Top-notch command of the English language opens doors

We’d like to believe that we deserve a society that treats people fairly regardless of how well they speak and write English and regardless of whether they speak it with a regional accent or not. We think, if we continue stomping our feet enough in a loud appeal to nationalist sentiment, that we could one day see a society where people with a fourth-grade level of English language proficiency are as well-regarded as those of us who are privy to the kind of thinking and knowledge that only the English language (as well as the languages of cultures with extensive track records of achievement) can efficiently convey.

Unfortunately what we think we deserve is not usually what we actually get.

english_languageSome people here may not have noticed it yet, but differences in degree of command over the English language across the population is one of the key polarising forces in Filipino society — whether we like it or not. That is the grim reality whether it be in the mad scramble for plum positions in Government and the corporate world or a competition of ideas bourne out of those rare bursts of thinking outside the square (more specifically, thinking outside of the square of Pinoy-grade thinking).

As I did write in my book:

Acquisition of knowledge – the fuel for intellectual advancement – is an unnecessarily challenging issue in Philippine Society. The few volumes of material containing useful information in, say Tagalog, being turned out by the heroics of a few purists – and translators – constitute a trickle compared to the torrent of knowledge that is churned out by the advanced world everyday. The Philippine Elite, armed with their private school or foreign university educations – and superior command of English – readily soak this all up. The masses, on the other hand, struggle to grasp the same ideas through severely limited communication faculties. The insult of an inability to acquire ideas articulated in English is added to the injury of their lack of access to quality education.

Thus, the obvious Truth stares us in the face:

– English opens doors.

Excellent English gets you through those doors first.

Indeed.

It gets you the great jobs.

Dish out a good dose of the ol’ “Arrneo” accent and watch the smiles that follow in the faces of recruiters. Demonstrate consistent grammar, spelling, and sentence construction, and you find favour among managers who constantly fret over wasted time proofreading the reports and emails of the more vastly numerous products of the Philippines’ diploma mills.

It gets you the chicks.

Don’t believe all those Tagalog movies where Sharon Cuneta the kolehiyala falls for Robin Padilla the kanto boy. Those movies make a lot of money by playing on the sad frustrations and fantasies of the vast majority of Filipino males.

It gets you an audience.

An audience that matters, that is. Because, honestly folks, how much can one actually expect to learn from pandering to a crowd that finds comfort in re-assuring one another that being “down-to-earth” (read: mediocre) in English is “o.k.”? There’s a false sense of safety in the immense comforting numbers of Filipinos who come together in a gigantic love-in on the basis of a shared sense of exclusion from that tiny but elite world where world-class ideas are exchanged — and profitably exploited — in high-fallutin’ glory. They are the masses and therefore the audience that matters, some say. Suuure. And yet we tremble at the might they wield come election time. Why do we “tremble”? Because we have come to know the palpable stupidity of the popular vote. What then do we learn by pandering to them? Leave that effort to the politicians — a profession where even morons can succeed.

It so happens that the VAST majority of Filipinos are unable to cobble together an English paragraph without sporadically reverting to Tagalog words or simply turning the text into an incoherent spaghetti-like mishmash of subject-verb disagreements, inconsistent multiple clauses, and appalling application of idiomatic expressions (in the context of those, minor spelling oversights can be forgiven). Tragic when one considers how so many otherwise insightful ideas are not done justice by the people who wish to convey them, all because we prefer to find comfort in the warm fuzzy mediocrity of the vast majority.

The good news is that although I highlight that the tiny elite who enjoy an excellent command of English are overwhelmingly products of elite private schools, there are exceptional exceptions. You can see this in the few who have recognised what it takes to succeed in a society ravaged by a particularly debilitating strain of colonial mentality, and the broader reality of a world utterly dominated by a lingua franca that Filipinos once upon a time had a legitimate claim to mastery over in the region.

The bottom line is that English proficiency can be acquired regardless of the circumstances of one’s upbringing. One only needs to stare what is real in the face and recognise what it takes to succeed.

The alternative will be a pathetic resignation to a lifetime of demanding that those who think as a matter of habit dumb down the language that they use.

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Post Author: benign0

benign0 is the Webmaster of GetRealPhilippines.com.

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57 Comments on "Top-notch command of the English language opens doors"

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thelivingmj
Guest

Until now, I’m still trying to improve my command of the English language.It’s not easy if you don’t speak it frequently but I’m not giving up either.:)

OnesimusUnbound
Guest

Get yourself someone from through Skype to practice English with. 🙂

OnesimusUnbound
Guest

“Get yourself someone from . . .”

from an English – speaking nation

kaede
Guest

That’s the spirit! I, too, am doing my best to improve my command of the English language, especially with the usage of puns.

Despair
Member

Me too. I’m still finding some difficulty in commanding the English language. Well, practice makes mastery. So I’ll not giving up too.

Markus
Guest
In this, I agree completely. Simple stuff that should have been taught before the average kid has a complete set of body hair (like singular vs. plural, or past vs. present vs. future tense . . . simple stuff) is horribly evident in the way most Filipinos use English. Additionally, the Filipino subculture revels in inventing new words, even entirely new dialects. To add to the problem, the public thinks it’s cute to use lame puns and asinine wordplay that tend to butcher the context of what the words originally meant. Think I’m spouting feces from my pie hole? Try… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest

reminds me of jejemon all of a sudden.

got to hand it to our fellow Filipinos back then..they can speak Tagalog so well and now they can’t. Taglish ain’t Tagalog and never will be. Might as well stick to English instead.

kaede
Guest
Oooooh yes!!!! I read so many rants on Facebook regarding some topics (K-pop to be exact), and some fans always get the subject-verb agreement messed up. It really irks me, and honestly, I wonder how many people out there should receive life imprisonment for murdering the English language. I admire Mr. GreatMind, the Yahoo troll, because he has a great command of the English language, though most of time, I have to cringe at his opinions. Also, there are those who want to convey a question, but they write it like it is a reason or a subordinate clause. Example:… Read more »
Truthspeaker
Guest

Samuel L. Jackson drives the point home. English is worth learning well.

andrew
Guest

Pulp Fiction’s best scene.

Carmichael
Guest
Excellent English is one thing..having a skill, other than language, that you’re good at is another. I’ve been at heat with these English vs. Tagalog articles because it just feels like we’re giving them “elites” a good reason over the phrase “tagalog is the language of the streets”..It’s an un-improved language true but who’s fault is that? It be dumb not to consider learning English and be good about it. But dang, the way we perceived language skills it’s not about being professional but more on swagger and bragging rights. Even folks in America feel that English isn’t enough for… Read more »
Hyden Toro
Guest

Unfortunately, I write in Taglish (English and Tagalog). English is the language of our civilization. Just like LATIN, some centuries back…it is the language of science, technology, advance medicine, advance thoughts, etc…I wish it were Tagalog, but, it is not. Neither is Spanish…Japanese and Chinese have their own languages…as well as Germans and French. However, long time ago, they use their own languages in advancing their technologies…so, we don’t have no choice…use English and progress…be a stubborn nationalist and you remain where you are…

Carmichael
Guest
I hate it when people associate Tagalog with close-minded nationalism..like I said it’s stupid nowadays to learn English yet it’s just annoying to treat your own dialect like dirt like what some Filipinos are seeing it. and when you said that we have no choice..there’s my point right there. We’re learning a language for our very lives, because there’s no money to be made with the local language, it’s not the same way as to why other countries are starting to consider English while STILL not treating their own language as crap and really..we Filipinos have no idea what nationalism… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest

*correction

It’s stupid nowadays NOT to learn English

Jim DiGriz
Guest

On the international scene speaking Filipino is a useful as speaking Swahili. And yes, Tagalog is CLOSELY associated with close-minded nationalism, it comes from the time when Cory Aquino stunk up the whole country with her brain fart “proud to be a Filipino”.

Carmichael
Guest

No wonder the hate towards those who wants Tagalog to stay..but hey we don’t want people treating the local linggo like crap..that’s my side for nationalism’s sake.

Jim DiGriz
Guest
There used to be more Filipinos speaking English then one local dialect. Back in the 80s English was part of life. English was taught in School. There was no cable TV, but 70% of everything on TV was English. The TV shows from the US, the local news (ABSCBN, GMA, Channel 9) were all in English, talk shows and the cartoon for children were in English. Et cetera. Therefor Filipinos picked up English just by watching TV, especially the kids. Then in comes that dimwit Cory Aquino and snuffs out the only advantage Filipinos had when they were going abroad.… Read more »
joeld
Guest
@ Jim My sentiments, exactly. Hence my hatred of the more popular local TV networks. And still the idiots keep harping on about ‘proud to be pinoy’. Cory was successful in “dumbing down” the pinoy. This mother tongue thing by the department of education of the Aquino ver. 2.0 also makes sure of this. I don’t know if it’s just me, but the president himself also manifests how low our standards now by most of his speeches and interviews. It is in tagalog and seems to be trying too hard to restrain himself from saying tagalog slang. He should at… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest
“Let’s face it; the biggest export is human labor. So why on earth would you purposely destroy the language advantage that Filipinos had?” I’m not suggesting that. And going with that statement don’t we hope that one day we can stop this trend and have industries here so that we don’t see our children doing the same thing we are doing now? and really are we just going to be satisfied with we’re the best English-speaking group of people in the world..yet somehow other nations are doing WAY better than we are despite the language fluency? Do we have the… Read more »
joeld
Guest
You missed the point. That generation of the Philippine population who speaks good english are the ones who are keeping this country barely afloat for the past decades. Weakening that selling point also weakened our global competitiveness, as Jim Digriz had clearly pointed out in his comment. Sure, language alone cannot propel this nation out of this crap, but definitely having a mastery of the international language helps…. a lot. Do you really think that the tagalog the average Juan is speaking is really Filipino language? It is a bastardized from of tagalog if you ask me. You want that… Read more »
joeld
Guest

bastardized form – not from

Johnny Saint
Guest
“and really are we just going to be satisfied with we’re the best English-speaking group of people in the world..yet somehow other nations are doing WAY better than we are despite the language fluency? Do we have the government to blame for that yet again?” YES WE CAN blame the Philippine government for this state of affairs. Not just the current administration but also the previous ones going back to the founding of the republic. Our leaders drop words like ‘nationalism’ and ‘Pinoy pride’ into the conversation about what is ‘best’ for the country and the Filipino people. They propose… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest
“Weakening that selling point also weakened our global competitiveness, as Jim Digriz had clearly pointed out in his comment.” -So are we just satisfy in English competency? How do other countries do surprisingly well than us even though they recognized the need for English language yet uses it along with what they do best..and here we are just good English speakers and has nothing else to offer..Are we all ok with that? “Do you really think that the tagalog the average Juan is speaking is really Filipino language? It is a bastardized from of tagalog if you ask me. You… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest

As far as bad governance goes..we should really learn to vote the right people..having foresight is just as helpful as well.

It would all work well if done well.

joeld
Guest
Whoever said to “scrap” the tagalog dialect? The point being made here is that the overall state of the country cannot be hinged upon the mistaken pinoy pride and nationalism which this government has always been fond of mentioning during their campaigns. Do you really think that a kid who watches sponge bob in dubbed tagalog will be better off than a kid who watches it in english in about 20 years time? Let us not kid ourselves, tagalog is hardly usable in a highly technical environment such as engineering and other fields. “and here we are just good English… Read more »
Johnny Saint
Guest
Carmichael, You don’t seem to comprehend the post. That the majority of Filipinos know how to communicate in spoken and written English is a given. You made a comment questioning whether government is to blame for the country’s poor progress vis-à-vis the country’s language proficiency. The gist of the matter is YES, government is to blame. Several ill advised endeavours have been made to promote a ‘national language’ as a means of inculcating national unity as a vehicle for national progress. On the face of it, this was a bad idea and a waste of time. Especially when there are… Read more »
Jim DiGriz
Guest
@Carmichael It seems that you don’t understand the concept of being globally competitive. Do you honestly believe the Philippines would be better off if no one spoke any English? The point that I was trying to drive home here was that English was available for all to be picked up without any effort. Naturally you will still speak your own language with your family and people around you, will you not? “Ethnologue” lists 175 individual languages in the Philippines, 171 of which are living languages. The only language which truly unites Filipinos is English. Because most likely it is the… Read more »
Carmichael
Guest
wow, this is still going on? “I want my country to have it’s own identity and unique contributions to the world..our local dialects is what makes us what we are.” —Uhmm, Just what contribution can the tagalog dialect make to the world? You are having a false sense of importance. Ok sure, don’t put importance in national identity as long as we can pay the bills? And calling this a false sense of Nationalism? Language is just part of it..but I guess screw all that so that I can afford my house and car right? Sure, screw my identity as… Read more »
joeld
Guest
A country’s identity cannot be defined by the language they speak. A country will be known for whatever collective achievements that its people had undertaken and succeeded. Japan is known by the world as they made strides in electronics and automotive industry as a result of their inherent trait to be able focus their attention to minute details and extreme sense of self discipline. Nihonggo is just in the background and has nothing to do with how the world sees them. You want to showcase the Philippines, then name something in which the filipinos, as a nation, would be able… Read more »
oipskke
Guest

aanuhin mu nmn ung galing mu s english kung masama nmn ugali moh?
at bukod p s masama ugali mo eh ang pangit mu pah!
kung aquh sau ayus-ayusin mu muna ichura mo ksi malayo mararating moh kung di ka mukang basahan ei!

kaede
Guest

Ay? Jejemon ang peg? Yung mga salita mo, pakibaybay mo nang maayos. Hindi ka nagte-text, at lalo na, wala kang excuse para magpaka-Jejemon. Marami ang space sa comment box.

Johnny Saint
Guest

Sa mga nagbabasa…

Huwag po ninyong tularan si ‘oipskke.’ Bukod sa pagiging mangmang na filisteong walang pagpapahalaga sa kayamanan ng ibang kultura, wala siyang kakayanan na magpahayag ng kahit na simpleng kaisipan sa sariling wika.

Johnny Derp
Guest

No excuse to post jejemon here if the comment box is large enough.

To the jejemon retard:
“English, Motherf**ker, Do you speak it?”

WinterSoldier
Guest

TROLL. 😛

Accept that you’re a poor excuse of a human being.

Accept the truth or GO HOME.

Bebekoh
Guest
I worked abroad for almost 10 years now. Every year, I go home and I admit, I miss local TV shows. But when I found out that cartoons are all translated in Tagalog, I was outraged. I cannot believe the government would think Filipinos are dumb enough that they would think we cannot understand English, especially the kids. I grew up watching English cartoons and I never had problems understanding them. Same I would say to children today. I also don’t like it when Filipinos tend to be among themselves. I know it’s comfortable and easier to relate to when… Read more »
DingDong
Guest

As an Englishman, I can only compliment those who ‘Have-a-Go!’ Proficiency in English (albeit the ‘American Flavour’), is one of the main reasons why I chose to operate my business here; rather than other countries I could mention.

Generally, in the UK, the ability to speak another language has largely disappeared . . .

Sonounoskianto
Guest

I know is off topic but I just have to say Catherine Tate is simply awesome 🙂

Carmichael
Guest

Guess might as well ask this:

“Is someone who can’t speak English stupid?”

Johnny Saint
Guest

What is the point of your question?

Neither English proficiency nor ‘stupidity’ are mutually exclusive.

No one here even implied the idea. However, posing the question out of context is rather stupid.

Carmichael
Guest

This was the question often ask to us regarding the matter..The answer that I got from most of them is yes.

Even I got called stupid for not being that good in English.

Johnny Saint
Guest

Then the answer is obvious.

Stop associating with narrow-minded, pretentious bigots.

Johnny Saint
Guest

It should be noted that people who are bilingual generally use their brain more than those who are not. They are better at prioritising and multitasking. They are less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Jim DiGriz
Guest

“Is someone who can’t speak English stupid?”

No, he is uneducated or just a lazy bum. There is just no excuse these days not to speak any English. NON what-so-ever!

Dave
Guest

Apart from being uneducated, which you just noted but then dismissed as not an excuse. Well done for being born into a family that can afford good education, you must feel very proud.

Jim DiGriz
Guest

I’ll have you know you judgmental ass, that my knowledge of the English language has it’s foundation in Films and Comic books. You don’t have to be rich to be educated, since you can educate yourself. Ever heard of a public library Dave? Therefor, there is no real excuse for being uneducated. I stand by what I said. Uneducated people are lazy. I also stand by my statement that you are a judgmental ass.

Tesa
Guest
Hi Dave, I was born in a poor family and went to a public school. I finished my four-year college and earned a degree with having only 2 textbooks which I forcibly have to buy since it was required by our Professor. I was a working student to be able to afford my college education. What I did? I went to the library everyday in order to do my homework and projects in school. I watched English shows even cartoons on TV (neighbors TV by the way since we did not have one. I read every publication (comics, magazines, newspapers,… Read more »
Jim DiGriz
Guest

@ Tesa
This is exactly what I was talking about. More power to you!

Dave
Guest

In that case then, I guess my girlfriend’s free-loading layabout brothers really are just lazy after all. I bought into her throwing the blame elsewhere, I’m starting to see through all these excuses now.

Tesa
Guest

David, I’m glad that you are starting to see through things now. Don’t accept lame excuses and stop supporting the brothers of your girlfriend….in supporting their laziness you are not helping them at all. Nice of you to help but it should be on a case to case basis. P.S. I hope at least your girlfriend also has a job.

Dave
Guest
Last year I ‘loaned’ the family money to ‘invest’ in their store. They wasted some of it trying to set up a photo studio in an area where there was no business and eventually sold it for pittance. They know they’ll never get anything more from me, they blew their chance by being so incompetent. It doesn’t seem to make a difference anyway, the ageing parents still have trouble paying tuition fees for their teenage kids (seventh and eighth of the litter) whether I help them or not. My girlfriend received money for a while, because even though I don’t… Read more »
JT Jerzy
Guest

Sometimes,When speaking to Filipino’s it is easy to guess their education level fairly accurately. I asked a sori-sori store employee if she had a Coke'”Lite” can I might purchase. The woman looked at me quizzically, scrunched up her nose as if she smelled a rotting diaper and shook her head, east to west, all while saying nothing. I surmised the answer to be in the negative and figured the woman to be of kindergarten education.

Dave
Guest

Reminds me of when I tried to buy a bottle of water from a local store in Tacloban. There were about six of them sitting around and none of them understood what I was saying, they just repeated “wuh-tuh?” in confusion.

I’d only recently arrived in the country, so I didn’t know ‘tubig’ yet, or that I have to put on an American accent rather than British. It left me feeling confused (and thirsty).

Hyden Toro
Guest

@Dave:

In the Philippines, we speak American English…not British English…some people cannot understand English, spoken in British or Australian accent. I myself has hard in understanding British English…Inspite of my being married to one, speaking English with British accent..

Burakski
Guest

We don’t speak American English.
We butcher it.
We speak Filipino English. (This is different from Taglish.)

I consider Taglish as the substitution of English words in an otherwise correct Tagalog sentence and vice-versa. i.e., “Kailan ko kaya makukuha ang *passport* ko?”

Filipino English is the total distortion of the thought-speech process that results in stuff like this:
“Don’t English me! My nose bleeding because I don’t English!” (Overheard in a mall, seriously.)

Gilby
Guest

I fully agree with this article. The reason why Filipinos are poor in English is because they are badly educated. Tagalog TV sucks! In the Philippines, nationalism is a religion.

kid123
Guest

I really regret not taking English seriously when I was in my Teens. Back then I thought its for show off and “sosyal” . Now Im still having hard time writing emails and reports especially that Im applying for a managerial position. Im also disappointed of English shows in our local TV stations dub to tagalog for the younger generation where future employment for them will be from Foreign and BPO companies.

KratosGodofPeace
Guest
I am rather sad about the fact that you HAVE to become acquainted in English just to become accepted by PH society and get you further access to TBs of information and a lot of job opportunities. My father wanted me to ALWAYS post in Facebook IN ENGLISH just to become credible and accepting! They NEVER EVER wanted me to post something in Filipino because people WILL NOT, according to him, answer me nor regard me as another human being. “(In my mind) WHAT!? It doesn’t have to be that way” In fact, you can ALWAYS speak the language (Tagalog)… Read more »
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