More thoughts on language PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 26 June 2014 12:58



There is a huge billboard at the Gov Camins end of the Sta. Cruz cemetery which advertises a powdered juice product. The text of the advertisement is Bisaya. Ad companies generally know the market in  which they advertise and the fact that the ad is in Bisaya leads me to the conclusion that this language is now a widely spoken language in Zamboanga City.

What is the implication of this for Chavacano and its usage among the residents of Zamboanga City?  I write this piece on the date (June 23) designated as the foundation day of Chavacano and there was on the  radio someone with a long spiel on how people in the city, particularly shop clerks, tend to speak a lot of other languages ( Pilipino, Bisaya ) and  he said this in a rather regretful tone. ZC residents, he said,  should be encouraged to use Chavacano instead. I am all for preserving Chavacano as the lingua franca of Zamboanga City  but  there should be serious “conversation” on how this can be done.

However, the reality is that over time certain languages become endangered and Google gives this information about  how UNESCO describes levels of language endangerment:

Vulnerable — Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home).

Definitely endangered— Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home.

Severely endangered — language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves.

Critically endangered — The youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently.

The same Google page said that of the several thousand languages in the world today half of these have fewer than 3,000 speakers. And in about 50-100 years half of the current world languages will be extinct.

Much as we want to preserve Chavacano the realities of demographics will determine how many will speak it and for how long it will be spoken. Aware of this reality the steps taken to assure the “health “ of Chavacano should  be carefully planned.

Needless to say we need to be prudent in our campaign to promote the use of Chavacano and to preserve it in the long run. As I mentioned in the piece prior to this one, language can be a crucial factor in either forging a group or splitting it. There cannot be room for making people who are not Chavacano-speakers ostracized. And this is the dilemma – while we want Chavacano to be the lingua franca of our city we cannot make the other language groups feel unwelcome. And most certainly not make them feel that they are inferior to the Chavacano-speaking group.