The English language as Pinoy psychological crutch
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-06-12
Sometime ago, a research study showed an alarmingly high number of Filipinos who wished that they were born as another national. Somehow, I am led to believe that our current hang-up with English arises from a people’s shallow and confused appreciation of its nationality and history.

When I wrote about this language debate (whether or not to use English as the medium of instruction) in my September 27, 2004 column in INQ7, I received a deluge of responses from readers. Three particularly incisive insights came from a former UP professor who taught engineering, an inventor who was also a former president of the Filipino Inventors Society and a professor in the Ateneo University’s Department of Mass Communications.

Neil Concibido, former UP engineering professor, now in Japan:

“I used to teach Engineering courses in University of the Philippines at Los Baños and was also part of the university’s Sentro ng Wikang Filipino (SWF, the Center for Filipino Language). As part of our campaign to appreciate and spread the use of the Filipino language in the university, we encouraged faculty members to use it in teaching our courses.

I tried using Filipino in teaching basic engineering courses, not just because I was part of SWF, but because I found out that my students were hesitant to participate in classroom discussions because of their inability to express themselves fully in English and because they could understand the topics more clearly when I tried to explain them in Filipino. I also didn’t find it natural for me to be elaborating on a topic in English.

With the approval of my students, I did my lectures in Filipino. I did not use purist Filipino words for technical Engineering terms because that would mean additional work for me but more importantly that would only confuse my students more, since the books we were using were all in English.

Our discussions became livelier and my students were not hesitant anymore to recite in class and clarify things they didn’t understand. I also allowed them to answer essay portions in exams in Filipino and with that they could write their ideas better. I didn’t have to spend as much time as before trying to figure out what they wrote in English meant.

Even if the University of the Philippines is our premier university, it is easy to find students who will make your head spin whenever they write essays in English.”

Gary Vazquez, Vazbuilt Housing Technology inventor:

“As far as I and my fellow Filipino inventors are concerned, we think in Filipino and it would be best if the medium of instruction here was in Filipino. The Filipino language is more than equipped to provide A-1 thinking and is best for communication among Filipinos.

Our being inventors have no relation whatsoever with the use of English. If I talked to my staff in Vazbuilt in English when I teach them the technology, I only end up putting a barrier between me and them. I will end up not being able to make them understand fully the Vazbuilt technology.

There is also no problem with technical terms because what is not available in Filipino can be adopted. I’m sure all languages do that. But the important thing is that instructions are understood and there is good communication.”

Jan T. Co Chua, Ateneo Mass Communications professor:

“Filipino is dynamic. Keep in mind that a main characteristic of language is that it changes in accordance with the changes its speakers undergo – in their environment, in their way of life, etc. Language develops due to the needs of its speakers and the contact among speakers. The increased mobility among our people has resulted in proportionate development in Filipino. Linguistic adaptations continue to seep in due to modernization. Are we not grateful for the kompyuter, both for the technology and the language that comes with it?

Dr. Consuelo J. Paz, professor of Linguistics of the University of the Philippines, maintains that it is difficult to understand why we would rather have a foreign language as the language of education and government — the language of power — rather than one of our own Philippine languages.

For noble intents and purposes, the majority of us Filipinos may learn English as a second or third language and this, only after we have achieved our priorities including basic literacy which is more practically obtained via language we have been brought up in.

Thus, our language doctor concludes, we have a democracy with only the educated elite participating in the governance of the people’s lives; with only the fortunate few understanding what goes on in government planning, policy making or decision making.”

Many of our Asian neighbors who have outpaced us did not need English to propel their economies. None of them have adopted or are planning to adopt English as their medium of instruction. They’re learning to speak English but they don’t impose it as medium of instruction.

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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