Language complexities PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 23 June 2014 16:53




Language is a variable that either facilitates  the forging of a people into one or contributes to the difficulty of making this so. Unfortunately for us Filipinos our reality is that we are a country with so many languages – about 175 according  to one source- and this fact makes communicating with one another rather difficult. Other difficulties arising from this multiplicity of languages are the implications for education, especially in the lower levels, and the promotion of  bonding to form a national identity, to name just two.

Decades ago the decision was made to make Pilipino (Filipino?) the national language and make it as well one of the official languages of the country, the other being English. To my mind the teaching of the national language, named Pilipino, has not contributed as much to the spread of the language as movies and TV programs  in  the language have. This is something that our Dept of Education has to look into. Indonesia is,  like the Philippines, a country with many languages spoken by the different groups in the country’s  big population which is more than double ours. My impression however is that Bahasa Indonesia, developed as a common language for Indonesians,  has gone farther and faster than the spread of Pilipino among the many ethno-linguistic groups in the Philippines.

In the last few weeks I have had occasion to think about the language situation in Zamboanga City. Chavacano is a beautiful language, a creole language that grew out of our experience as a colony of Spain. But if truth be told Chavacano is no longer as widely spoken as it was in the past. Allthough I have no research data on this it is likely that many more ZC residents speak Bisaya, Tagalog (Pilipino) and Tausug  at home than they do Chavacano.

This has serious implications for education because of the new “mother tongue” policy for teaching young leaners. Will the use of Chavacano, beautiful as it is, be an impediment to more effective teaching and learning in our city?  This calls for a well-designed research into the topic. I was talking with a Bisaya-speaking teacher from Ozamiz recently and she recounted how they had to struggle to come up with a Bisaya equivalent to the English word  “colorful”.  The word finally chosen was one that most of the teachers in her work group met for the first time. The same story was told to me by a Tausug-speaking teacher when they tried to come up with the Tausug word for “zero”.

The “No te vayas de Zamboanga” campaign is well intentioned and I myself endorse it strongly.  However, I am under the impression that a number of ZC residents are against it because they equate the injunction in the campaign to the song many of us of a certain age learned in elementary school. The song we learned then begins with “Don’t you go, don’t you go to far Zamboanga”  and this line, of course, is the opposite of the present campaign line.

Oh, how language adds to the complexities we have to deal with in life.