Stupid and Ironic

A university in Manila has imposed an “English-only policy” supposedly to improve its students’ proficiency in English. Speaking in languages other than English is allowed only at certain areas within the campus. The constituents of the university–the name of which is in Filipino–may also speak in any languange around midday.

The Inquirer quoted the university’s president as saying they want “to create an environment” in which those who will speak in Filipino at the English zones will be ignored.

This policy, besides being ironic–the university that imposes it is called Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila–is stupid. While contributing to the continued marginalization of the Filipino language, it suppresses the natural flow of communication between students, teachers and staff of the university and makes these people sound awful.

Imagine a crowd trying very hard to speak a languange other than their own. Think of students artificially chatting in English as if they are acting in a school play. Funny, isn’t it?

We wonder if those pushing for the use of English in schools ever thought about how they complicate the process of learning by insisting on using a language that is foreign to both the students and the teachers. Even Manila Times, an English daily, admits that “[t]here’s some evidence that a child learns faster and retains what he or she learned longer when taught in his or her home language.”

Proponents of the use of English argue that proficiency in the language would make Filipinos globally competitive, as if every single Filipino has to communicate with the global village. Which is of course, not necessary.

As UP Prof. Luis Teodoro wrote: “It’s also virtually impossible to make an entire population literate in a foreign language they don’t use in their daily lives. And it’s not really necessary, unless, by “global competitiveness” the die-hard partisans of the English language mean Filipino capacity to compete in the international labor market as domestics and day laborers–and unless it is the country’s permanent aim to keep on providing that kind of labor to the rest of the world forever and ever.

Maybe that’s why Rizal called the language as the soul of the nation and those who love their language will surely yearn for freedom. Unfortunately for us, while we keep on disregarding our languange, we dare not dream of being freed from being mere servants of other peoples of the world.

9 replies on “Stupid and Ironic”

having lived over half my life in an english speaking country, i don’t have a choice. sad to say that even my thoughts and dreams are now in english.

not with me! i think who ever wrote this article is a complete moron and as the same stupid! you can’t really judge such action if you don’t even know the whole story. the bottom line of this move is to get our graduates the skills to land them to good jobs. if you are that stupid to think that companies do their job interviews in tagalog, then you are probably a moron of having your article written in english!

The best way to improve Filipino English proficiency in universities and at the same time ensure that those universities get a steady stream of extra cash is to invite huge numbers of foreign students on special invitational or exchange programs. The ideal aim, in fact would be to have a foreign student population that reaches 30%.

By ensuring that foreigners – who obviously can’t speak Tagalog – would be a fixture in good universities forces the local Filipino students to interact with them in the only common language they’d have – English.

Where then do we get such students?

There are large numbers of Asians who want to learn English, and many of them still somehow recognize the Philippines to be an English speaking country. Invite them in huge numbers to mingle amongst Filipino students on campus and they will all end up using English. Furthermore, another program could be to invite Filipino-Americans who can’t speak Tagalog to come for “study programs” for Tagalog.

When the Fil-Ams (who will probably either do full degree courses or simple 1 term or 1 year study tours) first arrive, they’ll all be babbling in English and their local Filipino classmates will be forced to communicate with them in English.

If this two-pronged approach is done, you will have an authentic English environment in the key universities in the Philippines. Firstly, the schools won’t even have to create artificial “English campaigns” to force people to unnaturally speak in a language they’re not used to. It will be a situation that will simply force people to look for the common ground. Korean and Chinese Mainlanders (as well as Taiwanese, Japanese, Indonesians, etc) learning English (who’d usually have some rudimentary or basic English already) would prompt their Filipino schoolmates to speak English with them, and the Fil-Ams that come for the 1 year or 1 sem experience will also end up exerting an influence on the rest of the population. At the end of it all, while the locals will probably still speak Tagalog or whatever local language they speak at home amongst themselves, they will have at least had some actual face time with people they had no choice but to speak English with.

Who knows, it might also be possible to get some White Anglo-Saxon exchange students (or others from different minorities) from the USA, Canada, Australia, etc to become a part of the student populations of those universities.

Of course, this can’t be done in one go. A phased approach will have to be done in order to slowly accommodate the larger number of enrolees… (I mean, just think of the number of classrooms needed to accommodate a 30% increase in the student population)

Then again, with the foreign students, the universities can charge special rates –> higher rates that could bring about a more healthy balance sheet to the schools’ finances.

Again, this hits THREE birds with one stone.

1. It creates an authentic environment for English communication. You obviously can’t force non-English dominant Filipinos to speak English all the time, because they’d think it’s a “contrived” situation and they’d be uncomfortable with it. (Only “middle and upper class” Filipino kids who speak English at home are comfortable doing this) On the other hand, face to face with people who can’t speak a word of Tagalog or any local Philippine language, Filipinos suddenly become comfortable using English since it thus becomes a matter of true communication (getting your point across) instead of a tool for “impressing others.” Think about it —> Filipinos working in the Middle East are more comfortable speaking in English with their Arab co-workers because their co-workers can’t speak Tagalog (or whatever Phil language) and many of those Filipinos can’t really speak Arabic either. When the language is the “lowest common denominator”, people do end up feeling comfortable.

Even here in Harbin, China (where I’m taking off a year from IT work to study advanced Mandarin Chinese – to complement my Chinese school education at Xavier and SHS-B – while teaching English on the side), I see lots of Canadians and Americans comfortably practicing Mandarin with their Russian classmates precisely because those same Russian students can’t speak English and those North Americans can’t speak any Russian. While the Canadians and Americans dare not speak Chinese to each other because it’s “not natural”, they easily speak Mandarin with the local Chinese and with the Russians. Mandarin Chinese thus is the language they have in common. Indeed, this is also what has happened to me: while I have Russian friends who speak some English, most of them don’t speak English at all. And since my knowledge of Russian is rather limited – useful for dire survival situations, I get my more complex ideas across to them by using Mandarin. The “lowest common denominator” situation in language is truly a catalyst in communicative usage.

2. It exposes the local Filipino students to foreigners early on. Get the locals to learn more about the cultures of other people. Open their eyes to their “competition” so that the younger batches of Pinoys can see what it is our country lacks or is already “good at” so that we can work harder at improving ourselves in our weak areas and recognizing our strengths. (That way, the younger Pinoys can thus work on improving themselves in comparison to the foreigners rather than just sitting back and basking in imagined glories.)

3. Last and not the least, this is a “CASH COW” for schools. Inviting foreign students to join in their universities and charging slightly higher fees also fattens the universities’ coffers and the extra cash can be further used for improving the school’s resources and especially teachers’ salaries – THE MOST IMPORTANT THING!

So, by having 30% of the student population be composed of foreigners is a big plus to the Philippine educational system. It would thus mean that there would be 1 out of 3 students who is foreign. With such a proposed ratio, every local Filipino student will be forced to mingle with at least one foreigner and thus be forced to speak English at least one-third of the time they interact with other students.

Right now, this is simply a proposal. But let’s face it. No schools have really tried it yet.

The only schools that have this situation are the international schools and they are, at the end of the day, the ones that produce students who have the most consistently high-level of English ability among all others.

English ability is truly a must for global competitiveness. But English ability often requires constant language practice. And real and constant language practice requires being placed in a natural situation where the practice is genuine and serves real practical purposes. The lowest common denominator situation for language is, by far, the best way to achieve such an environment conducive to language practice.

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This article is stupid and ironic. If you don’t want to learn, then what the #$% are you doing in a university anyway? And Luis Teodoro is being racist when he insinuates that all overseas Filipinos are domestics and day laborers.

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