English vs Tagalog: James Soriano owes no one any apologies

Whatever it was said by whoever this James Soriano is, if it is the truth about the utter lack of intellectual tools Tagalog provides its speakers, then no apologies are needed to be given to those who take offense from these words.

A Manila Bulletin column published on August 24 titled “Language, learning, identity, privilege” has gone viral online, garnering mixed reactions from netizens, reports GMA News. The column, written by James Soriano, discusses what he believes are problems with the Filipino language.

Soriano, who was taught to use English at a young age, said that learning Filipino stemmed from practicality. “It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed sundo na.” Though the writer learned to grasp Filipino as the “language of identity,” he maintains that it is not “the language of the learned.” He ended his column by describing that Filipino “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 agree with Soriano 100 percent.

Tagalog is a quaint dialect at best. Perhaps we continue to hang on to it because it gives us that familiar warm fuzzy feeling inside. The reality today is quite stark, however. Tagalog does not deliver. The sooner we as a people come to terms with that reality, the sooner we can move on to tackling much bigger challenges.

Some would argue that perhaps rather than make an issue of the medium of instruction used in our education system, there are more pressing needs to upgrade its impoverished physical facilities — classroom shortages, books, etc. Indeed these are all serious problems. But the bottom line is that every new classroom and every new textbook we deploy into the public education system are assets we need to sweat. We need to optimise their ability to support the delivery of high-quality education so that the system turns out productive and employable Filipinos.

The medium of instruction used in the public education system of the Philippines is therefore an important issue. Education is all about (1) connecting people to useful information and (2) giving them the intellectual and cognitive tools to comprehend and evaluate that information. The fact that we continue to invest precious classroom time delivering instruction in Tagalog — a dialect that achieves very little for its speakers — already begs an obvious solution.


Between the Tagalog dialect and the English language, which one returns more for every peso invested in classroom time used in its instruction?

The active ingredient in this critical decision can be encapsulated in the simple fact of the lack of a Tagalog word for a simple concept with far-reaching implications on our ability to progress — efficiency. What does this tell us? Consider, how there are lots of Tagalog words for something very familiar to Filipinos: rice. We have ‘bigas’, ‘kanin’, ‘sinaing’, and ‘palay’, among others. That’s because rice is an important aspect of Filipino culture and society. The number of words in Tagalog devoted to articulating specific aspects, forms, and natures of this staple reflects its important and significant place in Filipinos’ lives.

So what then would one conclude about the glaring absence of a Tagalog word for efficiency? I think the implications of this fact are quite evident. One just needs to experience the Philippines to validate that implication. Tagalog, the dialect that forms the kernel of our so-called “national language” reflects the degree to which its speakers apply themselves intellectually. If it is incomplete as far as its ability to articulate the complex ideas required to prosper in a complex world such as the one we face today, then that incompleteness reflects the scope of our society’s intellectual landscape.

We therefore need to turn to a language that we are already relatively proficient at that is up to the job.

The poverty of the Philippine school system, is but a component of the broader impoverishment that crushes Philippine society overall at all fronts. Therefore, the more fundamental question is: What is at the very root of this pervasive and profound impoverishment of the Filipino? I believe a key factor at play in our ability to compete in today’s environment is our lack of a tradition of and, as a consequence, a lack of an ethic for efficiency; and, perhaps, many of the other concepts we need to grasp at a profound level to get on the right track.


Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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117 Comments on "English vs Tagalog: James Soriano owes no one any apologies"

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Paul Farol

“So what then would one conclude about the glaring absence of a Tagalog word for efficiency?”

This is just like holding on to a ticket to a bus that already left man.


Jade Navarro

this article said it all. good job! i want to say more but i can’t find the words.


Tagalog is a language, not a dialect. What we should do is make Tagalog a more used language rather than just dismiss it as a “dialect” that has no important role in Filipino society.



Language. Not dialect. Stop calling it such.


You’re basing your argument on wikipedia? Wow.

Dr. Noh
Its not his message or sentiments that are at fault, its his awful writing style. I think he just unleashed another “mideo” on the general public. Just like that eyesore of an art exhibit, his essay just plain stinks, too arrogant, too elitist, and his little twist in the end didnt do the “dramatic turn-around” it was supposed to do. If its one thing we learned from all this, Pinoys cant take “tough love”, feeling nila inaapi sila. What these “artists” are forgetting is that if they have a point to make, their medium of choice (whether a painting, a… Read more »
Hyden Toro

Lanuages are just tools of communications; to transfer your thoughts, to people. I write in English, Tagalog, and sometimes mixed, Taglish…
However, in my work in the Technical Field…I cannot think: how Pilipino can fit in my work…highly techical words and phrases; I cannot find a way to express them in Pilipino…use whatever language helps you in performing your job well…don’t mind other people. You have to earn your living. And these people promoting Pilipino, can never help you…


There are some truth but weak arguments.

Mr. Jaime S Soriano can say whatever he wants,thats his opinion and he’s entitled to it. The outrage was more becuase of his elitist views like he only uses it to speak to maids and drivers or relatives in the province. The only reason that English language in the first place was becuase we were under the American Occupation before WWII and after WWII. Werent back then we spoke in Kastil, manadatory in all classes (that was back then the languaged of the learned during the inquisition) and during the Japanese occupation, speaking Japanese was also placed in our school… Read more »
it's the entire fault of Imperial Manila and K.W.F.!
it's the entire fault of Imperial Manila and K.W.F.!

Here in the Philippines, the Tagalists, K.W.F., and Imperial Manila are pushing the extinction of several Philippine indigenous minority languages, and the slow but certain displacement of other Philippine regional languages. All because of Tagalog language-centrism, and Imperial Manila! So, K.W.F. what are you doing about this?

Hindi elitista ang paggamit ng wikang Ingles. Ito lamang ay nagpapatunay na alam mo gamitin ito. Hindi rin tama na dapat ipagisangtabi na lamang ang wikang Tagalog. Kaya nga patuloy ang pagtuturo nito sa paaralan. Hindi rin naman sinabi ni Ginoong benign0 na wag na tayo magsalita ng Tagalog. Tingin ko ay hindi naman mamamatay ang wikang Tagalog kung tayo ay nag-aral na gamit ang wikang Ingles. Hindi kaya’t sayang lang ang pagtatalo sa wikang dapat gamitin sa paaralan? Dati’y tinanong ako ng aking guro sa pamantasan kung ano ang aking mas gusto na wika sa aking pag-aaral, Tagalog or… Read more »

Hello… Do take time to watch this Ted Talk on the importance of local language http://www.ted.com/talks/patricia_ryan_ideas_in_all_languages_not_just_english.html

G. Alfonso
Puro smarte ang mga Pinoy pinag- aawayan mga walang sinabing bagay. pag awayan ninyo kung paano ninyo mapapaunlad ang bansa ninyo. You should all be ashamed being a Filipino. You as a nation has the most corrupt politicians, society, and forever a basket case in Asia. The Filipino Overseas Workers the top dollar earners of the Philippines does not even get any respect or any help from their own government and a good example is the 3 to 4 thousands Filipinos in Syria I read and article in one of the Philippine newspaper here in the U.S. that they rather… Read more »

Hey, Joe!

So, how’s your Navajo? LOL

re: Vietnam — must be the water. Mai Mislang hated the wine (dunno if it was Vietnamese).

Btw, San Mig experts say that the best-tasting brew is in Davao.


The Filipino language embodies the Filipino culture. Although English is a much sophisticated language I doubt that it can represent totally the culture of the Philippines. The Filipino language is in the same Austronesian language from Malaysia, Indonesia and Brunei. So, why are these other languages able to have a translation for ‘efficiency’? Anyways, I doubt if English can be used as a language medium to translate Filipino literature such as ‘Florante at Laura’ by Francisco Baltazar and still capture it’s essence 100%.


It takes skill and vocabulary to speak fluent Filipino. Obviously, we cannot speak Filipino as effective and proficient as Francisco Baltazar.

Dr. Noh

wow you’re right! EVEN Google Translate got it wrong, it suggested the following translations for “efficiency”:
kakayahan sa paglilingkod
kasanayan sa paglilingkod
kasanayan o kakayahan sa gawain

But the Fil translations they provided are closer to ‘proficency’ rather that ‘efficiency’


What could be the translation for the word “efficiency”?

E di episiyensi! Problema, we are too much of purists.

Fact is English borrowed and continues to borrow from other languages without shame. The word “efficiency” itself is from a Latin word “efficientia”.

Sa Japan, what is “jazz”? e di “jaz”

english…tagalog…filipino…ilokano…use whatever you prefer…but gah, people, whatever you use to speak, please use the language properly. don’t use “idinitine” when the proper term for that is “ikinulong” or “kumite” when the word for that is “lupon”. abias-cbn, gma, etc. are certainly doing a great demolition job on the use of our vernacular. i don’t know if that is due to ignorance or plain laziness. sa totoo lang, ang sakit pakinggan sa tenga. sana magsalita na lang sila ng ingles dahil ang ginagawa nila ay masahol pa sa hindi pagmahal sa wika at nakasusulasok pa sa amoy ng malansang isda.
article or rant blog
Did you even read James Soriano’s article? Or did you just read the title, saw that it would piss a lot of Filipinos off and decided to give the kid some “Anti-Pinoy” cred? In case you didn’t, here’s a summary of what he said: “I’m rich, so I speak English and therefore smart. You’re poor, so you speak Tagalog and therefore dumb.” None of what he said was new. Everyone knows it’s easier to teach school subjects using English and obviously people already know that most Filipinos speak Tagalog. So what exactly was the “article” for? If I were to… Read more »