Language reflects the identity of the people, UP Prof says PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 August 2014 11:36



In celebration of “Buwan ng Wika” this August, discussions about language, culture and identity are being highlighted so as to pay importance to our national heritage.

A professor from the Department of Filipino at the University of the Philippines has said that language is part of a culture of a certain group. In our country, Filipino is nonetheless being recognized as the national language or lingua franca.

“Wika, bahagi ito ng isang kultura ng isang grupo at syempre dun sa kultura na yun hindi mo maiaalis yung pagsasalamin sa kung anong meron sayo bilang isang myembro ng grupo,” Assistant Professor April Perez said in an interview.

[Translation: Language is part of a culture of a certain group. In a particular culture, an individual’s identity cannot be taken away from what his or her particular group has. Thus, we can see that language reflects the identity of the people.]

Filipinos are known to be bilingual. Since childhood, kindergarten and grade schoolers are being taught how to speak English and Filipino but Perez said that there will always be one language that would serve as an person’s mother tongue.

The Filipino professor has recognized that there are some Filipinos who have been raised by their parents to speak in English while others have been used to converse in Filipino. It depends on the language he or she was brought up with, Perez noted.

“Yung pagpili kung ano yung wikang ituturo sa bata, choice naman ito ng magulang. Di ba meron nga tayong konsepto ng mother tongue, yung wikang kinalakihan. Bawat Pilipino iba’t iba rin tayo ng kinalakihang wika. Sa kasalukuyan ‘di lahat ng Pilipino, wikang Filipino o wika sa Pilipinas ang mother tongue. Meron na Ingles talaga ang wikang kinalakihan.”

[Translation: It is the parents’ choice on what language they want to teach their children. We have a concept of mother tongue, which is the first language a person has learned from birth. Every Filipino has his own mother tongue. At present, not all Filipinos have Filipino language as their mother tongue. There are some who are more fluent in using the English language.]

Gaining prestige is being linked to English speakers as this is one of the reasons why other parents or guardians would want to train their child to learn the English language. Perez has explained that being able to communicate is a one primary reason so that their children would be able to communicate with foreign language speakers.

There are existing perceptions being attached to individuals who can speak fluent English.

English speakers may be perceived as more competitive, and literate as compared to those who do not know the language, the UP professor explained, adding that they are linked as those who have more opportunities in terms of career.

However, Perez said that this impression has only been a dominant perception among the Filipinos since only those who know how to speak the English language are the ones who have the capability, means and opportunity to be educated.

Thus, the opportunites are still rooted in the access to quality education.

Filipinos are known around the world as the Asia’s top English speaking country. In 2012, Philippines is one of the top five countries which is proficient in business English.

With a rate of 7.0 given by the GlobalEnglish Corp., the Philippines is seen to be more capable in doing business discussions thus gaining our country a high performance rate by foreign companies and industries.

On the other hand, Perez said that there is no higher language among other languages in the world. She added that the academe does not prohibit the teaching of English language but rather hopes for a balanced perception on the importance of two popular languages in the country which are Filipino and English.

The UP professor further cited the existing issue on the transfer of Filipino college courses to senior high school being proposed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

“Ang tindig natin dito ay hindi lamang ito usapin ng medium of instruction pero tignan natin kung ilan ang kolehiyo o unibersidad ang pipili ng Filipino over English.Tinitignan natin dito ay Filipino bilang isang discipline o bilang asignatura mismo.”

[Translation: Our stance in the academe is not only concerned on the medium of instruction but also the number of colleges and universities that would choose Filipino over English. What we are looking at here is the Filipino as a discipline or course.]

According to Perez, teaching Filipino in the tertiary level is different from those in the secondary due to the depth of discourse being promoted in the college level and the level of understanding of college students. She also emphasized that the removal of Filipino courses in college separates the student from the discipline which is supposed to show him a bigger picture and a more in depth impression on his identity as a Filipino.

“Iba yung level sa tertiary. ‘Yung mga diskurso sa lebel ng kolehiyo iba ‘yan sa sekondarya at baka yung mga estudyante mas maintindihan nila ‘yung tungkol dito kapag nasa antas na sila ng kolehiyo. Pero kung tatanggalin para bang inihihiwalay mo ‘yung bata sa disiplinang magpapakita sana kung ano meron sa kanya at ano siya dahil ‘yun ang nagpapakita ng pagiging Pilipino.”

The UP professor has urged that the mainstreaming of the Filipino language also depends on every Filipino who would further enrich the use of our nation’s language.

“Sana ‘wag isantabi ang Filipino lalo na ang mga kabataan na kung minsan naiiba na ang pagtingin. ‘Wag isantabi ang wikang sariling atin, yung taal na sayo mapa-national language ‘yan o regional language...Lalo mo pang paunlarin, paigtingin at gamitin ‘di lang mismo sa pakikipag usap. Baka kaya nating bumuo ng teorya, ng mga pag-aaral na gamit yung wika natin na ang nilalaman mismo ay nasa konteksto ng Filipino.

[Translation: Each of us especially the youth should not let Filipino be set aside apart from other languages as this makes us who we are as Filipino people. Let us further enrich, intensify, and use this not only in our daily conversations but we could also craft our own theories and studies whose content is in the context of Filipino.]