Language mirrors national identity

ESSENCE - Ligaya Rabao-Visaya (The Freeman) - August 30, 2014 - 12:00am

Any language can be a powerful tool for national identity. At some point, for the month of August, we look forward to the celebration with all the preparations leading to it. August as a language month, schools are busy with various activities in relation to the celebration. And in most cases, the celebration is very much linked to the national culture where customs and traditions are depicted in singing, dancing, extemporaneous speaking, poetry recitals, debates, local games, among others– using the national language.

Every year, my nieces and nephews would ask for Filipino costumes for the celebration. We see teaching and non-teaching staff wear Filipino costumes too. They speak the language in the campus. Just for compliance or semblance of the celebration? As if the event is only for August. This is in fact true because after the celebration, the atmosphere is back to normal–no more costumes, no more use of language, sans spirit. It is an entire showcase of superficiality. My fervent hope is that we can, in truth, extend by way of manifesting the love of the language. More than this is on how language can unite us. More than the debate on language policies is on how language can truly be the soul of our country.

For decades, I have taught the national language. And even at some point head a language committee. And I am also a staunch defender of our local language. Side by side with other trusty proponents for the use of local languages, I have long been championing for a formal integration and dynamic use of local languages in academic, social and economic exchanges. And my child is schooled in a strictly English speaking environment. This makes my milieu linguistically diverse and dynamic. But this still brings me to the understanding that with divergent languages there is still a point of convergence, a meeting of minds and souls.

I espouse, first and foremost, in the use, appreciation and love of the local language. That before our children would learn and embrace other languages they can have a strong foundation, appreciation and love of our very own local language, the language that we can call ours. It is the language that expresses the aspirations and dreams of our forebears.

Using cultural icons in teaching is a great way of instilling the love of our own. Before our students will hit the beat of the rap, they have the knowledge and appreciation of the melodic and eloquent exchange of thoughts in balitaw. That they can gracefully dance the tinikling before they can groove the hiphop. That they be amazed by the wonders of Chocolate Hills and Mayon Volcano before be mesmerized by Mauna Loa in Hawaii and Mount Fuji in Tokyo, Japan. And hopefully they can read and appreciate the literary pieces of Vicente Sotto, Ernesto Lariosa, Lamberto Ceballos, Temistokles Adlawan, Francisco Balagtas, Nick Joaquin, F. Sionil Jose, N.V.M. Gonzales, Edith L. Tiempo and many others before the likes of Caedmon and Cynewulf, Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare, William Blake, and Emily Dickinson.

It is imperative for present and future generations to be rooted first on what we have before embracing something foreign and distant. Including language, we can be very proud for we have a sense of identity as a people. And truly even with the strong outside influences, we remain proud and steadfast of our very own.

We cannot afford to be a nation that can hardly move forward for we don't have a high regard of our past and resources. One more time, the world has to look at us and start to reassess of what we can show and offer.  

To learn, use, appreciate and love of what are ours make us, first and foremost, citizens of this country. And as we explore what the other parts of the world have to offer–and use for social interactions–makes us global citizens. 






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