I commend the people, who are behind the Lingua Franca Education Project of the government. This project is in the end, an important yet difficult step towards the achievement of a better Philippines. There is wisdom in UNESCO’s statement that children learn best using the language they use at home.
The use of the lingua franca to teach our children is not a totally new concept. The University of the Philippines Integrated School (UPIS) has been using Tagalog in their classrooms for years already and the results are inspiring. The students participate more in discussions because lessons, which used to be foreign to them, were brought closer to their hearts.
AC Nielson, in its survey on Television Viewer ship in the Philippines, has proven that shows in Tagalog are far superior in ratings than shows in English. The Big Networks know this too well, reason why we have an abundance of Tagalized soap operas and cartoon series. Even shows, which are already available in English, were Tagalized simply because Tagalog and not English, is what the Filipinos want. The educational shows of ABS-CBN and GMA are in Tagalog. Why can’t the classes of DECS and even CHED follow suit?
Others argue that the Lingua Franca Education Project will make our workforce lose its global competitive edge. What global competitive edge are they talking about? We have been using Uncle Sam’s language for the last century and still, our non-English speaking neighbors are in a far better economic condition than us. Skills and not mastery of the English language best determines the nation’s competitive edge. Otherwise, the whole of England, Australia, the USA and most of Canada would have the unfair advantage over the rest of the world.
Others find it ironic that while we are trying to unlearn English while our neighbors are spending millions to learn what we already know.
I have seen people, who are generally perceived to be superior for the sole reason that they speak good English even if a close look would reveal nothing more than an average person who spent time in an English-speaking country. They have the unfair advantage over us simply because they speak better English. Now, we see them hosting swanky dance shows, exchanging views in English talk shows and in the process, earning a lot of money.
In this country, English is the language of intellect while Tagalog, together with all the other dialects, is the language of the ‘bakya.’ This is perhaps why all the major dailies are in English while all the major tabloids are in Tagalog. English is a powerful tool, that the elitist few use to distance themselves from the ‘bakya’ majority.
Those who can’t fully grasp the English language are generally conceived to be ill-educated. Perhaps, this is the reason why our country’s intellectual and elitist circles were against the candidacy of Pres. Estrada, who was in general, thought to speak poor English. During his campaign, talk shows and newspapers talked more about his inability to speak good English than his exemplary performance as a government official, especially when he was mayor of San Juan. To rephrase my earlier statement, skills and not mastery of the English language best determines the competence of a government official.
Let us not fall into the same trap as Dr. Jose Rizal, who after mastering a second language and a few others, had distanced himself and his writings from his fellow Filipinos. Recognizing this, he started writing his third novel in Tagalog so that the people, for whom he was fighting for, would better appreciate his novel. Much to his dismay, he couldn’t express himself well in Tagalog, so he had to rewrite everything in Spanish. He never finished, though.