THE Filipinos’ proficiency in speaking English gives them a competitive advantage across the globe. Their excellent communication skills are valued wherever they are, as English has become their second language, and is the primary medium of instruction in most Philippine schools and universities.
Dr. Danica Salazar, a World English editor for Oxford Languages where she oversees policy, procedures and strategy for world varieties of English, as well as researches and writes World English entries for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), made these statements during a webinar in Washington, D.C.
In her talk at the Philippine Embassy in the United States capitol entitled “From the Thomasites to the OED: The Development of English from American Transplant to Philippine Language,” Dr. Salazar touched on elements that set the OED apart from other English dictionaries; words in the OED that are unique to Philippine English; precolonial, Spanish, American, and postwar influences to these words; and the ways Filipinos have produced English literature on their own.
Dr. Salazar also discussed how Filipinos “create words” by borrowing from other languages that reflect the diversity of the many languages spoken in the Philippines. She likewise highlighted the Pinoys’ style of “code-switching,” wherein depending on the topic or the person one is talking to, he or she switches between these languages, which gives rise to “Tag-lish,” or Tagalog-English. This way of communication can be seen in urban centers in the Philippines.
“Different combinations of our language with English is how we communicate now, and that’s fine,” the editor revealed. “It is really weird that we put so much premium on the purity of languages when, in fact, multilingualism is the norm not only in the Philippines, but also in the world.”
She said “English is now a Filipino language, too,” emphasizing that “for over 100 years, we have been using English in our own country without the involvement of Americans… By using the language, by speaking it, by writing it, we have contextualized it, and made it our own, and made it work for us.”
She also underscored the importance of access to good, quality instruction in English, especially for many Filipino children, in order to avoid exclusion.
The August 26 webinar was part of the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C.’s celebration of Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa, or National Language Month. It may be viewed on the embassy’s official Facebook page.