort, little brown american DJB, there will still be books in English.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    The language of the Constitution is very clear in Art XIV Section 6: Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.”

    It says “the Government” not just the Deped, should use Filipino for “official communication” AND as language of instruction. But petitioners sneakily ignore the bits about the govt and official communications. Equal protection means that if we impose this on Deped, at least the imposing body, the Supreme Court should also comply.

    To your point about Filipino as the lingua franca, let me grant it to you even if the petitioners talk about “the local lingua francae and Filipino” should be used in basic education. I will even grant we can teach all other subjects in this lingua franca like the 60% that is in Makabayan. But when it comes to math and science there is a “bootstrapping problem” that exists EVEN if English is the medium of instruction chosen because as I said the concepts that have to be taught are not ‘COMMON SENSE’ things, at least until you see that the math and science make “more sense” than what you thought before you learned them.

    My only point here is that the bootstrapping problem is best solved, for practical reasons, when English is the medium of instruction. Most if not all our competent teachers in math and science have learned it and know how to teach it in English, compared to any other local language, because the books and materials are much more widely available and familiar to them in that form. And it is precisely in the beginning years when such material is hardest to impress upon the children. There is absolutely no advantage in other words in using Filipino for these subjects because it is simply NOT true that the children understand the stuff better in their “mother tongue” if in fact there is no one there to explain it to them in that tongue. Thus the bootstrapping problem.

    When the vocabulary for teaching math and science in Filipino even at the most basic levels does not even exists and still remains to be invented in Diliman, how can we possibly hope to teach these subjects in that nonexistent language? Take the simplest idea of a fraction for example. What in the world is the translation of the words “addition, subtraction, multiplication, division”?

    Does any body here even know?

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 7:05 pm

    janie, once an official policy has been put in place to teach basic math and science in Pilipino, books will be translated and published in Pilipino. The shift cannot be done overnight. But it has to be made at the soonest possible time. How long does it take to translate books, anyway. As I’ve said, we don’t have to invent words for technical terms. Ang phylum ng gagamba ay Arthropoda. Any problem with that?

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 7:06 pm

    Shaman: NON SEQUITUR!

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 7:15 pm


    We can still use the words “addition”, “subtraction”, “multiplication” and “division”. But in teaching subtraction, why can’t we say, “Ang aralin natin ngayon ay subtraction. Si Jose ay may anim na santol. Kinain niya ang dalawa. Ilan ang natira?”

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 7:17 pm

    Non-sequitur? How?

  6. Addition-pagdaragdag

    I bet I am the only one who knows because I am working on an English-Tagalog dictionary in my website.

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 7:24 pm

    Cat, pagbabawas has some bathroom connotation.

    • DJB on April 26, 2007 at 7:29 pm

    Very good C at. But try this: translate “Three and three fourths divided by six point two equals?” into Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Cebuano, and Kapampangan (as the Petitioners plead). Put in normal form (mixed fractions).

    • Shaman of Malilipot on April 26, 2007 at 7:30 pm

    Cat, siguro an gustong sabihon ni Licuanan, an Tagalog second language kan mga Bikolanos, Ilokanos, Cebuanos, etc. Kaya 99% kan mga tawo sa Pilipinas.

    • manuelbuencamino on April 26, 2007 at 7:58 pm


    I didn’t disagree with you . All I was saying is don’t sell the Filipino short. Indeed, we can learn faster and better if we start with our own language but doesn’t mean we can’t if we don’t.

    I’m for native language in math and science in the early grades specially because it worksw.

    It works so well that the Malaysian gov’t which has a bumiputra policy, Malay race first, tried to prohibit chinese and tamil schools from teaching science and math in their native langua. Thy wanted to standardize early education among the three races in malaysia so that the malays would not be left behind.

    I guess the idea of teaching us in english is so that we don’t become as smart as the indians, sings, japs, koreans, chinese, persians and leave the americans in the dust – something those among us who have staked their all in the american religion would never allow.

    • mlq3 on April 26, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    djb, vicassan’s English-Pilipino dictionary says:

    addition: 1. pagsusuma; pagtutotal; 2. padaragdag; paglalahok; 3. dagdag, karagdagan. We see this all the time, e.g. suma total.
    subtraction: 1. pagbabawas; 2. subtraksiyon (the example given in the definition: “ang paraan ng pagbabawas ng isang numero sa isang higit na mataas ng numero”).
    multiplication: 1. pagpaparami (ng bilang, multiplikasyon; 2. pagdami, pagkadami, etc.
    division: 1. paghahati, paghahati-hati; pagbabahagi… pagpaparte; 2. pagkakahati… pagkakaparte… 3. (in Arith.) dibisyon; paghahati, pagdidibisyon; 3. sangay, dibisyon (ex. saangay ng ng mga ari-arian); 5.partisyon, dibisyon (e.g. ng kuwarto); 7. hidwaan, salungatan, di-pagkasundo…

    a good example is french, which doesn’t use computer, but instead, ordinateur. Just because you or I don’t know it, doesn’t mean the word equivalent doesn’t exist, or that it isn’t used.

  7. Cat, pagbabawas has some bathroom connotation.

    Precisely, I was tempted to use this in a sentence referring to people with diarrhea. 🙂

  8. Very good C at. But try this: translate “Three and three fourths divided by six point two equals?” into Hiligaynon, Ilokano, Cebuano, and Kapampangan (as the Petitioners plead). Put in normal form (mixed fractions).

    Exactly my point DJB. These people are for the implementation of the local dialect as medium of instruction when they have hardly even produced instructional materials to this effect.

  9. I like to see this scenario where a Tagalog and a Bicolano are asked to solve a mathematical problem.

    In Tagalog:

    Mayroong tatlong daga siyang nakita sa kaniyang pagdating. Isa pang daga ang kaniyang nakita nang siya ay paalis na.Tanong: ilang daga ang kaniyang nakita?

    Sagot ng Tagalog: Apat na daga.

    Sagot ng Bicolano: Anong daga ang pigsasabi nin mga tawong ini? Sarong daga lang ang nahihiling ko; ang sacong pigtutuntungan.

    If you do not understand what I wrote, it’s time for you to learn Bicol dialect.

    • vic on April 26, 2007 at 9:10 pm

    Here’s another contribution from a multilingual, multiculture planet on earth. Our second largest nationality, the Asians, Chinese the majority, speak their own mother languages from birth and thru out their lives and so are the Italians, the Israelites and about 100s different species, but there are only two official languages use as Medium of instructions in our School, French and English and seem to be working ok. And consider the new arrivals, whose Children some know not a single word in either languages, but don’t take more than a few year to be proficient in either one or both and learn their l23 and abc just as well.
    My point here we can have use any language as Medium, but if the quality of Education is below Par, not much help.

    • janie on April 26, 2007 at 9:18 pm

    Shaman of Malilipot :

    janie, once an official policy has been put in place to teach basic math and science in Pilipino, books will be translated and published in Pilipino. The shift cannot be done overnight. But it has to be made at the soonest possible time. How long does it take to translate books, anyway. As I’ve said, we don’t have to invent words for technical terms. Ang phylum ng gagamba ay Arthropoda. Any problem with that?

    how long will it take? it might be finished by the time people try to change the medium of instruction again.

    • janie on April 26, 2007 at 9:21 pm

    quoting Vic:

    “My point here we can have use any language as Medium, but if the quality of Education is below Par, not much help.”


    • UPn student on April 26, 2007 at 9:39 pm

    A hidden theme to the debate seems to be nationalism. Paano tayo magiging isang bansa kung malaking importansiya ang ibinibigay natin sa Ingles?

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