I was reading DILA last night.
As a Canadian who feels as if it’s getting more and more difficult for me to continue practising my native tongue, I realized that I’ve grown afraid that one day the Tagalog language would not exist anymore. There aren’t many avenues for me to converse in it, because most Filipinos I know here (other than my parents) or on the internet either don’t want to talk in Tagalog, don’t know how to.
It’s strange, because living in Toronto where people are generally encouraged to know more than one language, I can’t help but feel so disheartened when I look at my country of origin and find that people are now becoming less and less inclined to use Filipino languages, in favour of English.
Okay, scratch that. I totally understand why they would want to do that. Filipino languages are suffering from lack of intellectualization, lack of prestige, and from continued erosion of importance in the global landscape.
I’m a proponent of the intellectualization and conservation of the languages in the Philippines. I know it might be difficult for some people to understand, since many think that language is only a means for communication. But as a writer, I know what words can do for someone. When you lose a language, you lose a way of expressing yourself, of constructing meaning from a unique cultural perspective. I can tell you right now that there are things I can express in Tagalog that English words could never fully convey.
As someone who is half Kapampangan and never learned the Pampango language, I know that my concern for Tagalog is not nearly as warranted as the concern for other Philippine languages, many of which are on the verge of extinction within the next 50 years. And I’m hoping that one day we can find a solution to this problem.
Many people in DILA propose that the official and national status of the Filipino language should be removed. Most of them suggest that we should just keep English as the official language, and that each ethnolinguistic region in the Philippines should just use their indigenous tongue.
Here’s where I feel really conflicted though. While I do support the usage and promotion of regional languages, I’m not sure if that goal is congruent or could even be achieved with an English-only official language. I feel that English, being a dominant global vernacular, has a penchant for relegating any of the Filipino languages to an inferior status. There are Filipinos right now raised in the country itself who can only speak English. If the official status of Filipino/Tagalog can’t even compete with that now, what difference would it make for other regional languages if Filipino/Tagalog’s official status is removed? Wouldn’t people inevitably still choose to learn English instead?
And… I think what saddens me most is how a lot of Filipinos would prefer to use English than use my native tongue. I know imperialistic Manila has not been fair. And I know that there are points in history that it had just been downright cruel. I’m not denying any of that. But I wonder why it is that people are more accepting of a foreign language than a fellow language indigenous to the islands of the country? Is it still colonial mentality? Is it that we just see English as superior to any of our fellow indigenous languages?
I know that using English as the sole official language would be the fairest solution. It’s fair because every Filipino language loses equally, and hence every Filipino language wins equally. But… isn’t that just a form of crab mentality? Is it really better if we’re all in the ditch rather than have one of us climb up?
Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the Manila-centric culture of the Philippines is very problematic right now. And I wish we can find a solution. I’m just trying to convey my concerns about the proposal of having English as the only official language. And maybe my concerns are misplaced, you know? Maybe with the right nurturing and grassroots movement, regional languages might actually flourish under this kind of policy. I guess I just need some reassurance that that would really happen, instead of English ending up scything over all of our languages in its buoyed prominence.
Anyway, this post is not meant to be antagonistic or challenging. It’s not meant to propose a solution, nor bash anyone who’s proposed a solution before. A lot of these feelings come from a singular perspective and experience, of course. I understand there’s a lot of things I probably don’t know. This is just a way for me to put words to my unease. But like I said, who knows? Maybe I’m worried for nothing. Maybe that’s really the way to go.