Filipino not a ‘language of the learned,’ says columnist

Filipino is the “language of the streets" – “how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed sundo na."

These lines, found in a “Manila Bulletin" column now circulating on social media, aroused sentiments that champion the Filipino language Thursday as the nation winds down its commemoration of August as the National Language Month.

James Soriano, who wrote the column titled “Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege," contextualized his piece in his experience of learning English as his “mother language." Soriano said he was required to speak English at home, had all his books in English, and even prayed in English.

“Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English," he said in his column originally posted Wednesday.

“My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes," Soriano added.

‘Proud’ of Filipino proficiency but…

Halfway through the column, Soriano qualified that he was “proud" of his proficiency in Filipino, but “it was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult."

“I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English," he said.

Soriano noted that it was only in the university that he “began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect."

“Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda, " he added.

“But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned," Soriano said.

Soriano’s piece generated a mix of reactions on social networking sites.

View "Netizens react to piece on Filipino language" on Storify
In a related story on Wednesday, GMA News TV’s “State of the Nation" newscast explained that Filipino, as an academic subject, is becoming a bane to a number of Filipino students.

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Interest in Soriano’s column came a day after another language-related concern sidetracked debates on the Reproductive Health (RH) bill at the House of Representatives.

During the RH bill debates Wednesday, Leyte Rep. Sergio Apostol said he could not continue with the interpellation if Akbayan Rep. Arlene Bag-ao would answer his questions, which were asked in English, in the Tagalog language.

“The official language is English and Filipino... I insist that there should be interpreter... Tagalog is not an official language. If she wants to speak in Tagalog, then there should be an interpreter," Apostol said at the House plenary.

Bag-ao, however, insisted that she is using the official Filipino language and must be allowed to do so throughout the interpellation. — VS, GMA News