Okay, so after all these years, I’ve really had it with Filipinos who don’t know how to speak in Filipino. As Philippines celebrates Independence Day, and with more Filipino kids not even capable of understanding or speaking in Filipino, I think it is high time to make a case for our mother tongue.
A Parent-Inflicted Child Disability?
Well, we’re not talking about a disease but, a crippled sense of culture. No, we’re not even going to talk about their sense of history (not yet, anyway but, I will soon), we’re just going to tackle more about children whose parents don’t teach them how to speak in Filipino. I don’t mean to be critical of how these moms and dads are raising their kids but, it has become very disturbing why these kids, being raised by Filipino parents, living in the Philippines, and attending regular Philippine schools are only being taught English.
Where my children attend school, kids like my son who know, live and breathe Filipino, are already finding the fact that majority of their classmates cannot even understand the language, absurd. A friend of mine who teaches in the same school has also been complaining about their students who are making their profession doubly hard by parents who aren’t teaching their children Filipino.
As I wonder why these parents put their children in such an awful situation, I can only think of 5 reasons why every Filipino child “needs” to learn to speak and understand Filipino:
Reason No. 1: They live in the Philippines. In case you missed, Filipino is the national language. If you’ve been to southern provinces in the Visayas and Mindanao or, have been colleagues with people who were raised in these areas, they would sometimes even hesitate to converse with you in Filipino because of the regional accent. They probably wouldn’t talk to your son or daughter who only speaks in English, although they will perfectly understand what he or she is saying.
In short, you are gravely depriving your children of the opportunity to connect, socialize, and collaborate with his or her own countrymen.
Reason No. 2: Filipino is part of the educational system. There is, in fact, a compulsory subject in school which is “Filipino”. Your child is guaranteed to fail it if he or she hasn’t been taught how to speak and understand the language.
My son who is in Intermediate School tells me that some of his classmates don’t even know what the meaning of very common words like, “paaralan (school)” or “tumatakbo (running)” is. He says, “kawawa naman (how pitiful)”. Whenever they have drills or exams, the teacher has to translate every word to these children every time. Indeed, it is a pitiful situation, isn’t it? Besides, children who perfectly understand Filipino have to put up with the burden of spending more than enough time on one topic to accommodate their classmate’s “parent-inflicted disability”.
Reason No. 3: It’s best that they are capable of communicating in both Filipino and English. Our culture has very deep links with the English language. Even today, older people who were taught in the American system of education back in the days when American soldiers and missionaries taught in public schools would beat a college student when speaking in English.
Too much Tagalog is not the reason why our English is of a poorer quality now than it was about two or three generations ago. Still, we are the Number 1 destination for voice-based back office operations (including call centers) because we are very adaptable when it comes to learning, not only English, but also other foreign languages in general. Those people who are thriving in the industry grew up in an educational system that had both Filipino and English in the curriculum — they didn’t have to be taught English exclusively since birth to speak the language well.
Reason No. 4: Filipino is a uniquely beautiful language. If you know your history well, you must know that Filipino (once called, “Tagalog”) is a hodgepodge of many local dialects and foreign languages woven into a meaningful system of communication. It has a unique brand where not every word can find a proper English equivalent.
To this day, we still use words with origins that can be traced back to the Sanskrit, Chinese, Bahasa, Español, and, yes, even English. If there is “American English” and “British English”, we have “Taglish (Tagalog and English)” which, more and more people, even our institutions, including the media, have learned to embrace over the years.
The regional dialects are just as beautiful. If you have the chance to teach your children Ilocano, Visayan, Chavacano or, something else, you should. People appreciate it when you take time and exert effort to learn to converse in their dialect. Your child will be able to more easily connect with others.
Reason No. 5: Your child is Filipino. Don’t you want him or her to love and appreciate our Filipino heritage? Even my relatives who grew up in the US and friends with Filipino parents who grew up elsewhere understand Filipino, most of them can even engage in ordinary day-to-day conversations in Filipino. It will be a shame for your children not to know how to speak it most especially when you are raising them in the Philippines.
Our Filipino language is alive and continues to evolve. As Filipinos, it is our responsibility to keep our heritage alive. Part of that responsibility is to make sure that we enrich our national language and make sure it develops further. It is one of the most important links that connects us to each other, and, as parents, it is our responsibility to our country to make sure that our children treasure it as well.
If you are raising your children to embrace Filipino as their own, Hooray! Otherwise, I hope you give it another thought. It’s not too late for them to learn.