We are losing our edge in the use of English
SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila (The Philippine Star) - March 26, 2013 - 12:00am

I got a lengthy response on my column last Saturday where we discussed the problems of our educational system in this country from Ishmael Calata who is a former Master of the 4th Degree of the K of C in the National Capital Region, where their guiding principles is Patriotism. Here’s his email in full.

“Good afternoon, Mr. Avila. In your column today, the fact that only 949 out of 5,343 lawyer-wannabes passed the last bar examination makes me throw up. It is a very embarrassing news that people around the world have now found an additional reason to laugh at us, Filipinos! I feel sad about this. It is a pathognomonic sign of the very poor educational system that ours now has deteriorated into! And one of the biggest reasons why we have such results in bar and board examinations is the very poor English proficiency of our college graduates.

Do they understand the questions in the exams? Do they have the capability to answer well those questions? Obviously most of them don’t. There was a time when we were a proud nation known as the third largest English speaking people in the world. Students from many parts of Asia came to us to learn the language. But, sorry to say that since our “nationalist” politicians kuno enacted the law that made us turn into the vernacular as the medium of education, English speaking here has become so low that most high school graduates cannot even make a good sentence in English.

The situation has even been exacerbated by TV and movie shows personalities who, as scripted, deride in jest one who speaks English. Example: Among a bunch of billiard personalities doing a commercial about a well-known beer, the second most popular one in the group chided the one who spoke broken English, thus, “Pa ingles ingles ka pa dyan…!” which made all of them break into a ridiculous laughter!

And so, the practice in English speaking has become a shameful thing now within hearing distance of others especially among our youth. Because of this, very soon, we will lose our edge over other Asians in the supply of manpower to the developed countries. Quo vadis, Philippines? Ishmael Calata.”

I totally agree with you Mr. Calata that if the educational system of this country has gone down, it is due to so many factors where its root cause stems from our centuries under our colonial masters. I have written here so many times before, echoing the late great Sir Max Soliven who would often write, “The Philippines was in a Spanish Convent for 400 years and 50 years of Hollywood.” But when the Americans gave us our Independence on July 4, 1946, another ethnic group took over the reins of government and followed exactly what our colonizers tried to do… make all Filipinos Tagalog speakers.

How many times we have fought those so-called “Nationalists” who look down at Filipinos who cannot speak Tagalog? I call it a false sense of pride. Until and unless our political leaders understand and realize that the Philippines is a highly-diverse country with so many languages and allow English as one of our national languages, our educational system will continue to decline. Elections are our best proof where we no longer hear debates from our candidates, but they only sing and dance on the stage to the pleasing welcome of the ignorant masses who no longer vote on issues.

Indeed, when Cory Aquino became President after the EDSA revolt in 1986, she mandated that all government communications and instructions in our schools be done in Filipino. Come now, when will you folks realize that Filipino is actually 99.9 percent taken from the Tagalog language? Frankly speaking, the Cebuano language has more words than the Tagalog language. For instance, we have a name for husband… “Bana” and wife, “Asawa” while the Tagalog Language only uses “Asawa.”

My readers know that I’m a proud Cebuano. But you will never read from any of my columns this writer espousing Cebuano to be the national language instead of Tagalog, because it is not fair for the Bicolanos, the Warays, Ilonggos and the many other regions with languages of their own. English in my book is a leveling language, were we Filipinos would not only understand each other, but also communicate internationally.

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Our good friend, Latvian Honorary Consul Sir Robert “Bobby” Joseph came up with a booklet entitled “Guide to Global VIPs” which he compiled and edited and will be launching on April 18 at 6 p.m. at the New World Hotel. This book teaches the reader important lessons to bring out the best in a person, from getting to know foreign places and their protocols and dos and don’ts in etiquette, including even table settings. Of course, this book is written in mail: vsbobita@mozcom.com or vsbobita@gmail.com

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