[lg policy] Tell it to SunStar: Language, federalism

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Wed Aug 29 11:29:09 EDT 2018

 Tell it to SunStar: Language, federalism
August 28, 2018

THIS month is Buwan ng Wika, declared to honor the “father” of the national
language, Manuel L. Quezon. The debate on the shift towards a federal form
of government should open profound discussions on the language policy in
our country.

Amending the language policy stipulated in Article XIV of the 1987
Constitution would clarify the national identity of our country based on a
single national language derived from Tagalog called Filipino.

The current unitary system provides a pretextforf our national leaders to
impose Tagalog as the national language. Amending the language provision in
the constitution by letting regions control their linguistic landscape will
allow areas populated by non-Tagalog speakers an opportunity to preserve
their languages from virtual extinction by the propagation of Tagalog by
the national government and the mass media.

Time to revisit what constitutes a Filipino nation.

If we take from historical origins, the term Filipino was not even
originally meant for the native Christianized Austronesian Filipinos who
constitute an overwhelming majority of current Filipino people, but was for
Philippine-born Spaniards or insulares. The current single Filipino
political entity was only conceived when Spanish conquistadors like Miguel
López de Legazpi were able to establish a permanent colony in Cebu in 1565
and claimed the entire archipelago for the Spanish Empire.

As a result of centuries of territorial consolidation and cultural
acculturation by the Spaniards, the Filipino national identity was
conceived by the end of 19th century and it continued until present time.

Thus if we take our historical and cultural foundations, Filipino
nationhood lies in Spanish colonialism and not in indigenous-based
tribalism. Thus, our national language policy should not have been based on
certain ethnolinguistic identities but on legacies left behind by the
founding colonizers, the Spaniards.

On the other hand, ethnolinguistic groups should be considered, too, as
nations and they can set their own customary laws under the umbrella of the
Philippine state.

In setting up language education policies, all Filipino citizens ought to
learn Spanish as the language of the common Filipino confederative state,
English as the language for international communication, and the dominant
regional language for the areas where he/she resides.

The educational system should be overhauled too by setting up integrated
schools for English or Spanish language immersion in every community with
10,000 inhabitants aside from existing barrio schools across the country.
Foreign language education should be offered too on on-demand basis by

Our country should recognize the multiplicity of ethnic demography and
recognize them as separate nations under common Philippine confederate
umbrella. Our country shall have three-layered language policy where the
first-layer will have English and Spanish as common official confederate
language, the second-layer will have regional languages as national
languages in the regions, and the third-layer will have languages like
Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and Malay recognized as heritage
languages.*--Joseph Solis*


 Harold F. Schiffman

Professor Emeritus of
 Dravidian Linguistics and Culture
Dept. of South Asia Studies
University of Pennsylvania
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6305

Phone:  (215) 898-7475
Fax:  (215) 573-2138

Email:  haroldfs at gmail.com

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