[lg policy] Once more, on Filipino languages

Harold Schiffman haroldfs at gmail.com
Tue Nov 20 11:11:16 EST 2018

 Once more, on Filipino languages


November 20, 2018

   - home <https://www.manilatimes.net>
   - /
   - Opinion <https://www.manilatimes.net/category/opinion/>
   - /
   - Op-Ed Columns
   - /
   - Opinion on Page One
   - /
   - *Once more, on Filipino languages*


THE Supreme Court did not excise so-called “Filipino” (a.k.a. Tagalog) from
the curriculum. No court has any business doing that. Courts do not resolve
curricular issues. What it did though was decide that the petition to
interdict the implementation of the K to 12 curriculum — involving a
college curriculum that no longer prescribed Filipino — lacked legal
warrant. The petition to enjoin having been dismissed, the result, of
course, is that the CHEd-ordained curriculum that does not require Filipino

My brilliant friend Antonio Contreras asks why we even prescribed a
“national language” in the fundamental law, and he is right in raising the
question. It was wrong, I maintain, to prescribe a “national language” in
our Constitution. A nation does not need one national language to survive
and to flourish as a nation. If anything at all, it is the imposition of
the ill-contrived that spawns violence and triggers divisiveness. Since it
was Manila that formulated policy, Manila chose the language with which it
was most familiar, decreeing it to be the language of a people who have
always had different languages.

In many ways, this anomalous and truly unjust situation has its roots in
the mistake of calling Ibanag, Pangasinan, Waray, Cebuano, etc. “dialects,”
implying of course that they are variants of one language. Any decent
source on languages will show that Ibanag, as most other Philippine
languages, belongs to the Austronesian family of languages. It has its own
rules of syntax; it has its own semantic complications and it has
pragmatics all its own. Our policymakers ignored all this. Gave Tagalog the
habiliments of, first Pilipino, and later Filipino, and canonized it as the
language of an entire nation.

It worked — in the sense that the media deluged the towns, cities and
barangays with Tagalog programs. The national government did its share in
this assault on indigenous languages: It decreed that Tagalog would be the
medium of instruction in the rather ridiculous belief that once Tagalog was
known by all, it would make students understand lessons more easily and
teaching more effective. But Tagalog had to be learned in non-Tagalog
regions, while the facility with which our pupils and students spoke, read,
wrote and discussed in English steadily and cumulatively declined. Just as
the rest of the world was rushing to learn English, we were running in the
opposite direction — foreswearing it, in the name of some moronic version
of nationalism that equates being a nation with speaking one language.

Are we better off for all this hoopla over Tagalog? Res ipsa loquitur. Our
world standing, academically, remains mediocre, and a growing number of
graduates cannot find jobs because the English they speak and write is
labored and laborious — and that, most certainly, is not good enough for
regional and global business. So much literature is in English — so much
information in the sciences and in various other disciplines. What were the
proponents of this mad proposition even thinking: That this formidable
intellectual corpus would be translated into Tagalog and, in consequence,
better understood by Ilocano, Ibanag, Cebuano, Waray, Chabacano, Tausug

So, Tagalog is no longer required in college. Good. Then let us get on with
the task of undoing an ambivalent language policy in higher education that
has really proved to be our undoing! Let us, like Asean, make the firm
decision that we shall do business — teach, read, study, write and discuss
— in English. It need not be the King’s English. The datu’s will do,
provided that it is English that is grammatically sound for grammar is not,
after all, some nicety with which one can dispense. It is the guarantee of

With educational policy finally regaining its sensible bearings, the other,
equally original, equally indigenous, equally worthy Philippine languages
can thrive and flourish. There is no reason that they should perish. There
is no reason that this cultural invasion of Tagalog into every barangay and
purok should define our future national life. We are a country of a myriad
islands and we are a nation of distinct ethnicities and languages as
distinct. That fact will not divide us. Stupidity will!


 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

-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: <http://listserv.linguistlist.org/pipermail/lgpolicy-list/attachments/20181120/77a47d1f/attachment-0001.html>
-------------- next part --------------
This message came to you by way of the lgpolicy-list mailing list
lgpolicy-list at groups.sas.upenn.edu
To manage your subscription unsubscribe, or arrange digest format: https://groups.sas.upenn.edu/mailman/listinfo/lgpolicy-list

More information about the Lgpolicy-list mailing list