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Shall We Drop English Like a Live Coal?

The language policy in education which the Education Department announced in Department Order No. 9 series of 1973 is for the Filipino to continue to learn English side by side with learning his national language – Pilipino, now spelled as “Filipino.” This Department Order, explicitly states that one of the aims of Philippine education is to produce bilingual Filipinos who can communicate with equal proficiency in both languages – Filipino and English. Corollary to this is the conceptual framework of the 1989 Secondary Curriculum which reads:

The Philippines needs English for access to world information as well as to cultural materials what will enhance the quality of life in the nation. Significantly, the implementation of the language policy has been approached in a manner devoid of passion.

Bilingualism connotes the use of an international vehicle of knowledge and worldwide communication. English, the international language of commerce, is also the international intellectual language together with French, German and Spanish, to name some of them.

More than 75% of the world’s mail is reportedly written and addressed in English, and English is the medium for 80% of the information stored in the world’s computer and on the Internet. However, article XIV, Section 6 of the 1986 Philippine Constitution reads:

Section 6. The national language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

There is no disagreement in the need to continue and to enhance our national language. Indeed, we must maintain a national language for national identity and for unity. We need our national language to demonstrate to the entire world our nationalism as a people and to manifest our love for our beloved Philippines. But as provided by our constitutions, section 6 reads.

It (Filipino) shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

This is a clear admission that unfortunately, our national language needs further development since it is obviously inadequate for intellectual subjects like Science, Math, Philosophy, Logic, Medicine, the world’s classics and belles-lettres. To wait for indefinite number of years for the intellectualization of Filipino would be for Philippine education to go limping and for every Filipino citizen to be deprived of the refinements of life. During these years of waiting, we and the future generations shall be confined to “Filipino” alone and therefore we shall be out of touch with the outside world because our constitution mandates:

Subject to provisions of law and as the Congress may deem appropriate, the Government shall take steps to initiate and sustain the use of Filipino as a medium of official communication and as language of instruction in the educational system.

We shall therefore close our doors to the outside world. This also means, we shall seclude ourselves from civilization. How than can we maintain friendly relations with other countries and promote international brotherhood? How do we make ourselves understood by other nationals if we refuse to communicate with them in a common international language? How will the future generations grow intellectually? The results of recent government examinations were fatal because the examinees failed to communicate in standard written English. How do the advocates of monolingualism reconcile this sad state?

The proponents of a monolingual Philippine education have cited Japan’s use of Nippongo in the different levels of Japanese education claiming that Japan’s economic progress is due to the use of Nippongo which, to the advocates of monolingualism, spells Japanese nationalism. We must however consider that Japan now has awaken to the absurdity of a monolingual policy, for Japan should be richer than it is today if it earlier developed English. The international language that could have facilitated interworld commerce and further heighten its economy. Albeit, Japan today is admitting its language inadequacy. Japan is presently sending scholars to specialize in English in the United States and in English. While it is true that Japan has progressed economically by leaps and bounds, its progress is not attributed to monolingualism but the exemplary discipline of its people which we, Filipinos sorely lack.

What is difficult to understand is the alleged harm generated by bilingual education. Has bilingual education truly reduced our sense of nationalism and love for our dear native land? No, certainly not. Let us not close our eyes to the fact that majority of the Filipino citizenry that have embraced the rebel’s ideology are our unlettered, monolingual Filipino citizens had been exposed by print to the chaotic world situation created by communists, they would not have been easily brainwashed by local leftist leaders.

The writer is for bilingualism not because she is anti-Filipino nor because she does not love her country and fellowmen. In reality this bias for bilingualism against monolingualism is triggered by a sincere concern for the Filipino youth and for the future of our nation. International communication is an imperative input to national progress, world brotherhood, international understanding and peace. Let us continue to develop English side by side with Filipino. The ability to communicate in a second language is never a liability; it is an asset, an added feather on our cap as a people.

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