How the Philippines’ outsourcing industries can benefit from Paula Jamie Salvosa and Christopher Lao

Following another viral video circus, this time involving Ms Paula Jamie ‘Amalayer’ Salvosa, we find an emerging pattern in the sorts of “scandals” that Filipinos tend to salivate over. A common denominator underlying these is a perverse fascination with the hilarious gaffes Filipinos routinely deliver in their on-going clumsy effort to use the language of their former (?) colonial master.

Private-schooled former viral video star Christopher Lao bizarrely struggled with it despite his priviliged upbringing stammering out this pained explanation for why he drove his car into a flood: “Why do you info—why do i—Bakit ako? Diba? (laughs ironically) Dapat i-inform, i-inform, I should have been informed, yun lang yun”. How the obviously village-raised boy could get it so wrong highlights the desperate plight of even more ordinary Filipinos to master the language that holds the key to relatively vast wealth.

Most recently it is Salvosa and her “I’m a liar?” taunt to a security officer at an LRT train station that launched the global-trending Twitter hashtag #amalayer. Sloppy use of the English language does not seem to be the issue here as most Filipinos are mediocre speakers at best. It seems more a case of its use in an inappropriate occasion — the way Salvosa dished it out when her native Tagalog dialect would have sufficed or even been more effective in this instance. This is the sort of thing that gets picked up by Filipinos’ collective Trying-hard Detector. Most people can sniff out wannabes a mile away. And the quintessential Filipino wannabe is the average bozo who attempts to power trip using a mediocre command of the English language.

As GRP writer Kate Natividad observed in a previous comment

Wielding the English language is like wielding a gun.

An amateur who plays with [one] is likely to just end up hurting herself. But an expert professional, can rob a bank with one and even get away with it.

While Jimmy Santos shrewdly turned the blanket dagginess with which Filipinos speak their colonial master’s language into an entire comedy act that was the highlight of his career, (ending his shows with his famous sign-off blurb: “And remember, wherever you are, I love you three times a day”), Filipino cinema often gets it wrong. The snippets of English-language dialogue in Philippine cinema almost always comes across as severely contrived — written by folk who have a superficial understanding of the sosyal people they try to bring to life in their hastily-written scripts. Think Cherie Gil’s classic “You’re nothing but a second-rate, trying hard copycat!” in the film Bituing Walang Ningning.

Filipinos need to master the use of English where it counts.

English remains the “gold standard” lingua franca of business according to a Forbes.com report which highlighted a McKinsey study that showed that “only 13% of graduates from emerging countries are suitable for employment in global companies, and the number one reason cited is a lack of English skills.” The Philippines was cited for its relative general proficiency in the use of English for business highlighting how the quality of its speakers puts them at an advantage in the race for employment in excellent multinational corporations…

[…] serious career-minded individuals who hope to work as foreign correspondents for O Globo TV in New York, Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, will need solid English. As will the IT service guys coming to the U.S. from India on business visas, and the Russia venture capitalists looking to close deals with investors in Silicon Valley.

This is partially why the Philippines has taken over India as a hub for call centers. Their English is better. The islands attained a score above 7, putting them within range of a high proficiency that indicates an ability to lead business discussions and perform complex tasks. India? A low 5.57.

However, the Philippines falls behind Scandinavian countries in terms of proficiency in English amongst non-native speakers

Norwegians, Danes, Swedes and Finns are four of the world’s top five best non-native users of English, according to a new study by the world’s biggest private educational company, Stockholm-based EF. Norwegians have the best English as a second language, followed by the Dutch, then the Danes in third place, the Swedes in fourth and the Finns in fifth.

And yet, the Philippines is being touted as the cheap-as-chips English language education centre of the world…

“We have very competitive rates compared with other countries,” says English teacher, Jesy King, citing her school’s fees of $500 (£313) for a 60-hour class – about a third of the price of an equivalent course in the US or Canada.

Another major advantage is the accent.

Filipinos speak with a clear American accent – partly because the Philippines was a US colony for five decades, and partly because so many people here have spent time working in call centres that cater to a US market.

Indeed, that coveted American accent. If there is anything that can be noted from the Amalayer Salvosa viral-video circus, it is that Filipinos are getting better at detecting subtle nuances in the delivery of spoken English that separates the trying-hard wannabes from the true English-speaking-since-birth elites. Perhaps, in this regard, this makes Filipinos the much-needed top-notch el-cheapo English language teachers of the planet — because they are Top Gun when it comes to spotting and sniping badly-spoken English.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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36 Comments on "How the Philippines’ outsourcing industries can benefit from Paula Jamie Salvosa and Christopher Lao"

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alconce
Guest

Funny but we tend to always pick on sensationalizing things as they do it in local telenovelas and on TV news but does not posses the same motivation in running after those shameless politicians and their ilks who screw us bigtime 24/7.

ka_fredo
Guest

“Perhaps, in this regard, this makes Filipinos the much-needed top-notch el-cheapo English language teachers of the planet — because they are Top Gun when it comes to spotting and sniping badly-spoken English.” Exactly. A lot of call center trained pinoys didn’t have the accent at the start. Its the ability to comprehend and self-correct that’s important. You need to know how catch your own mistakes so that your accent starts to sound more natural.

Migs
Guest

O Benign0! Don’t tell me you are in the same league with “GRP’s Resident Intriguera and Usisera” aka Madame Kate Natividad regarding this typical, barrio-style gossip about Paula Jamie Salvosa??

It seems preposterous to make such insights about Philippine society out of an recorded incident that had been taken out of the context many times since its inception by the media??

GRP, you are disappointing! “We beg to differ”? Yes, in the beginning but I think you’re becoming more like Manila Times!

Christine
Guest

You are missing the point, Migs.

Migs
Guest

I am missing the point of the article, yes?

But I am not missing the point about the article’s purpose. Now here is my point!

Just ignore the “Amalayer girl” incident because it’s not worth a dime!

cardingsungkit
Guest

He’s sharing his opinion about the amalayer fever, going with the flow of the trend. It draws more website traffic that way.

Josh
Guest

I think his purpose is of talking more about Pinoys rather than just focused on Paula, Migs.

And i agree with benign0 about the cinema. Instead of being an example to or a mirror of Filipino society, they’re a false and disgusting reflection..especially the telenovelas. They’re supposed to be the water washing away the dirt in people’s eyes, instead these script writers, producers, and directors put canal water or whatever shit else they come up with in to the solution. This, in my opinion, forms a huge part of the Taglish problem.

Josh
Guest

Oh, and the huge divide its put up between the classes of our society.. Just sad, films are supposed to be unifying the nation.. But i heard nation building doesn’t sell in that industry..

unconcerned
Guest

Why even put films, cinemas, television into the context. We all know that everything that comes out of that idiot tube is guess what – idiots.

And the problem here is, most of us don’t know about it that they are gradually being turned into mindless zombies.

MidwayHaven
Guest

Not to brag, but I’m taking up my PhD in Linguistics right now (minor in International English). I also help out IELTS and TOEFL candidates. A good rule of thumb in language acquisition (especially in English) goes this way: if you wanna break the rules, you have to master them first.

Call centers train agents in linguistic PERFORMANCE (using English in specific situations), which unfortunately pales when compared to linguistic COMPETENCE (general usage and improvement of English. Philippine public education sadly also focuses on performance over competence, hence the degradation of English in the country.

Johnny Saint
Guest

Sad but true. A doctor friend of mine laments the lack of English skills among their candidates when they screen new residents. They can’t string two words together. And these students are from the top universities in Manila.

Benigno
Guest
kitchietan
Guest
Great read! This is one of the articles I read, aside from Kate’s, that has a different opinion on this video. I agree with the fact that there is always the right time and the right place to say words in English. Honestly speaking, I worked for the call center industry for 5 years and I don’t usually use the English language when I’m out in the mall or other public places, unless, I am with a foreign friend. I guess, I just don’t want to be branded as “mayabang” or “pasosyal”. In short, she should have just freaked out… Read more »
Migs
Guest

Is it just me but do I get the feeling Benign0’s fixated too much on the misuse of the English language by Paula’s “freaking out moment” in the LRT against the unsuspecting lady guard? Deal with it dude! If she feels like speaking in English, no matter how bad it actually sounds, then let her be!

Actually, you wouldn’t be criticizing her English skills if not for someone who took a video out of it and spread it for all of us to see and ponder about.

alconce
Guest

A lot of college grads have dificulty in communicating in the english language. What is surprising though is that even in their native dialect they are inarticulate and could hardly express themselves. Just try talking to them and most of the time you get vague answers like. “ok lang”,” ‘yong kwan’, “‘yong ano”, and the word “depende” in which when further asked leads to incomprehensible answers.

down2earth
Guest

most pinoys who freak out in english blurt out lines from movies. amalayer girl is no exception, hence the line, “I’m just returning the favor”. this has got to do with the problem in language proficiency in both urban/rural/private/public educational institutions in the Philippines as education has just become another business for the investors. so the average pinoys’ “english” is at best mediocre. surprisingly few pinoys have even seen or read a book on etiquette. that’s why we have ill-bred pinoys who wander the malls and streets strutting their mediocre english. who are we to blame then?

unconcerned
Guest

It seems that it is just about that time again of the year when Filipinos need their daily dozes of useless news to fret about. Instead of blaming themselves for the sad state of the country and doing something about it, they are again looking for the scapegoat that somehow will magically make their lives look less miserable. I guess it is this girl’s turn at the moment, how long could this placebo last?

For those that are more educated or at the least more civilized, I guess the Filipino identity just fell further down the sinkhole.

Migs
Guest
If not the Catholic religion or a “showbiz intriga”, recorded incidents of public scandal and misbehavior are THE DRUGS for most Filipinos whose lives are already drab and uncertain. The country’s mainstream media (be it in television, internet, radio, print) knows this, that’s why they have an effective formula to keep us from thinking about effective solutions and actions for real issues! I thought GRP would be a breath of fresh air (and it was!) but I guess it’s also succumbing to it. I guess it’s an ugly cycle, the media gives shitty information, the viewers (aka Filipinos) get used… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest
Migs, Love ’em or hate ’em, viral videos are now part of the social fabric of the 21st century. It isn’t as if you have the monopoly on righteous indignation. Look across the planet and you’ll find that when a circus like this erupts there will always be pundits who lament the fact that humans have nothing better to do than obsess over (Ms Salvosa’s) histrionics. And there will also be any number of satirists and late night talk show hosts featuring her on their personal “dumbest things of the week” list. In the end, we’ll probably look back on… Read more »
Felipe
Guest
The snippets of English-language dialogue in Philippine cinema almost always comes across as severely contrived — written by folk who have a superficial understanding of the sosyal people they try to bring to life in their hastily-written scripts. In pinoy teleseryes, those who are rich and english-speaking are typically depicted as evil villains, while those who are poor and straight tagalog-speaking tend to be portrayed as the heroes — as if ‘being rich and englsh-speaking’ is such a bad thing (unless, of course, they either have fallen in love with someone who belongs to that poorer class or have given… Read more »
Empi
Guest
Benigno, I got a question. This really puzzles me… What’s with the coveted American accent? What’s with it that most Filipinos are drooling over it to the point that Pinoys sometimes lousily try to immitate it? I am asking because I highly doubt that the American accent is the “correct” accent (and whether there’s such a thing as “correct” accent in English language is also open for debate). I have been to New Zealand and Kiwis have a very distinct accent. It’s hard to describe. Also, I have a very strong preference towards British accent. And finally, I myself have… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest

Hi Empi. A South African acquaintance of mine offered some insight into that.

She tells me that to the Europeans she’s talked to American English sounds “friendlier.” She puts it down to a drawl that, to their ears, sounds more approachable than the clipped, nasal twang of say, British speech. It makes them more relaxed to hear an American speak than an Englishman or someone from the continent.

Hyden Toro
Guest

I write in my Blogs in Taglish…

ChinoF
Member

Seems the issue started from the guard preventing Salvosa from entering the train because the latter refused to have her bag checked. But rules are rules: no bag check, no ride. I hope Salvosa (as well as those who attacked her) isn’t one of those who say, “Filipinos should learn to follow rules,” and then refuse to follow rules themselves.

Benign0 lives up once again to “begging to differ.” He pointed out how Filipinos may laugh at the “lousy English” of Salvosa, but may have “lousy English” themselves. Faux Majeure, Da Pinoy.

ChinoF
Member

And yes, anti-English sentiments are gonna bring down our country, I tell ya. Wait, it’s already bringing down our country.

JO-JO HOBO
Guest

anti-english sentiments? Where? maybe anti-U.S. imperialists(for good reason) but english? anyone who speaks one of the Roman-based languages and then listens to Thai,Visayan,Laotian,and just about all of the vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant languages spoken in S.E.Asia realizes that these languages are hard on the ears of the listener,sound as if they were developed by a child and are just poor excuses for a ‘language’ that is really just a step above facial expressions/ape speak. I mean really,who came up with ‘ummalaylay’,whew!(Help me out here!)…joke!

RF Garcia
Guest
Benigno is right for bringing up this matter because the murdering of English is no small issue.Our TV broadcasters have been perpetrating it and God knows how many Pinoy viewers have adopted their crooked English.Have you ever noticed them utter “s” in supposed to be plural words? Legacy Group of Company. Board of Director. Dalawa ang engine ng Piper Seneca. Hinabol ng mga pulis and tatlong carnapper. Where did the ‘s’ for Company, for Director, for engine and for carnapper go? During the fight at the airport by Baretto and Tulfo the broadcaster asked one of the one of the… Read more »
JO-JO HOBO
Guest

Former colonial master? Who does anyone think runs the Philippines? It certainly is not that balding,whats his name, ‘Nit-wit’?HA,might as well be ‘Jack-Ass’.
Taking a job that just needs an English speaker,and very little else, is just SAD.Those call center jobs are in the Philippines for a reason and it is not because they are high-paying.India has crapped out of that market because Indians do not want the dead-end crap job that ‘call center agent’ no doubt is.In 5-7 yrs.,neither will Filipino’s.It is slavery.

Trosp
Guest
“Taking a job that just needs an English speaker,and very little else, is just SAD.” The job is not just an English speaking proficiency. The applicants are also tested for their mental aptitude. I believe there are more call center jobs in our country that requires one to be with technical knowledge, aside from communication proficiency. And it’s a high paying job with very promising career opportunities. Much better than a security guard or a restaurant crew. The only setback is that these call center employees will have to work night shift throughout years. How about a scenario that call… Read more »
JO-JO HOBO
Guest
There is no contradiction,unless…no,I ain’t goin there…just don’t care.It is a bad job for anyone to take in the Phils.,for a lot of reasons.Globally speaking.Paying someone less money to do a job that workers in the states used to make a living doing is destroying the U.S. middle-class,working class,driving down the price of labor globally(and that is one reason why people in the fils need to stop having children they can not afford to feed…they are just producing futuree slaves,There I said it!T.S..)and keeping the people in the Phils poverty stricken anyway while they help destroy another economy,same thing w/China,those… Read more »