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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

English in the Philippines

I know I have touched this subject in past articles but I thought I should post something I just wrote for the "Living in Davao" yahoo community website.

There was an American and English Teachers discussing employment possibilities here in Davao. The discussion went to different directions. One was “the Queens English” used in England verses “American English” used in America. Then there was talk about the need for OFW’s (Overseas Foreign Workers) needing to pass English Proficiency tests to work in many countries.

At the start of these discussions was about job opportunities to teach English here in the Philippines. To work here is a subject I am investigating but have not found a complete answer. I have recently received my 13a Visa (permanent residency). Even with this, I think I will need a work permit from the Department of Labor and Employment. Because of the “Philippine First” laws, a foreigner cannot take a job that can be filled by a Filipino. Being an English teacher would probably be accepted.
About the use of English here, I am in conflict and guilty of some of my thinking. Being an American with a poor ability to learn languages I came here because most Filipinos have some knowledge of English. Unfortunately as people get older and do not use English often, their proficiency in English decreases.
One point is, we are visitors here and out of respect to the country we reside, we should learn their language. To be able to be understood in all regions of the Philippines and to watch TV, Tagalog would be the language of choice. If you want to easily converse in Davao and a lot of areas, then Bisaya or Cebuano (which are almost identical) should be learned.
As mentioned, to work abroad in many countries, a test for English proficiency is required. To do this Filipinos will need to learn and practice. Unfortunately English is not taught in public schools until High School and most teachers here are not competent to teach this. I am not sure of my accuracy but I think I heard of teachers teaching English in public schools, 86 failed.
In the Universities where English is required, some teachers allow Bisaya to be substituted. With the heavy course load and the inability to teach proper English, the Filipino student is getting the short end of the deal.
There is another point I find humorous here. Government signage, traffic postings, most business signage and advertising and a lot of newspapers are in English. So what does someone who cannot read English do? That is one of the many contradictions here in the Philippines.
So what do we do, change what we can, help when asked and learn to accept what we cannot change.


James said...

Hi Bruce,

I was going to suggest this to you or the expat community but I was reluctant because you probably have other more important things to do. Even so, just in case you push through with this project, count me and my wife in. Hehehe. I want to improve my diction. I'm positive a lot of people will prefer real English speakers such yourselves because real substance of the language is learned.

Boris said...

hmm... I've read a blog and he stated that tagalog is a second language. and I agreed with his opinion.

English can be found in the newspapers, call centers, getting a job, the government, and all.

As for the public schools, hope they could have good english lesson.

Sorry for not replying last week about the trivia quiz. anyway, the answers are posted and you did a terrific job! :)

Tom Martin said...

The Philippines can credit Cory Aquino for English no longer being a focus in public schools. She is the one that deemphasized English in schools and allowed it only to be used in High School.

I find it amusing that many of those that appear in the media and write for the Newspapers who oppose English in public school below grade six send their children to private schools where English is the language used for instructions. Are they really interested in preserving the 700 plus dialects that continue to exist in the Philippines or are they guaranteeing their children will not have competetion in the future from poor children. The dialects continued under Marcos when the emphasis was on English.

Last week I heard one of the fine professors from University of the Philippines saying the Official Language of the Philippines is Tagalog and the government should enforce its use. He knows that is not true, but he is trying to move the masses to adopt his views. The Philippines does not have an Official Language just like the U.S.A. does not have an Official Language.

I have an acquaintance that teaches in a local public High School. He cannot carry on a fluent conversation in English. I was shocked when he told me he was tired of the government forcing students and teachers to learn English. I was even more shocked when I ask him what the Business Lanuage of the world was and he replied SPANISH. He wanted to argue with me when I told him Commercial Pilots were required to speak English and he told me Filipino pilots did not have to speak English.

Children are quite capable of learning two languages. Many homes around the world have parents from two different nations and two languages are spoken in the home. It is common that children in Europe speak several lanuages.

I told my acquaintance that teaches here in Davao, "I do not care if the children in the Philippines learn English or not because it is not effecting me one way or the other, but I would think he would want the best for the children of the Philippines."

Bruce said...

I have an american friend here who was a teacher for 25 years teaching ESL, English as a Second Language.
We talked this morning about the possibility of starting ESL and conversational English classes. It is just in the thought process now. I will enroll you but the commute for you will be expansive from Dubai.

As I stated, English is not a formal language here but is widely used to some degree. But do we have to change a country? If your from America and want to work in Argentina, do you not have to learn Spanish? It is up to us in the Philippines to get to learn their language or complain about it. IT is up toe the Filipinos to choose if they need it and then learn it however they want.

I agree about children learning other languages at an early age. It is easier for them.
About an official language, I heard it was Pilipino. It was to be an mix of dialects, but since it was decided in Manila, of course it is mainly Tagalog.
Also about your friend the Professor, that just goes with what I say about the education standards here. But how can we change a country.

ghee said...

ive been away fr the PI for very long years,and this article really brought me into disappointment and depression...

it changed a lot eh???in my time,english was taught since we were in kinder!!even in the public schools! was an issue that teachers must teach students thru the language or dialect that they do that the students can comprehend more...however,they will be needing to send their kids to cram schools or any english classroom to overcome the language disability(which is happening here in Japan).Though,the people,mostly,cant afford it,right?ugh...really,the government or the DECS must do something about it...

btw,you are WELCOME to visit my site :)


sadam said...

yeah thanks....