Isabel Martin, President of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines (LSP), opined that Filipinos seem to fear the English language. She cited the “nosebleed” jokes and extreme legislative measures that tend to make English the primary, or even the sole, medium of instruction as evidences that indeed, the Filipino people, in general, is afraid of the Western language.
I cannot disagree with this expert opinion. I think that Pinoys, actually, tend to fear the language because they think that it is something superior than the Filipino language. It is somehow a kind of slave mentality because of our nation’s history of colonialism. This belief has two directions; it suggests that English is something that we shouldn’t try because we’re not capable of mastering it while the other tendency directs us to study English in order to become superior.
Even worse is the other extreme of it which is false nationalism as indicated by some Filipinos’ assertion that speaking English is tantamount to betraying the country. I have to admit that I am amused every time I watch Jimmy Santos’s carabao English on TV but this kind of humor actually contributes to the problem. Erap, during his pre-presidential campaign binge actually capitalized on his supposed English-baluktot which seems not to be really true or was just bloated to support his masa image and his para sa mahirap slogan.
English should be treated just like any other language. It should be used when necessary and should not be forced when not.
Ateneo Professor Nanette Fernandez has an interesting piece about this topic. The founder of the Ateneo Center for English Language Teaching said that Philippine English has its distinct and acceptable characteristics like the use of certain phrases that purists might consider as incorrect like “cope up with”.
I must add that Philippine English has different definitions for certain words (like “traffic” and “salvage”) and even has words that only Filipinos seem to use (like “ballpen” or “ref”).
The concept of countries having their own ‘nativized’ versions of English should be propagated so as not to drive away Filipinos from learning it the easier way. Not unless you work in a call center or any other industry that requires immediate communicative understanding, learning American or British or Australian English should not be forced.
It is sad to note that when the Janina San Miguel-incident happened, a lot of people bashed the beauty queen regarding her wrong grammar and pronunciation instead of the apparent non-sense that she blabbered right there at the pageant where she supposedly won. More insulting is the fact that some of those who lambasted San Miguel in Youtube even has a grammar worse than Janina.
I do think that the aim to improve English, both as individuals or as a nation, will always be a good thing to do if it is founded upon the principle of greater understanding and social progress and not on the assertion and imposition of who is the greater and who is the lesser.