English

I remember attending a friend’s debut party and, as per the tradition, select friends of hers would give her a gift (“treasure”) and prepare a short speech for her. As I was getting ready to go onstage to give my gift and speech, someone told me: “Hey, you graduated from (this school) and (that school), so show them you’re better than everyone else and deliver your speech in English.”

I really don’t understand why people in my country think that English speakers are better or smarter than everyone else. People are actually using English proficiency as a measure of intelligence and worth; if you’re not English-speaking, or if you’re not good in the language, then you’re just an ordinary person and not worthy of any attention. This thinking is so widespread that even new parents, often from well-off families, are teaching their children to talk in English or Taglish (mostly English with a mix of broken Filipino/Tagalog), and not in the native language.

For me, there is nothing wrong with wanting to speak in my native tongue. First off, I am in the Philippines and everyone speaks in Filipino, so why on earth would I speak in English? To distinguish myself and make it seem that I’m smarter than my peers? To make it look like I come from a good family? I don’t get the labels and the need to show off to other people. I think it’s safe to say that I am fluent in English and I can express myself in the language if needed, but I am more comfortable in Filipino so I choose to speak it. I don’t get why the Filipino language and Filipino speakers are being put down.

Besides, graduating from good schools doesn’t automatically mean that I would want to forget my language and embrace a foreign one just to make myself look like I’m one of the “elites”. Don’t get me wrong, I think learning a foreign language is very useful, especially in today’s world. But the native language is just as important too, since it is closely tied to our culture and identity as Filipinos. Actually, my academic life has taught me that in order to achieve my full potential, I must fully know and embrace my identity (both the good and the bad sides of it). When I’m in touch with my identity, I would gain confidence in myself and in turn be able to communicate effectively with the people I encounter, thus helping achieve goals and contributing positively to the world around me. The current attitude towards English and non-English speakers only serves to alienate our countrymen from one other, and not bringing them together to help achieve common goals and foster friendship.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened in the party, I gave my speech in pure Filipino. No problem! 😀

20 Comments

  1. Very well written and well said! I also couldn’t agree with you more on that subject! In fact, a lot of English speakers live in California and I never knew why we were forced to take a foreign language in school. The only reason why I had to learn Spanish was to get into college. Though, I never thought that was quite the full story, until now. A couple of semesters ago, I took History 111 which was the early days in America for example when the Pilgrims first settled into America. Etc. Well, during this class, I have learned that California and Texas both were once governed by Mexico, until President Polk provoked a war with them, to gain control over California and Texas. If Polk and his armies did not win that war, California and Texas would NOT be apart of the U.S. we would still be governed by Mexico. Apparently, not a lot of people have paid close attention to History, or else they would know about this. So, I understand fully as to why we (the non-native speakers of Spanish) needs to learn Spanish A.) To get into a college, and B.) To have better chances at a job. Though, I was once told by a friend of mine who happens to be Filipina, that English speakers in your guys’ country are treated like celebrities. I guess it’s not a common language in your country as the people tend to get tickled pink over it. Though, there is nothing wrong with wanting to speak in your own language, especially since you live in a country where Tagalog is spoken first, and than English. So, I totally understand this post completely. I would feel the same way. Did you deliver your speech in Tagalog as what you were intended to do?

    1. That’s a very interesting part of US history! I didn’t know that California and Texas were once under Mexico, but it makes sense because I think until now, there are still lots of Spanish-speakers in those areas.

      You’re right, English speakers are treated like gods over here, lol. English is actually taught in all schools and in all levels, and a previous president even declared that it should be used as the medium of instruction in all educational institutions (some schools have taken this to the extreme and declared their school as “English-speaking schools”, where speaking in Filipino/Tagalog is prohibited). But outside school, majority of the people talk to each other in Tagalog and all of the TV shows are in the native language as well. The rich ones, though, talk in English and watch English language programs. It is actually very easy to distinguish the elites from the so-called “ordinary people” even if you just listen in on their conversations.

      I did deliver my speech in full Tagalog 😉 Some of the guests (the ones who asked me to speak in English) were horrified though. Lol!

  2. I didn’t realize that people in the Philippines view English speakers that way. I think it’s a good thing to know more than one language, but I don’t think it should be used in a way to show off. Knowing another language and culture is supposed to broaden your knowledge, not replace your native one. Good for you for choosing to give your speech in Filipino!

  3. Yes!! I have so many feelings about this. I really wish people back home would realize that viewing English as superior is a result of colonization and internalized racism. Of course we can learn English, but not at the expense of our own language. English does not have a monopoly on intelligence, and Tagalog is not inferior.

    1. That’s true. I think the perception of English being better than Filipino is deeply embedded in our culture, since the rich people (the “superior” ones) were the ones who spoke in foreign languages during the colonization of our country. The common folk, on the other hand, spoke in the native language. It’s sad because even after our independence, we have carried this kind of thinking to the next generations. This discrimination really has to stop.

      Oh, if only they could see how beautiful and rich the Filipino language is.

  4. I totally understand what you are getting at from this post! As a filipino myself, who can understand tagalog a lot more than actually speak it (I grew up in England and fluent in English) – whenever I speak in english in front of filipinos, they always talk about me behind my back (others tell me what they say) saying that I think Im better than them by speaking english. But I’m not trying to be better than anyone, i just cant speak tagalog as fluently so prefer to speak in English. My mom uses this to show me off sometimes and I always tell her to cut it out because its so weird!

    1. Oh, they say some nasty things! 😮 They have to understand that you’re not trying to show off or whatever when you speak in the language you’re comfortable in. It’s not like it’s your fault that you’re more fluent in English than in Tagalog, of course you would be better in English since you grew up in another country. That’s understandable. But hey, I’m glad that you can still understand Tagalog, at least you won’t feel so out of place when you visit!

  5. Go Claudine! I guess I never realized people viewed English speakers that way. While it’s super useful knowledge to have, it doesn’t make you better than someone else. And what a way to alienate people who don’t know the language. People who do things like that annoy me so much, I can’t stand to be around them. No one likes a show off. I’m glad you gave it in Filipino!! (Also, I have super respect for people who are fluent in more than one language. I took five years of French and can’t use much of it at all!)

    1. English is a pretty big thing here. I mean, almost everyone knows how to speak English but if you’re one of those people who has English as first language, everyone automatically assumes that you’re from the upper part of the social or intellectual spectrum. I think that’s why I was told to speak in English during my speech, but I really don’t see the point in showing off and pretending to be better than everyone else. XD

      PS: It’s never too late to practice your French! 🙂

  6. Wow. I didn’t know speaking English has an influence in the social status. Well, it has become so common to speak in English in my country now. Perhaps 20 years ago, being from English speaking family can show your social status somewhat. Now it is pretty common. Times have changed.

    I’m proud of you giving the speech in Filipino. We mustn’t forget our roots and mother tongue. 🙂

    1. English is pretty common here too (it’s the language used in school, business, and government speeches/sessions) but for our daily interactions with others, we mostly use Filipino, so I chose to use it during my speech. I don’t know why but some people here think that if you come from a good school, you would be English-speaking (a notion which I find weird). Lol!

  7. I don’t understand the whole ‘god complex’ English speakers have just because English is widely known. Speak in your language. It shouldn’t be a mark of intelligence. Everyone comes from a different region and it’s a shame that we have to make one language to be the deciding factor of anything. It’s some weird social status thing, and strangely, even normal English speakers from America hardly ever get English right. My peers in my hometown and just in general have a hard time knowing the differences between ‘their’, ‘there’, and etc;

    Don’t let people get you down.

    1. I don’t get it too! And it’s really sad when I see some people mocking or laughing at other people just because they don’t (or can’t) speak in English and choose to speak in Filipino instead. I get that English is widely known and taught here in our country, but I think English and Filipino are both important so there’s no need to discriminate or compare.

  8. Wow, that is such an absurd trend that English would be a sign of social status. I really admire your attitude, because it would require people such as yourself to show them that they should be proud of where they are from. It would be so sad if that continued and a language was lost (think 20 years from now).

    It also makes me wonder, if English was used for a speech, how many people would actually understand it all? If that was the case, what is the point, when everyone already knows the native language. -___-

    Hopefully there will be a positive change in the right direction.

    1. Most Filipinos can speak and understand English, but most of us just speak it when absolutely necessary (ex. when in school, during job interviews, when speaking to a foreigner, etc). For us, there’s no point in speaking in a foreign language if the person we’re talking to can understand the native language.

  9. This isn’t something I’ve come across before (I guess that’s the same as everyone who’s commented above, haha)…but I admire you for staying true to yourself and what you believe in. English is my only language, but I think it’s a bit overrated 😉

    1. Thank you! 🙂

      English is an important language (especially in today’s world where everyone wants to be connected to each other, no matter what the nationality), but native languages are important as well 🙂 It’s useful being fluent and confident to speak in both!

  10. The only reason why I think people think highly of English speakers in some parts of the world is because it’s a rarity… Or that’s just me. But for sure, it doesn’t measure the level of intelligence.

    I know this is the same in Vietnam- as long as you know English, you’re somehow better than others. Good on you for seeing otherwise! Good that you are embracing your identity and culture, it gives you a foundation on who you are (and you can build on top)!

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