National Language Week is celebrated in the month of August in honor of the late Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon, (acknowledged ‘father’ of the then national language based on Tagalog) whose birthday falls in August.
In 1935 when the national language was conceived, the main purpose was to have Filipinos speak a common national language. The goal that the national language should be used as a language of instruction in various subjects in the schools and the university is much later development. In 1935, Filipinos who spoke different ethnic languages (commonly but incorrectly referred to as dialects) spoke to each other in English. Today, seventy nine years later, English has been replaced by Filipino as the national lingua franca. There is hardly any Filipino today who does not speak Filipino.
Filipino will not only be the national language franca; it will become the chief language in many homes other than Tagalog-speaking regions. The goal that Filipino should become the main language of instruction in the schools and of government is correct. But it will take a great deal of knowledge, time, effort, and patience before this goal may be achieved. To achieve this, Filipino must make available fund of knowledge in the written form or other forms of storing knowledge such as computer databanks. This kind of storage is now available in English but not in Filipino in the domains of language called the controlling domains of language. These controlling domains are the domains that dictate what language, especially the written form of that language, is to be used. At present the language used as the working language in the controlling domains of language in the Philippines is English.
The controlling domains of language are (1) government administration (the bureaucracy), (2) legislation, (3) the judiciary, (4) education especially higher education, (5) the professions, (6) science and technology, (7) commerce and industry, (8) much of mass communication especially the newspapers and international communication. The newest domain of language is that of the computer.
It is the hope that eventually written Filipino will be used in the foregoing domains of language. In order that this may happen, Filipino must be intellectualized. To intellectualize the Filipino language, the written form of Filipino must be made available in the controlling domains (CDs) of language enumerated above. Filipino (or any language for that matter) cannot be intellectualized and used as the working language in the CDs unless the fund of knowledge in these CDs are available in written form. This means that there should be writers in the various controlling domains who will write the knowledge in those domains in Filipino. There should also be users.
There is much work to be done in the intellectualization of Filipino so that the language may be used as the working language in the controlling domains of language.
Bonifacio P. Sibayan is internationally recognized as one of the world’s pioneer scholars in sociolinguistics. He is a recipient of the Social Science Achievement Award – Sociolinguistics (1986) from the National Research Council of the Philippines and National Social Scientist Award (1990) from the Philippine Social Science Council. He is the acknowledged doyen of applied linguistics and sociolinguistics in the country.