Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Philippine English....

According to this article on Wikipedia, the Philippines ranks fifth overall in the world in terms of English speaking population. Ahead of the Philippines are India, the United States, The European Union, China, and the United Kingdom.

The accuracy of the figures is disputed though, for various reasons (see this page). It's a bit surprising to know that India is actually the top English speaking country in the entire world, even ahead of traditional English speaking countries like the United States or the United Kingdom, but the figures seem to bear that out.

Considering that I really don't have any figures of my own, I guess I'll have to take their word for it. If you're interested to know, rounding off the top ten following the Philippines are Germany, Canada, Australia, Pakistan and France.

It's not really that surprising that the Philippines is among the top English speaking countries in the world today. Historically, Filipinos have always been avid English speakers. This is one of the legacies of the American occupation of this country during the first half of the last century.

Arguably, English is the closest we have to a universal (though not official) language across the more than 7,100 islands making up the Philippine archipelago. Even our very own national language, Filipino, which is actually based on Tagalog, the prevailing and dominant dialect in Central Luzon, is not spoken natively throughout the Philippines. While Filipino (Tagalog) is the first (native) language of only a small relative portion of the local population, English is perhaps the second language adopted by the vast majority of citizens in the country.

In various technical fields, such as the sciences, business and commerce, mathematics and engineering, law and administration, etc., English is the language of choice since Filipino as we know it has proven inadequate in addressing various ideas and concepts which have not integrated themselves natively into Filipino vocabulary.

As a result, a person speaking Filipino who comes up with a concept or idea which does not have a straightforward Filipino word or phrase for it, often has to resort to code-switching, that is, the insertion of the appropriate English word or phrase in an otherwise wholly Filipino sentence just to get the message across. This results in what is perhaps best described as an altogether different, informal hybrid dialect referred to by many as Taglish.

That also seems to be the case here in the blogosphere. I don't have any figures to bear this out, but I surmise that the majority of Filipino bloggers choose to express themselves in their blogs in English rather than Filipino. The reasons for this choice aren't that difficult to fathom. English is by far more flexible than straightforward Filipino, and the use of English makes the blog accessible to non-Filipino speaking readers. Of course, there are a lot of blogs written in Filipino, and even other dialects as well, like Bisaya or Cebuano among others, but these are probably meant for specific readers only instead of the general public.

As avid English speakers, it seems Filipinos have not been content to just simply use English as a language. It turns out that we have actually coined a number of words and phrases unique to our use of the language, and not found in other English dialects. Here are some examples:

  • Aggrupation - Group or cluster. From Spanish agrupación

  • Aircon - Used when referring to the Airconditioning system. Although this term is also used in Australia and Singapore.

  • "Ber" months - September, October, November, December (months ending with -ber).

  • Barbecue - Roasted meat must be cut into pieces and put into a stick in order to qualify being called "barbecue".

  • Biodata - A resumé.

  • Biscuit - Whereas it is well known that what is called a "cookie" in the US is a "biscuit" in the UK, in the Philippines they are two different things. A biscuit here is what Americans call a "cracker", such as Sky Flakes. Furthermore, it is pronounced /biskwit/ rather than /biskit/.

  • Boundary - An amount public transport drivers pay their operators daily; any excess belongs to the driver as his daily wage.

  • Brown out - Power failure. Often referred to as a black out in British and American English. Refers to a temporary reduction in power in Canadian English.

  • Carabao - A water buffalo.

  • Chit - A bill (in a restaurant). Filipinos often draw a rectangle with two fingers when they ask for this.

  • Commuter - Same meaning as in other forms of English, but implies one who takes public transport (rarely used to refer to motorists, oftentimes excluding them).

  • Coupon Bond - Bond paper. Coupon here is pronounced /kopon/ not /kyupon/.

  • Course - Whereas in other English-speaking countries this is used to refer to individual courses or subjects, this term is used in the Philippines to define whole academic programs leading to either an associate's or bachelor's degree.

  • C.R. - Toilet, bathroom. C.R. is short for Comfort Room.

  • Crony - Has a generally more negative connotation in Philippine usage, usually in relation to businessmen with political connections.

  • Dine-in - "For here" in American English.

  • Duster - A loose house dress.

  • Every now and then - Often.

  • For a while - Used on the telephone to mean "please wait".

  • Get down / go down (a vehicle) - "Get off". Derived from Tagalog context ("Bumaba ka", meaning "get down").

  • Gimik (Tagalog, from standard gimmick) - to go out and have fun.

  • Jeep - A Jeepney.

  • Kilo - Kilogram.

  • Motel - Used mostly to refer to a love hotel, a hotel or a motel used primarily for sex.

  • Often used with the word "short-time" as in the construction "short-time motel"

  • Ref / "Rif"- A refrigerator.

  • Remembrance - Used when the majority of the English speaking world uses the word "souvenir" (a French loanword).

  • Rotonda - Derived from the Spanish meaning roundabout (British) or circle (American).

  • Salvage - A slang word for summary execution. The meaning evolved from frequent usage in sentences similar to 'The corpse was salvaged from the Pasig river' from "salvage" meaning recovered or found. The victim would usually be a victim of summary execution. The word may also be related to the Spanish-derived Tagalog slang "sinalbahe" (literally "turned bad").

  • Step-in - Stylish ladies' sandals minus the strap.

  • Short-time - Used to describe a hotel that allows stays of very short duration.

  • Stow away - Run away from home.

  • Take home - "To go" in American English.

  • The other day - Used specifically to refer to the "day before yesterday" (probably from the Tagalog expression "noong isang araw").

  • Tomboy - A tomboyish lesbian. A "tomboy" is almost always presumed to be a lesbian, although the word is rarely used for feminine-looking lesbians.

  • Yaya - Adopted Hindi word (aya) for nanny.

(Reference: Philippine English - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

I guess the bottomline is that the use of English, whether we like it or not, is already so ingrained and inculcated in our very culture and the way we communicate and interact with each other that for all intents and purposes, it's our unofficial "official language". The great equalizer so to speak. Anywhere you go in the Philippines, chances are someone knows how to speak in English. I doubt it if you can say the same for Filipino/Tagalog. It may seem unnationalistic or unpatriotic, but hey, that's how things really are. And since we probably can't change that fact, might as well create our own distinct flavor of it.

And, perhaps without even realizing it, it seems like we already did.





Blogger Ian reacted...

magandang obserbasyon at malikhaing paglista ng mga ilang kataga na inangkin natin gamit ang wikang Ingles

kahit pa man sabihin natin na napakadominante ng Ingles sana maintindihan ng maraming kababayan natin na importante rin ang pagpapalakas ng wikang Filipino (hindi Tagalog) sa ating bansa.

August 31, 2006 1:29 AM  

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