Language: Tools Of The Trade

I have always been fluent in English. You can say I grew up with the language.

When I was in high school, people around me seemed to be so enchanted by the English language. There were those who seemed impressed by the way I spoke English while there were those who hated me for the same reason. Of course, growing up in the 80’s, most of the cartoon shows I got to watch were in English, further sharpening what knowledge I had in it. It was in fact the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who taught me the words “unstable DNA” and it was the Transformers who taught me the meaning of the word “cosmic”. It was only in college that I learned that not everyone was skilled in English and that there are actually people who get offended when you use it around them. It was actually around then that I started hearing people saying that their noses bled when I spoke English around them (to be honest though, I actually thought they were trying to imply I was hot because nasty anime characters tend to get nosebleeds when they see something sexy or nasty going on).

english_languageAnyway, what baffles me to this day is just how many Filipinos treat the language. While English is considered a national language along with reliable old “Tagalog” which many insist should be called “Filipino”, there are a lot of people who demand that English be removed from the school curriculum and that all forms of media be translated to “Filipino”. This, despite the fact that knowing how to speak English fluently has always been the strong point of Filipinos and is one of the things that has helped us keep up with the global community.

On the other hand though, there are a lot of people who have a different view of the English language altogether. Some people, usually the more elite (or people who think they’re elite), use English as a symbol of their self-proclaimed “superiority”. It’s not at all that different from the way Russian aristocracy once used French in their language, to make themselves seem more superior than the peasants they ruled over. These are people who consciously try to speak English without an accent or add as much American or British in the way they talk so people will be impressed with their alleged “fluency”. I am willing to admit though that during my earlier years, thanks to my grandfather’s influence, I did carry a bit of Appalachian accent which I thankfully mostly lost in college.

Well then, for both sides of the argument, let me clarify something for you. English is a language of trade. I mean sure, not everyone uses it for business, but most major businesses have English as a language option. I’m not really sure, but I doubt majority of video games being manufactured today have a Swahili, Inuit, Esperanto or Filipino voice over. English is right up there with Spanish and Chinese when it comes to being the most frequently spoken language in the world and is used as an official language by the European Union and the United Nations.

On he whole though, I’ll go back to what I said earlier: English is a language of trade. To put things into perspective, let’s discuss a little history…

English evolved from the German language, so it’s actually related to languages like Dutch, Afrikaans and Yiddish. As its name implies, it is a language originally used by the people of England and goes back as far as the Roman Age, when centurions marched across the plains of Britain. English shares some similarity with Latin as well, implying that it is actually a “child” language of both German and Latin, just as Afrikaans is the child of Dutch, English, German and African dialects (excuse me, my nose is bleeding). Anyway, one can imagine that English got its beginnings when the Romans wanted to trade with Germans and Celtics.

Case in Point:

German Barbarian: Was Denn?
Scottish Celtic: Chan eil mi ‘gad thuigsinn.
Roman Centurion: R
epetere placet.
Scottish Celtic: Hey, let’s just speak English guys, this isn’t getting us anywhere.
German Barbarian: Okay, that’s better.
Roman Centurion: So what were you guys saying?
Scottish Celtic: I was saying something about getting tickets for the Colosseum for me and my family.
German Barbarian: And I was looking to sign up for a fight there.
Roman Centurion: Well gentlemen, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve even got a promo for this year: kids can watch for free as long as they’re accompanied by their parents. It’s more fun to watch people’s limbs get hacked off when you’ve got your family with you.
Scottish Celtic: That sounds like a sweet deal.
Roman Centurion: And that’s not all, we’ll also be selling mugs and t-shirts printed with the face of and signed by the Caesar himself!
German Barbarian: Will I get to meet Caesar if I win?
Roman Centurion: Not only that. We’ll throw in your own mansion somewhere in Rome and a slave of your own choosing to boot!
German Barbarian: COOL!

As it is with Taglish (which is the unruly child of English and “Filipino”), English came together as more Germans, Romans and Celtics made contact with each other, traded, intermarried, warred, became friends, warred again, established a peaceful organization that they can ignore together, warred again, ad infinitum. It’s usually how languages evolve in the first place.

Now, back to the present. The English language might not be all that superior to other languages at all. In fact, from my perspective at least, it seems a lot simpler than traditional “Filipino”. However, no matter how you view it, most foreign media (save for dramas from Latin America and South Korea), instruction manuals and modern businesses will have English as a primary language. While Filipinos do speak very good English at best and can at least understand its basic meaning at worst, its sad to say that there are a misguided few who still seek to remove it from our schools because of the perceived notion of “American Imperialism”.

Stephen King once compared language vocabulary to a toolbox. While Tagalog, or “Filipino” if you insist, is interesting in and of itself, it is only a minority language of the world. Sure, it might be prevalent where there are a lot of Filipinos, but I’m sure that not many foreigners will even bother with it unless Filipinos are included in some kind of international event. And even then, they’re still likely to use English for us anyway because we are known for its use.

Unfortunately, as the country continues to fall deeper into poverty and our youth get dumber in each generation, it seems that even our skills with the English language will wane over time. Heck, translated films are already being aired by local channels on a regular basis and that most people of the present generation treat English like Enochian. It saddens me to note that in the time of my parents and grandparents, Spanish and Chinese (both of which are probably two of the most widely spoken languages in the world) were still taught in schools but are now all but forgotten by today’s air-headed youth. Is it only a matter of time before English too is forgotten?

Children of today, please take note: English is not Enochian. No, it isn’t supposed to summon eldrtich abominations (I was summoned into your dimension using an Ilokano incantation) and it’s not supposed to make your nose bleed (my manliness and sex appeal will do that). So please, English might be one of the few things that’s keeping us competent from a global perspective, so let’s work to keep it in place.

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Post Author: Grimwald

I came that you may know PAIN and have it in abundance…

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31 Comments on "Language: Tools Of The Trade"

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Dr. A. Nonymous
Guest

The author said “English evolved from the German language,”

That is incorrect. German and English are sister languages that evolved at the same time in different places and are both descended from a common language called either ‘Anglo-Saxon’ or ‘Old English’. Despite being called Old English it is very different from modern English and German so that modern people can’t understand it, yet much of both English and German is based on it. It is as difficult for a modern English speaker to understand Anglo-Saxon as it is for him to understand High German.

Dick S. O'Rosary
Guest
Nice article there, though I just want to explain how English really came about, for the sake of accuracy. English is actually the product conquest and being conquered. During the Roman time, English wasn’t originally spoken in the British Isles. The British Isles were originally settled by Celts: Gaelic, Welsh and Pictish speakers and Latin by the Roman Conquerors. The Germanic speakers who would go on to speak English were still in Germania–a land of “Grimm Walds” (pun intended), where the Romans dare not venture–the memory of the lost legions, victims of “der schlact im Teutoburger Wald” was still fresh.… Read more »
jameboy
Guest

The question is, are Filipinos backsliding on English? Is our capability to speak the language declining or suffering for some reason? Are we improving and getting better through the years or we need to do more that those demanding its removal from school curriculum are simply wrong?

Dave
Guest

I only know that in Mindanao, my wife’s generation grew up with English as the language of instruction in school, but now our nephews and nieces are being taught in local Bisaya, and English is relegated to English classes.

Ricardo_Diaz
Guest
As a teacher who teaches the use of the english language, Definitely. To answer part of your question, sometime around 2000 and beyond, the local politicians are ti blame. In an attempt to strengthen “National Identity” they flat out removed English in early school curriculum, made most of the schoolbooks that used to be English into tagalog. The other half was because most Filipinos have no reason to learn English. Compare and contrast the 90s and today. As someone who grew up in the 90s, the books, the news, most of the TV shows, movies, cartoons and anime are in… Read more »
Dave
Guest

Subtitling foreign movies and TV rather than dubbing makes a huge difference. When I was travelling, I noticed that Swedish people tended to be particularly fluent in English compared to many other Europeans, and I learned that they don’t use dubbing.

LA702
Guest
@ Grimwald Where in the world was that place you said people were “enchanted” when you spoke the English language? I thought every cave in the world have been explored and discovered? This essay is more about you more than what it is about where Filipinos might want to see the English language in the years to come. I say, Filipinos can let the language wither away or abolish its usage completely or make it a lifestyle language like the Taglish. Language acquisition is a skill so why waste time learning a second language when Filipinos have not mastered their… Read more »
kuro
Guest

Simple. Is Philippines a world power like the Germans, Japanese, Russians, and Chinese you’ve mentioned? Is Tagalog a sought after global language that will improve the skill-set of the world’s people to effectively communicate in business and trading?

Hyden004Toro
Guest

English is the language of Modern Technology. I have yet to attend a Scientific/Technical Seminar, with the Speaker, speaking in Pilipino.

In some Technical people meetings, I have not heard a Technical person, describing his/her work in Pilipino. We communicate in English, and we can understand each other. Even though, we are from different countries.

I am very lucky to learn English, and several other languages…it is a Plus on my resume…

LA702
Guest

@ Hyden004Toro

When the former USSR launched the Sputnik to circle around the earth, it was hailed the greatest accomplishment of mankind in the 20th century. The Russians used their own language, not English.

In the United Nations auto translator devices are used both by English speaking and non-English speaking diplomats.

Gogs
Member

Limit your world to media that exclusively uses Tagalog. News, reading, TV, movies. I have no idea who in their right might will come out smarter. Yet we know people who have done that for decades of their lives. That is the reality for the majority of this nation. Somebody remind me again why am I supposed to be proud to be pinoy.

Carlo
Guest

Are you telling us that English is the better language than our own language. That Filipinos are dumb because our media patronize Tagalog/Filipino as their medium?

This article is all about English as a tool to keep us competitive globally and not as the better language.

ChinoF
Member

This is not about the better language. That’s a valid test Gogs calls for. What if we limit our material to certain languages. What opens/closes us to more opportunities? I believe the answer will be obvious.

KENKOY
Guest
ENGLISH is best for global external application, but internally, FILIPINO, in a fragmented archipelago just like ours, aims to unite our people. The Philippines is not only Manila or Cebu or Davao alone for one. A National Language is a socio-cultural, historical thing. It’s our IDENTITY as a people! Language, more than anything, is a tool of communication. It’s suppose to be The TIE THAT BINDS…a Nation! UNITY through Language, that promotes Understanding and Cooperation, is PROGRESS! Chairman Mao, ideology aside, will have a hard time unifying an immensely huge country like China if not for unifying power of their… Read more »
Hyden0011Toro
Guest
@LA702: German Nazi Technology was the first to send a man made object to enter the fringes of Outer Space. It was not the “Sputnik” program of the Soviet Union. During the impending defeat of Nazi Germany, in World War II: The top German Nazi Rocket Scientist: Dr. Wernher Von Braun and his 100 key personnel, surrendered to the U.S. They came to America to launch the NASA Space program, as well as the ICBM program. The British got the : (1) Me-168B Rocket Interceptor, and the Me-262 Jet Fighter. (2) It got also the hydrogen peroxide and hydrazine hydrate… Read more »
marius
Guest
The Philippines is already massively disadvantaged by protectionist trade policies that prevent modern technology from reaching the people who need it. If nobody can speak (or read) English properly, they’re also cut off from knowledge about that technology, so the Philippines can’t even develop local equivalents. Assuming they could be bothered. And assuming there were anyone smart and educated enough to do so. Thus the Philippines will wallow forever in the stone age. Of course, that might be precisely what the politicians intend. People who are uneducated have no means to learn anything about the outside world are more likely… Read more »
LA702
Guest
@ Hyden0011Toro Wernher Von Braun’s fascination to conquer space was a deep seated belief that their people was descended from Mars. His “Bell Project” launched successfully into space a few years prior to Nazi Germany’s defeat but never to be seen again. Reports also of Von Braun’s successful landing on Mars. There’s a lot to discuss about black project operations but this is not the right forum…my other lap top had been shot down, so I’m being defensive now. The “Sputnik” became what was officially known as the start of space race between the US and the former USSR. My… Read more »
Hyden009Toro
Guest

LA702:

It was that way, I was accepted in the American University. Maybe, your friends were special cases. Your property in LA is out of question.
You can read some books and see some film, after Nazi Germany was defeated.. ithey are there. Von Braun is the best Rocket Scientist, during that time. UFO or no UFO…it is out of the topic. My little knowledge is out of the topic ,also…I’m just stating what i’ve read and what i’ve learned from my German co-workers. Their parents came here in the U.S., with Von Braun…and they have PHDs…

Hyden0034Toro
Guest

You can also read the Peenemunde Rocket Research Center of Nazi Germany. It was headed, by Dr. Werhner Von Braun…they designed and successfully launched there the Nazi Germany , Vengeance Rocket (V1 & V2)…this rocket was copied by Soviet Union in launching their Sputnik project.

V2 Rockets devastated London, during World War II. The Soviet “Scud Missile” has the same design as this V2 Rocket…

Hyden0011Toro
Guest

It should read “TurboJet” not “TubuJet”…sorry for the mispelling…

Hyden0773Toro
Guest

The TurboJet Engine was developed by the British Scientist: Frank Whittle; and the German Scientist: Hans Von Ohain..

It was developed during the late 1930s.
The TurboJet Engine uses Gas Turbine with Propelling Nozzles…it is now obsolete…

Gilby
Guest

Fully agree with the article. English is the National and Official Language of the Philippines. End of story.

d_forsaken
Guest
Language is my whore, my mistress, my wife, my pen-friend, my check-out girl. Language is a complimentary moist lemon-scented cleansing square or handy freshen-up wipette. Language is the breath of God, the dew on a fresh apple, it’s the soft rain of dust that falls into a shaft of morning sun when you pull from an old bookshelf a forgotten volume of erotic diaries; language is the faint scent of urine on a pair of boxer shorts, it’s a half-remembered childhood birthday party, a creak on the stair, a spluttering match held to a frosted pane, the warm wet, trusting… Read more »
G
Guest
As someone who lives in America and has been here all of her life, it hurts me to read that Filipino is not a tool. It is most definitely a tool! It is a tool in maintaining our culture, individuality, and nation. It is painful to see others feel disadvantageous knowing and developing Filipino, when I yearn to embrace it and know it as its fullest. Although I do agree that English is highly important in maintaining our global relations, it is also important to support our own language(s). Filipino, and its many dialects, is such a big part of… Read more »
Rehtej
Guest

Like the previous person stated, it is truly saddening how some people are disparaging the Filipino language, and to know that some of them are actually our “kababayan”.

Lemnemonic
Guest
One of the many things that always bothered me was the Filipino language. The so called “patriots” and “nationalists” always lamented the lack of love for the Filipino language. What exactly is this country’s language? Important documents cite “Filipino” as the language that binds us. Really? It’s nothing more than a sorry result of Tagalog raping all the other dialects. Yes, there are inclusions of Ilocano, Waray and whatnot, but I don’t here or even read those words in a consistent enough period to merit practical status. I don’t that “Filipino” is the proverbial One Ring, the language that binds… Read more »