Language is one of the most basic elements that define a culture or nation. For many countries, it is the unifying factor of their people and the key distinctive that sets them apart from other societies around them.
Much has been discussed and even debated on the Philippine’s pursuit and cultivation of a national language. Some say it is a waste of time; others say we need it for national identity (another way of saying “to feed Pinoy pride”). It is enshrined in the constitution, and our institutions, mainly education and media, have gone to great lengths to establish Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino) as the common denominator of every Filipino who resides in this vast archipelago of many tribes and tongues. Great – we’re united, but at what cost?
Vocabulary = Power
We all know that Tagalog is a very limited language, particularly in the area of vocabulary. One word in English will have at times up to a dozen synonyms, each giving a diversifying inflection or slightly different flavor to the main word. On the other hand, Tagalog not only lacks a lot of equivalents of English words in its vocabulary, it also has very few synonyms for each word.
What arsenal (array of weapons) is to a soldier in a battlefield vocabulary is to a person reasoning or arguing in a discussion or debate. The reason many Filipinos are intellectually bankrupt, lose in a duel of words, and just end up resorting to expletive-loaded ad hominem attacks is because they limit themselves to a very weak language, a tool that is no match to an ever advancing world around it. Filipinos act as if they are the proverbial hare in the race with the turtle, when in fact they do not have the luxury to stay lethargic about their own level amidst the exponential increase in knowledge in this fast-evolving modern age?
Each word in the dictionary corresponds to a different world or dimension. The reason why some people are very powerful is that they have access to more worlds than many of us. Just think for example of how some article or book writers are able to articulate a lot of concepts, paradigms, and ways of looking at a situation. The key is in possessing an enhanced and rich selection of words that empower the proponent of an argument or idea to take readers on a journey that transcends the average Pinoy mentality and worldview.
Three Powerful Nation-Altering Words
To further illustrate the power of vocabulary, let’s touch on just three words I believe Filipinos should add into their collection.
Much of the dysfunction we see in our basic services is rooted in the lack of this key word in people’s basic way of thinking. Convenience is a choice that one can create. For example, if I were a bank manager, how should I set up the system of making customers queue for their turn to be accommodated by the teller? Should I have them line up standing for hours, or should I install an automated sequential number system so they can take a seat while waiting for their number to flash up front?
People who lack this word in their vocabulary are relegated to a counter-productive mentality that goes: “this is the way we’ve been doing it; so this is the best way it can be done.” Take for example riding a jeepney: why do we have to ask other passengers to pass our payment over to the driver, have the driver look for change while driving (illegal in many first world countries), and then have those same people pass the change back to us? Why not create some convenient way of payment like an RFID card system that automatically deducts the fare upon riding the jeepney? And why do we have to shout “Para” amidst the bustling noise, when push buttons can be installed onto the jeepney ceiling to signal to the driver way up front that a passenger wants to get off at the next “authorized stop”?
Many Filipinos do not have the slightest idea of this word. They think that working hard is the same as working smart. Take for example an ax that is dull. Would it be better to spend 10 minutes sharpening it first in order to complete a wood cutting job in 15 minutes (total 25 minutes), than to force the poor dull ax blade to do the same job in 2 hours? (Pinoy scratching his head now) In the end, the lifetime of the ax’s handle is greatly reduced due to the amount of excessive force it had to absorb in an inefficient process.
Efficiency even has an equation: amount of work done per unit time. Do Filipinos even wonder why some people like Steve Jobs can do more in 24 hours than a dozen Filipinos can in a week? Is it any wonder why in terms of productivity (per capita GDP), 1 Singaporean is equivalent to 20 Filipinos?
Instead of thinking up new ways to make a task less time consuming, Filipinos try to look busy just to get their meager day’s wage to survive.
Aha, this is a good one. If you look at the workmanship of many “skilled” Filipinos, you will wonder if it was the product of your 6 year-old or if the guy who worked on it had a hangover from last night. The margin for deviation is so large in the Philippines at times, that it’s appalling that kid’s toys like Lego blocks are far better than the building blocks used in industries/products that are a matter of life and death for end-users.
Related to precision are words like “accuracy” and “standard.” If you stopped a random Filipino walking on the road and asked him to explain the difference between “precision” and “accuracy”, how many do you think will get it right? These are two different paradigms; and failure to understand these concepts can be devastating to a project or endeavor.
If the Philippines started a space program to launch rockets, failing to have a good grasp of these concepts can spell multi-billion pesos in losses and wasted man-hours if the payload ends up crashing into the open sea.
We can go on and on discussing more words one at a time, but the simple point is this: the reality is that Filipinos are weak and prone to failure and dysfunction because they fail to empower themselves. They are happy to spend most of their free time chilling out or watching their useless crappy TV shows that bring nothing of productive value. Yes, Filipinos are having fun, and get to laugh a lot. Ultimately it’s a choice – dysfunction can be stamped out of our society; but are Filipinos willing to work at it at the cost of those bellowing echoes of “halakhakan”.
Forget the sham “People Power” guys. It’s “Word Power” that counts. Mabuhay ang wikang Ingles! Long live the empowered Filipino!
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