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.

Indeed:

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.

print

Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

Leave a Reply

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

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Paul Farol
Guest

“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.

Cheers!

Jade Navarro
Guest

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

kikko
Guest

You better read this article re. inez’s reaction to mr. soriano’s self-serving article: http://inez.abcruz.com/Diary/2011Aug27Sat060531

; )

Josef
Guest

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.

BenK
Editor

You mean like they tried to do during Marcos’ time? You can’t make a language “more used”. Language evolves with its culture, and what it lacks it borrows from other cultures; all languages do this. It just so happens that, apart from emotional concepts — or apparently, different words to describe rice — Tagalog has to borrow almost everything.

HAHAHA
Guest

Filipino is the language. Tagalog is a dialect you dummy. Just like Ilonggo dialect, Ilocano dialect, etc.

HAHA yourself
Guest

Tagalog, Ilonggo and Ilocano are also languages. Read some more!

Josef
Guest

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tagalog_language

Language. Not dialect. Stop calling it such.

Ilda
Admin

Whether one prefers to call it a dialect or language is not important.

What’s more important to discuss is whether Tagalog is useful to our progress as a nation or not.

James
Guest

“What’s more important to discuss is whether Tagalog is useful to our progress as a nation or not”

A big laugh at you. What a whatnot!

Ilda
Admin

You obviously lack the skill to explain your views with something longer than your favorite catchphrase.

Bugsey
Guest

It’s a dialect.

Nwervo
Guest

You’re basing your argument on wikipedia? Wow.

Dr. Noh
Guest
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 »
Ilda
Admin

Is he really a regular contributor to that publication? Thank the gods for the bloggers. 😉

Here’s the thing: GRP bloggers have been writing about this issue underground for quite a while now. The only reason it is gaining more attention now is because 1) The article was published by a major publication 2) As you said, there is so much to be said about the author’s style.

But I am glad that more people are talking about it. I just wish some of the Netizens quit the personal attacks.

Dr. Noh
Guest

yes, reading the blogosphere comments flying left and right are even more blood-curdling than the original source material

but sad to say the Soriano didnt even make an effort to defend or explain his work.

wimp

even Mideo came out and did interviews to air his personal interpretation of his work

Benign0 may claim that Soriano doesnt have anything to be sorry about but he’s certainly not earning my respect by withdrawing so quickly after the shit hit the fan

Hyden Toro
Guest

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…

James
Guest

There are some truth but weak arguments.

AsiaWest
Guest

Are you willing and able to cite specific points you perceive to be “weak” and provide reasons for calling them such? Otherwise, do you merely expect the rest of us to either not take your viewpoints seriously or blindly accept without question your authority on these matters?

Ilda
Admin

Because he says so. 😉

He speaks with authority that I feel so compelled to believe him. NOT.

brianitus
Guest

Um, isn’t this comment from a spam bot?

Malaya
Guest
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 »
cristy
Guest

i agree with u!

it's the entire fault of Imperial Manila and K.W.F.!
Guest
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?

brianitus
Guest
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 »
Joe America
Guest

Navajo is the former national language of my home town.

Things come, things go. It’s all Greek to me.

I don’t care what you call beer, cerbeza or suds, it tastes good if it is San Miguel and bad if it was made in Viet Nam.

avid
Guest

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
Guest
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 »
ahehe
Guest

Kaya nga binoto ko yung may plano para sa mga ofw pero ala, natalo ni foreign investor piss-offer, ruling elite member Noynoy.

Ugh, the drama.

Jeng
Guest
Oh please, don’t single out the Filipino nation as the most corrupt one in Asia. Better look at the countries facing fiscal crises left and right. Don’t tell me they got there by being smarter than the Filipinos. I find it hardly relevant to the topic on hand to discuss about corrupt officials and such when clearly we are talking about the response here of a fellow Filipino who choose to downgrade his own language in public, contemptuously stating that his mother tongue is English. If you would widen your point of view, study history and current affairs a bit… Read more »
brianitus
Guest

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.

Trosp
Guest

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

It could be. I do however prefer the Red Horse. Kahit saan ginawa.

brianitus
Guest

Below zero Red Horse? Ang sarap!

Joe America
Guest

brianitus, it is the formaldehyde they use instead of hops.

My Navajo is a lot like Tonto’s English.

BenK
Editor

Ya-tah-hey.

pinoynusa
Guest

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%.

pinoynusa
Guest

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

brianitus
Guest

I have a friend in Bulacan who does that with ease. Well, that’s after downing more than a few brown bottles of our fave brew.

Aegis-Judex
Guest

Speaking of which, who could in this time and age?

Dr. Noh
Guest

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

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

brianitus
Guest

Hi, Dr. Hoh!

Since efficiency is cost per unit output, would “sulit” be close enough?

Dr. Noh
Guest

good suggestion, i prefer ‘sulit’ over ‘husay’. techinically, it means economical, but something efficient does place importance on the economics of the effort expended. Though the nuances are a bit off when you try to describe someone’s work as ‘sulit’.

and PS: it’s Dr.Noh, not Hoh, hindi po ako doktor ng mga pokpok 🙂

brianitus
Guest

Dr. NOH,

Sorry about the typo. It must’ve have been the blinky blinking red lights last night. Hmmm, maybe I should change handles to Dr. Hammer.

Anyway, you’re right. I think sulit comes close, but doesn’t quite hit that nail on the head.

OnesimusUnbound
Guest

I’ll rather use taglish kasi mas-efficient gamitin! Besides a language tends to absorb words from foreign language. English is one good example.

ricelander
Guest

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”

ici
Guest
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
Guest
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 »
wpDiscuz