Last word on the subject

I’ve been feeling burned out lately and migraines are back with a vengeance. So, among other things, brief entry for today and no column, too. My cameo appearance came courtesy of the International Herald Tribune.

With regards to the discussion on English and Filipino, Philippine Commentary elaborates his points. The Bunker Chronicles says media should take a role in propagating English (and this is another debate altogether: to what extent should media be compelled to help in nation-building, and how much of what should be done by media, particularly in terms of content, should be determined by the free market?).

In my opinion, blackshama’s blog has the last word on the subject. I think he points out the real issues at hand, and how the debate can move forward in a productive, and effective, manner.

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Manuel L. Quezon III.

68 thoughts on “Last word on the subject

  1. We Pinoys must drop our colonial attitude towards English, and treat it as what it really is – just a second language, a tool for communication and appropriation of knowledge.

  2. but that is exactly why they are petitioning against the Dept. EO.i.e. making English as the second language since they think it is a violation of the constitution. For the petitioners, the second language is Tagalog or Filipino and the main “language is the vernacular”.

    What happened to the National Language?

    Re: Manual in Australia

    They have a need for the manual since their English is different from American English and British English.

    You would like to come up with Philippine English? What about “porawhile” for hold on a second.

  3. burned out? ako naman i’m distracted by the ongoing NBA playoffs. yung mga taga bay area diyan masayang masaya raw ngayon from what i hear.

  4. John, you mean the once lowly GS Warriors enjoying some glare and warmth in the spotlight?

    Indeed, but unfortunately I myself cannot name any active member in its roster.

    May have to re-awaken myself from my deep slumber.

    The Bulls may rightfully be classified in that same “Who Are They?” category.

  5. John, you mean the once lowly GS Warriors enjoying some glare and warmth in the spotlight?

    Indeed, but unfortunately I myself cannot name any active member in its roster.

    Yeah–but everybody knows KWAME! KWAME! KWAME!

  6. Sabi ni Tito Dean:

    The poor, the uneducated “probably” wish they were fluent in English, because it would seem to me they already feel fluent in their native tongue and don’t need further education in it. Thus even Americans and Englishmen are often puzzled at why they have to study English. Until they realize that facility, fluency and expertise in English opens the doors to professional careers, businesses, promotions, wealth.

    I think the poor and uneducated are “probably” aware of the fact that their betters, like Conrado de Quiros, Randy David, Patricia Licuanan, and indeed all the substantial people of society in govt, business, academe, etc. are all English speaking in their default condition and that when they deign to speak in the vernacular it is merely to impress the poor and uneducated with their noble and generous humility.

    I am guilty of that as much as anybody else.

    But I am also convinced that any initially poor person won’t be that for long if he can at least read and write good English.

    And so I shall do everything to help our countrymen get a leg up on the world by promoting the use of the tools that will accomplish their upliftment: Mathematics, Science and the Lingua Anglica of the 21st Century.

    That is not to say that Mandarin and Japanese and French are not also worthwhile studying. Or indeed Filipino. They are!

    But we are inextricably a part of the Anglosphere of this Earth. There is no shame in that. Conversely, it is a cruel and misguided notion that the feel-good nationalism these Petitioners urge will do anything but win them National Artists Awards and congratulations from their peers. In its effects, their Petition to the Court, if granted, would be indistinguishable from the language apartheid policies of the Spanish Taliban which effectively cut the Islands off from the rest of humanity for 300 years, and is therefore despicable and hateful to me.

    If I am glad and proud to be part of that Anglosphere, it is because the gift of English is what awakened the Sleepers of the Centuries in this archipelago, to the history of the world, to the wonders of science, to the knowledge and notion that they too could one day be as great as their Masters. Or even greater.


    1) I don’t think the petitioners are against teaching English.

    2) So does that mean High School math and science teachers who are not proficient or fluent in English will get the boot?

    3) Re using English as the medium of instruction, hindi ba most of our teachers try to teach math and science in English anyways? And everybody understands english, lalo na ang mga estudyante natin. Ang problema lang nga ay hindi sila fluent english speakers. siguro sanayan lang yan. pero sa napapansin ko, ang mga karamihan sa mga fluent english speakers natin:

    a) lumaki o tumira sa amerika (o sa ibang foreign country).
    b) They have parents who are fluent english speakers, at english ang primary language sa bahay nila habang lumalaki ang bata.
    c) they have many friends (pinoys, americans) who are fluent english speakers, at english ang usapan nila madalas.

    4) I have no problems with English as the medium of instruction. Kung gustong mag-ingles ng teacher, fine. Naiintindihan naman siya eh. Kung kailangang mag-tagalog, e di mag-tagalog… to get your point across.

    5) But I think the real reason why the new “English only” rule is in place has nothing to do with math or science, djb. It has more to do with CALL CENTERS.

    Katulad ng sinabi mo, halos lahat ng libro natin ay nasa wikang Ingles. Naiintindihan naman natin ito. Pero ang karamihan sa mga pinoy ay poor english speakers. Short of having the a) b) c)s that i listed above, it’s going to be tough for the average pinoy to be fluent native speakers. The main intention of those who created this new “English only” rule is make our students become more fluent english speakers. Not a bad thing. (Good luck tho.) Pero ano naman ang kinalaman ng pagsagot mo ng ingles sa math or science? But do you get style points for being “more articulate.” 😉 Most Chinese (or “tsinoy”) HS students that I know of are not as fluent in english, pero on average, I believe mas matataas ang mga math at science scores nila kaysa sa mga average pinoy studes (private or public high.)

  7. To the Ca T

    Philippine English is distinct from other Englishes. So we desperately need a manual of style. Whether you like it or not Philippine English exists and reflects how Filipinos think. The problem is some people think this English variant is inferior to the American or the Queen’s. Even the Queen has adopted changing British usage and style to fit her subjects way of using language.

    I have no problem with “porawhile”. It is equivalent in a sense to Steve Irwin’s “crikey!” Of course an Aussie would rather be caught dead than exclaim “crikey!” in London or New York. 🙂 BTW I have never heard any Aussie say ‘crikey” in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. But I have heard Americans in Australia say it.

  8. Blackshama, The reason for a style manual is to develop consistency and rigor to allow one to communicate more precisely. Distinct aspects of Australian or Filipino English are handled as idioms and can be put in an appendix.
    Strunk & White is as good a manual as any for English style. The Internet is as good a location as any to store the “porawhile” of Taglish.
    No worries.

  9. of course there exists the philippine english as much as singapore english (singlish). that is why the refereed journal World Englishes exist for the purpose of studying the variations of english worldwide. english is no longer the monopoly of the anglo saxons. and it shall forever evolve.

  10. upn,

    “porawhile” is distinctly a philippine english expression (like the non-standard “votation”, our equivalent to the more proper gerund form “voting”; the list goes on) not taglish, whis–however masakit to make listen to our tenga–is a codeswitching mechanism.

  11. So what’s votation again? Sounds like one of those things for small candles, but those are votive holders.
    But if the focus is on words, or even phrases, this tells me that the better vehicle is a dictionary (in particular, the section on idioms or colloquialisms) and less a need for a writing style manual.
    As for Strunk & White, it is a specialized style manual. Its set of rules or guidelines fit well the business-environment (be it London, Sydney, Toronto or Atlanta). Conversational English has more varieties, and what is acceptable pronunciation, punctuation and rules of syntax for some neighborhoods in Compton, California gets funny looks in Maine,in Texas or in Zamboanga.

  12. upn:

    or a safire-like manual for philippine english. how about:

    rule no. 1: never make halo-halo your use of english and local terms.

    rule no. 2: if possible, avoid the use of the word “make” is a sentence structure.

    rule no. 3: if you so so, i’ll make batok your head.

    enjoy your notes taking.

  13. Sa tingin ko, ok lang naman to code-switch between two languages as long as you don’t sound like a colegiala in the process.

  14. Distinct aspects of Australian or Filipino English are handled as idioms

    Some of them are not. It’s just that they have different terms for some stuff like :
    petrol for Aussie; gas for US and gasoline for the Philippines

    Toilet or mostly likely the loo or dunny for Australians, john or bathroom for US and toilet/restroom/comfort rooms for the Philippines.

    When I first came to the US, I used CR for toilet.Just like Australians we think of it as where people take a bath.

  15. How about these. Centre, favour, metre, just you’re Canadian Flavour instead of flavor. And there is no such thing as Comfort Room (CR) or Rest Room (RR), but Washroom, just to remind all to wash their hands every time. And the last letter of the alphabets is pronounced ZED..

  16. Back in ’97, my Malaysian colleague (where they use UK English) told me that the (now defunct) Computer Company Wang had to hastily withdraw their ad which had the slogan Wang Cares. Of course, with my background in American English, i did not know what the fuss was about.

  17. Iyong mga matagal ng wala sa Pilipinas, go check out wikipedia for its entries on Taglish and Konyo English. Siguro, alam pa rin ninyo kung your daughter or granddaughter is going out with her gangmates para mag-chikahan lang. Pero alam ba ninyo kung ayaw kayong isama dahil medyo kayo’y thundercat?

  18. upn,

    thundercat. haha, that’s a nice way of timelining. so what’s this present generation called?

  19. for the life of me, I could never find “effectivity” in any english dictionary. This is a favorite word in the legislature, or even in the Philippine media.

  20. I suppose Bencard means ‘effectivity’ as in the date when a law is in place. “The effectivity date is on January 1st of the following year…”

    I dont suppose youll find ‘winnability’ or ‘senatoriable’ either. 😀

  21. bencard,

    you’re right. i’ve checked oxford dictionary, which claims to be the “definitive record of the english language”–and there’s no reason to question that–does not have the word. another entry for filipinism, i suppose.

  22. filipinism…which i suppose is an integral part of the evolution of the English language, something we all seem to be agreeable with.

  23. yes, cvj.

    From: Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language | Date: 1998 | Author: TOM McARTHUR (Oxford University Press)

    FILIPINISM. A linguistic usage specific to or typical of the Philippines, such as Open the light Switch on the light, captain-ball basketball team captain, and viand any dish eaten with rice. See -ISM, PHILIPPINE ENGLISH.


  24. What all these simply means is that Phillippine English will take the english-speaking world by storm! We must get that Philippine English stylebook out in no time, it should be a highly entertaining read for sure. Imagine americans wont laugh anymore at our ingles and would be compelled to read up on the subject lest they be subject culture shock or worse.

    Imagine understanding the word “SALVAGE” as it is used in the philippines could be the the difference between life and death.

  25. Nationalism ought to be more than ABORIGINALISM.

    I see now the central fallacy in the whole Petition. It is the idea that English (and by extension Spanish) is not an integral part of the “cultural herititage” of the Filipino!

    How else can we explain the following amazing claim of Petitioners:

    …the use in education of English alienates children from their own cultural heritage and will produce a generation of young people who have no cultural values and who lack the traditions that make for a nation’s identity. This has beclouded the responsibility of Petitioner Minors to pass on the cultural heritage of our nation to the next generations. Such a grave responsibility can only be accomplished through the use of the national language in school.

    This statement is ridiculous on its face. It was through the medium of English that modern Filipinos have received what we now cavalierly call “cultural values”, as well as most of what we call knowledge and education.

    It can only be taken seriously by people who have an aboriginal conception of what constitutes “cultural heritage” — in this case everything minus Spain minus America and minus anything “foreign”.

  26. cvj, jeg, Americans in the U.S. never use the word “effectivity”, except maybe by some Filipino-Americans and most Filipino residents. I assure both of you, I know the meaning of “effective date”.

  27. I don’t see why we should care what the Americans use or don’t use as long as we Filipinos understand each other.

  28. cvj, take my advice. Don’t persist in your bad habit of making an issue out of a non-issue para lang mapansin. I thought we were on the subject of Filipinized English words. Apparently, “effectivity” is one such word. And, like iniduro, check your facts first before firing off a presumption that my dictionary is outdated.

  29. effectivity is a very common mistake, esp. when you use it in a sentence with it’s cousin, efficiency. but the correct term is effectiveness.

    i agree with you that our “Filipino” culture is a mix of our original Filipino culture plus that of the Spanish and American (and perhaps also some Chinese). i don’t understand why people have a problem with the idea that our culture is a mixed one. all major cultures are a mix of different foreign cultures/influences. in fact, our culture gives us a very distinct advantage, since it makes us very adaptable and flexible to other cultures. people should see how immigrants from other Asian countries are faring here in the US, which makes me really thankful that i grew up in the Philippines.

  30. “I don’t see why we should care what the Americans use or don’t use as long as we Filipinos understand each other.”

    if your sole goal is to stay in the Philippines forever and interact only with the locals your entire life, then you’re correct. otherwise, it might help to know some of the terms people from other countries use in order to make yourself understandable (and also for you to understand them). 🙂

  31. @john marzan
    i was sad that GS didn’t close out the series last night. i’m so rooting for them! hope they do it on the next game.

    it’s a FRICKIN’ FANTASTIC KILLER series!

    i never liked GS until now, especially since my team the Lakers uber suck. gotta find another Calif team to fill the void! hehehe!

  32. djb:

    like i said before, all these -isms only divert the focus on the intended purpose of language of INSTRUCTION. there ought to be a separate petition formulated by educators and cognitive scientists driving this point: the mother tongue is a most effective language support to learning, and does not slam its door to effective bilingualism.

    i suspect the people making most noise on the constitutionality of the medium of instruction (which should be made distinct from the medium of business transaction–if businessmen insist on transcting in english, have it their way!) have themselves never done well in school. most likely, they wove their way through “pambobola”; otherwise, they would not have ended up where they are now: vacuous politicians.

    keep language of instruction out of the constitution. leave that to the classroom.

  33. hey jumper, how about the La Clippers, they also play in the Staples. I have a friend who’s crazy about Kobe, and now almost gone crazy, trying to convince him that our own Raptors is a better team. We’re going to beat the Nets in Seven. Very “effectivity” as a team, not a one-man like the Lakers.

  34. Im a Filipino so Im sticking with ‘effectivity’. Even when Im talking to Americans, Brits, and Aussies.

    (Btw, has entries for ‘effectivity’. It’s the noun form of ‘effective.’)

  35. Jeg, suit yourself, but as to whether “effectivity” is a genuine english word, consider your source.

  36. The sources given by are:

    Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2006.

    The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition
    Copyright © 2006 by Houghton Mifflin Company.

    WordNet® 3.0, © 2006 by Princeton University.

    What is a ‘genuine’ English word, by the way? Is there such a thing?

  37. Incidentally, none of those sources use ‘effectivity’ in the sense we–I mean we Filipinos–use them. As in “When is the effectivity of this law?”

  38. “effectivity” is commonly used in the Philippines in connection with the effective date, or the applicability, of a legislation, e.g., “the offense was committed after the EFFECTIVITY of the present Penal Code” or “it happened during the EFFECTIVITY of the Parity Amendments”. In both cases they are used as adverbs (time modifiers), not as nouns (as ‘allowed’ by

  39. So the verdict on whether or not ‘effectivity’ is a ‘genuine’ English word:

    Oxford says No
    Princeton says Yes
    Filipinos say Yes, plus that other meaning we use for it.

  40. Para walang away, let’s just have the rulebook on Philippine English already and have it contain not just words with uniquely local shade of meaning but also their counterpart in american and british english, and just leave the user decide for him/herself which variant to use when and where. This way we could all understand and learn from each other. And since English is a dynamically evolving language, who could really say for certain that americans will not one day use the word “effectivity” in the same way we do or in whichever way they want to. Remember man invents and reinvents language to suit his need and not vice versa.

    Okay time for me to return to the boondock.

  41. Haha. Malay mo, Elias, ikaw ang hnihintay ng Philippine English rulebook. It could be your legacy.

    Wala namang away. Medyo naaasiwa lang ako minsan kapag pinasasaringan ang Philippine English na tila baga inferior ito sa inggles ng mga Amerikano o taga-Britanya. Na kapag wala na sa kanilang mga talatinigan e hindi na dapat ginagamit. E sila nga hindi magkasundo kung ano ang tama e. 😀

  42. Jeg, hindi naman sa pinasasaringan. Sabi nga ni jumper, kung tayo-tayo lang an nagu-usap, okey lang. Pero kung nasa America o England tayo at ang kausap natin ay mga katutubo duon, kailangan gamitin natin ang English nila para magkaintindihan at hindi tayo pagtawanan. Sa bagay, tayo and pumunta duon kaya dapat lang tayo ang maki-bagay. Di ba?

  43. bencard, don’t be so sensitive. i did not mean your dictionary, i meant all dicionaries.

    jumper, the Americans will have to adjust on that one – ‘living language’ and all that. here in singapore, i also adjust to their English usage, e.g. using ‘can’ to mean ‘yes’.

  44. @cvj
    americans? adjust? HAH! that’ll be the day! 😉

    americans can’t even get used to words intoned differently*, much less words not in their vocabs.

    *true story: you know how we pronounce “intestines” in Pinas, right? we pronounce it as “INtestines” but the Joes say “inTEStines”. well i said “INtestines” once to an american and we spent a good 30 seconds going back and forth before he finally got what i was saying.

    so, fat chance the americans are gonna adjust to us.

  45. jumper, in that case sorry na lang sila, although i know what you mean. when i was in the UK, i watched my British colleagues spend twenty minutes trying to explain the word ‘vet’ to their American counterpart. their inability to adjust is one reason why their days as hegemon are numbered.

  46. cvj, that’s why everyone wants to come to America, legally or illegaly. sorry na lang sila dahil ini-invade sila ng mga dayuhan na gusto and kultura at pananalita nila ang maghahari? Aba, mahiya naman tayo.

  47. Bencard, ‘everyone’? That’s what Americans would like to think. (The propensity to fall back on past glories when cornered is another reason why America’s days as hegemon is numbered.) Anyway, one cannot argue that English is part of our heritage and then say ‘mahiya naman tayo’ when we Filipinos contribute to its evolution. Wherever it serves as a second (or third) language, English is localized. That’s what is happening in countries like India, Jamaica, Singapore and, of course, over here. So nothing to be ashamed of with ‘effectivity’.

  48. @cvj
    i understand what you’re saying. i guess we have different approaches to the issue. for me, i’m sorta leaning towards practicality and expediency. i don’t really mind if i’m the one doing the adjusting. if i have to wait for the american to adjust to me, nothing will ever get done.

    i adjust because i can, and i don’t think of it as something of a shame or some sort of a “lowering” of myself. i’m not thinking of hegemony or imperialism or stuff like that. i just wanna order a damn burger! 😉

    but hey, that’s just me. i’m not saying that i’m right and you’re wrong, or vice versa. we each act according to what we value.

    however, don’t get me wrong also. it’s not like i’m unaffected by americans’ inability to adjust and their general overall closed-mindedness and superiority complex. i’m as pissed as hell too when i encounter instances of those.

    anyway, here’s something i found in my international business textbook:

    Q: What do you call someone who can speak 2 languages?
    A: Biligual

    Q: What do you call someone who can speak 3 languages?
    A: Trilingual

    Q: What do you call someone who can speak only 1 language?
    A: American

    at least some americans are getting it, so there might still be hope for them. 😉

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