Of language and love of country

ariel-nepmucenoAugust is the time when malls and stores visibly display native costumes and paraphernalia for use in school activities that focus on Philippine culture and traditions.  Actually, what is being honored is our national language.  And from just a weeklong celebration from August 13 to 19, it has evolved to be a 30-day affair, which is intended to emphasize the value and beauty of our common language.

The 1987 Constitution enshrines Filipino as the national language of the country.  Our legislators have patriotically realized the critical role played by language not only  in basic communication of ideas and sentiments  but also in the strengthening of  ties and  relationships, both social and cultural.  It solidifies national identity, builds unity  and contributes to economic development.

Throughout history, a common language has been regarded as a  significant indicator of the solidarity of the people who speak the language.

Debates on choices

There are opposing views on the choice of Filipino as our national language. Some would focus on why Filipino and not any other local
dialect?  Critics would even go to the extent of claiming that President Manuel L. Quezon acted on the basis of the geographical region where he hailed from. That he ignored the fact that most of the people living in the rest of the archipelago then did not speak Filipino, or Tagalog as they colloquially call it. Said critics believed that the choice of Filipino as the national language would alienate other regional groups and institutionalize the disparity of existing economic conditions among those not living in the greater portion of Luzon.

But there are those who advocate the use of Filipino as a tool for inculcating pride in our struggles as a nation, a love for our heritage and a language that differentiates us from the rest of the world.  It is a language that equalizes the level of debate, the unfettered exchange of ideas between those in the economically advantaged and the marginalized classes of society.   It enables broader participation in the political process and nation-building.

However, there are those who believe English should instead be our main language rather than Filipino. Their belief is anchored on the argument that it is time to stop our misplaced nationalism by accepting the glaring reality that English is the gateway to an increasingly borderless world, changing at such a fast pace due to innovations in information technology.  From their perspective, English is the language of power.

Common ground

TO stop the promotion of teaching and knowledge of English is a complete negation of the government’s efforts at enhancing our peoples’ competitiveness in the international market. Our strong command and fluency in the use of English is our advantage that allowed us to   capture jobs abroad.  And we must accept that English is the language of commerce, science and technology,  research and development,  media, courts,  and most important, political, cultural and diplomatic relations. It is, after all, the lingua franca of the world.

Our language policy must continue to strike that delicate balance between the use of English as a vehicle for excelling beyond our national borders and protecting our own beloved Filipino language as a full expression of our cultural oneness and identity.

We must not be confused by the long-drawn debates on what constitutes a better language policy and how the latter can enhance development goals where other priorities such as poverty reduction and other social needs  would be more  relevant.

We shall all benefit from the continued knowledge and pragmatic use of English to gain access to global opportunities while maintaining Filipino as the language of our national soul.

From Balagtas’s  Florante at Laura,  Amado Hernandez’s  Ibong Mandaragit  or  from the beautiful Filipino kundiman to OPM’s Pinoy great compositions,  the use of the Filipino language  is a true testament to the vibrant talent,  sensitivity, candor, and deep  persona of our race.

We should stand proud in using Filipino if only to find what is lost in all of us as a people. And our national language will also shield what is left of us as a nation.


For comments and suggestions: arielnepo.businessmirror@gmail.com.




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