Language of the Learned

James Soriano and his Language, learning, identity, privilege Manila Bulletin article has been the hottest topic this week. The article has since been pulled down from the MB’s official website. Soriano writes about how he was brought up to talk and think in English. He writes that “Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English.” Sad but true.

Filipino is not given much importance in a school curriculum. I remember there would be speak-only-and-only-English day in school. If you don’t there would be some sort of punishment. A company where I used to be employed had this too, and you pay 5 or 10 pesos for every Filipino word spoken. The whole exercise was some sort of training for the mastery of the English language and a fund-raising drive.

I particularly like when Soriano writes “Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.”

Soriano writes “But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned. Emphasis mine.

Filipino is not the language of the learned? And English is? How about the Japanese who only speak Nihonggo and only a trickle of English words? How about the French who only speak French and only a trickle of English words? Does that also mean Nihonggo and French are not language of the learned?

This struck a raw nerve in me. I get pissed when people think they are better than most for the sole reason that they have an impeccable grasp of the English language. Intelligence is not measured by how well you write and speak in English. Gets?

Soriano also writes “It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.” Emphasis is mine.

Is Soriano emphasizing that English is the language of the bourgeois? Of the moneyed? Of the high class? Is mastery of the English language defines where one belongs in the social class? I guess not.

I strongly suspect Soriano means English is the language of opportunity in the Philippine context. Having a good grasp of the language may give one an advantage when hunting for jobs. Now that most companies have gone global, outsourcing their business to foreign shores like the Philippines, a grasp and not necessarily mastery of English is a must.

But bagging that job is not the recipe for success. Perseverance and dedication and intelligence and, some say, luck are.

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9 Responses to Language of the Learned

  1. ewok1993 says:

    I’ve heard a little about this. Do you have the whole article to share?

    It does sadden me when I hear of younger parents raising their kids to completely speak English only at home and in school. Why?

    Do you agree that our preference to use English as a learning medium stems from our colonial past?

    And for Pete’s sake why are we ashame of our accent?

    Happy weekend.

    • the scud says:

      I’m guessing they equate success with a good command of English. In the Filipino context that may actually be true. Business are continually outsourced to PH and they would want staff who would be able to communicate well in English.

      I think it is. We owe it to the Americans. I don’t really mind English as a medium of instruction. I mind if we start thinking those who speak better English are intellectually superior.

      Btw, the Manila Bulletin article is up again. You can read the article here.

  2. Jay says:

    Arrogance and eletism wrapped in one.

  3. koukin says:

    I think the author of that article is named JAMES Soriano, and not Paul Soriano (Toni Gonzaga’s boyfriend).

  4. Atticus says:

    hindi ako nagalit sa kanya, sa totoo lang. nalungkot lang ako. kasi sa paningin nating mismong mga pinoy (kung hindi man lahat ay karamihan), ang nagsasalita ng ingles ay mahusay, mas mataas ang kaalaman, at mas may patutunguhan. hindi ito totoo, pero ito ang nananaig sa paningin ng mga mababaw ang pamantayan.

    sa linya ng trabaho ko, wika natin ang gamit namin. kaya naman lumalabas ang pangil ko at natatanganan ko ang gulok ko tuwing makikita ko ang mga maling pagbaybay sa ating sariling wika. pero sa totoo lang, iilan na lamang sa atin ang nakakaalam kung kailan gagamitin ang NG at NANG, ang RAW at DAW. marami rin ang akala ay tama ang NANAMAN, DIBA, NARIN, PARIN, SANKA, ATSAKA. (lahat ng binanggit ko ay dalawang salita, pero karaniwan ay isinusulat na isa).

    mas mainam sigurong pagtuunan natin ng pansin ang pangangalaga sa ating sariling wika na nakakalimutan na kung paano baybayin at sabihin nang tama. napakayaman ng ating sariling wika na kung kikilalanin lamang natin nang husto, ay tunay namang wika ng mga paham at romantiko.

    at sa salitang kalye, keber ko sa iyo, soriano!

    • the scud says:

      guilty as charged sa NG at NANG. 😦

      naalala ko yung post mo kung saan gagamitin ang ng at nang, daw at raw, kababalaghan instead of kakabalaghan, etc. sinubukan ko hanapin yun sa google pero parati akong minamalas. hehe.

  5. Atticus says:

    hehehe. maniwala ka man at hindi, ang title noon ay “if the crowd had an orgasm.” march 2006 entry.

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