Monday, June 04, 2007

Philippines should master the English language or perish

EXPECT the debate on the use of the English language as a medium of instruction to flourish now that the school system has opened for the school year 2007-2008.

There are those in our midst who are saying we should stick to “Filipino” as the medium of instruction in the schools and deemphasize English. We are among the increasing number of organizations and people who are saying we should, in fact, master English in the schools and the workplace as part of our drive for global competitiveness. We should give it due primacy in all educational levels as well as our official communications.

Why the need to master the English language? Because everybody else is trying to do the same.
Right now, there are probably close to 400 million native English speakers, making English the third largest language next to Mandarin Chinese and Spanish.

Experts say, however, that when combined with nonnative speakers like us Filipinos, English is probably the most commonly used language in the world. And certainly, the number of English speakers is growing as it is now the commonly taught language in Europe, Mainland China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

Yes, the Chinese, the Koreans, Japanese and the Taiwanese are trying to learn English—and fast—because they know the future lies there. English has emerged as the global language that is widely used in information technology, international trade, aerial and maritime communications, the sciences, global sports, as well as in international bodies like the United Nations. About 95 percent of the articles published in Science Citation Index, where breakthroughs in science and technology are published, are written in English.

Of course, critics of the English language have been saying that these countries are not good English speakers yet they are able to industrialize and develop their economies. That is certainly true, but the fact is that these countries right now are sending their sons and daughters to all the corners of the English-speaking world to learn the language. They know they are not secure in their economic perches; they need a hedge and an extra edge in their continuing search for innovation and competitiveness.

Why? Because the shelf life of most economic strategies these days are shorter than, say, a hundred years ago when economic powers had to undergo the Industrial Revolution.
Remember the story of “newly industrializing countries” whose strength came from hosting global production networks by multinational corporations? Singapore is a classic story of that. For 40 years, Singapore rode on the waves of massive doses of foreign direct investments in electronics and semiconductors, thinking the good thing may last forever.

Then the MNCs realized it’s actually more effective to locate the factories in low-cost locations like China, the Philippines and Vietnam, and suddenly the electronics industry that buttressed the “Singapore dream” vanished completely in 2006.

The Singaporeans were rattled, but the tiny island state continues to grow fast (i.e. 6 percent in the first quarter of 2007) on the strength of its services and trading sectors because it has maintained its global competitiveness. Why? Because its people speak the global language on top of its major attraction as a place where the rule of law, transparency and public sector efficiency prevail.

Now, it is trying to leverage these competitive advantages to develop niches in the fast-growing global production and trade in digital media, thus making the Singaporeans a potential threat to the Philippine animation industry.

Japan has been priding itself for its rare virtue of clinging to its language and maintaining its insularity. But these days, many corporate executives are questioning this attitude in the face of increasing competition from Western MNCs that are achieving efficiencies derived from outsourcing, something that Japanese firms couldn’t do because of language barriers.
No wonder, the Japanese are now scrambling to learn English, a fact not lost on the South Koreans—their bitter rivals in the global marketplace for high-end electronics—who are currently sending their people to the US, Britain, Australia and the Philippines to beat them to the draw.

Even Indians these days are shaking their school systems to improve their English proficiency. If there’s one country that has earned billions of dollars for its people because of its language and science skills, it’s India. Its $20-billion-a-year IT and IT-enabled services provide more than a million jobs to its young population.

But right now, the urgency of improving its population’s English-language skills is not lost on its leaders who are pushing for more English-language skills-upgrading programs in schools.
Of course, some “nationalists” in India are fighting back and are agitating for the primacy of Indian national languages in schools and institutions. However, the joke there is that most of those politicians, while agitating for institutionalizing Indian languages in India’s school system, are sending their sons and daughters to Harvard, Yale and Stanford in the United States so they could master the sciences and tame the English language.

“Do you know why English-language newspapers in India—especially in cities like Bangalore, Chennai and Delhi—are rising? It’s because people, especially the growing middle class, are buying newspapers to improve their English proficiency,” said one editor lately, underscoring an example that bucks the tide of declining newspaper circulations elsewhere. He said that for an increasing number of Indian families, English has become an investment for the future. They know because the new middle class in their midst that are going in and out of the posh campuses of Infosys and Wipro in their brand-new cars speak good English.

The moral lesson? We should not dilly-dally on embracing policies that would restore the importance of English in Philippine society. Actually, we have no choice. Some sources in the business community say more than 60 percent of the country’s GDP are accounted for by the “globalized” sectors of economy (e.g. remittances, merchandize exports and outsourcing, among others). These are economic activities that are conducted, processed and concluded through the English language. Given the structure of the Philippine economy, there’s no doubt where our national interest lies. (Drafted as editorial for the BusinessMirror, 5 June 2007).


Anonymous said...

funny. and i thought it was the States who had started to make Mandarin a requirement in their schools because the future was in *China*.

hey, maybe the Philippines should learn Mandarin, too!

are you getting my point here?

Dave Llorito said...

If you do business in China, you should learn mandarin. if we are talking about moving forward, or gear up for innovation we should master english. the chinese are learning chinese in masse! as in IN MASSE. because they know the future is all about mastering this global language. is china "the future"? the hype says that. if that's true, then IT WILL BE A SUPERPOWER CHINA THAT HAS MASTERED ENGLISH. the rise of china depends on its ability to innovate, and the language of innovation is English, not Mandarin and the Chinese knows that as well.

the decision to learn mandarin intead of english of course, would depend on what do we imagine ourselves to be as China rises. if we just want to be waiters, janitors, hotel staff, and coffee preparers to the chinese, yeah we should forget english and study mandarin, while the chinese are studying English.

Anonymous said...

Learning Mandarin just for business when you're in China is only the tip of the iceberg. Learn Mandarin to do business with investors from China who also do business in the Philippines. I wholeheartedly agree that we should master English in all aspects of economics, politics and culture. This does not mean we should belittle and relegate Mandarin as something to utilize when serving drinks and cleaning the hotel rooms of Chinese tourists. China has an output of trillions of dollars per year, why not tap into that to benefit our country by also learning their language? There are over 24 million learners of the Mandarin language worldwide today and rapidly increasing, because people have the common sense to know that China IS NOW an important player in the world, especially in Asia. China HAS BECOME a superpower without the English language already! English is important, but it is not everything that we need to promote and advance ourselves. Since you placed English as something that is vital to inovate, in concerns with China's example, why is it that we, the largest English speaking nation in southeast Asia aside from Singapore cannot innovate to improve our country with our English skills?

Our country cannot advance forward on English mastery alone, we also need to master Mandarin, Korean and Japanese, the biggest investors, tourists and students in SE Asia. Learning their languages should not only be thought of just for business or tourism, but for technology, cultural and educational exchange.
Someone with a professional background like yourself, should do your research better and not side with such biased language snobbery that will only rub off on other people therefore leaving the Philippines further behind our Asian neighbors. Ignorance is contagious. Or remember Time magazine's Headline from one of it's issues last year on the front cover, "WANT TO GET AHEAD? LEARN MANDARIN."

Dave Llorito said...

we could learn whatever language we want to. but the question is on the use of english as medium of instruction. certainly you cant teach all of them. so it would be prudent to master english, on top of the sciences (engineering, math, etc) as well as other educ reforms. the chinese and the indians are learning english language because they know the future is there, and not any other language. you want to learn mandarin? fine. but you wont have mandarin as the medium of instruction. we should learn from the chinese, the indians, and koreans.

Anonymous said...

English will always be our advantage since we already have a steady foundation in the language for the past 100 years. Filipinos are naturally multi-lingual and yes it is prudent as well, you are just stating the obvious. As a medium of instruction, I agree with having it as such since it is a method for practice and daily utilization.

Just because English is being studied by millions of Chinese, Japanese and Koreans doesn't mean they will be as good as Filipinos, no. I'm not putting those nationalities down either, since Filipinos has had English and American culture for a century, so it has been with us for a very long time. That is our advantage. Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, no matter how long they have studied the English language still have a hard time with accent, pronounciation and grammar. I've studied with many Japanese, Taiwanese and Korean exchange students here in the USA during my tenure in college and after 10 years of living in the USA their English is still atrocious.

It is also prudent and very PRACTICAL to learn Mandarin along with Korean and Japanese, because if you take a look at the Philippines geographical location, it is the crossroads of East and SE Asia, the new economic power region in the world. Who is to say that Mandarin isn't and will never be a mode of instruction? Coming from a 5000 year old civilization that has made MANY innovations and inventions and continues to make those leap that the world today uses and takes for granted. China's prominence rose very rapidly and so has it's language, the catalyst for many of the world's greatest and most famous literature, poetry and scholarly research.

People only use 10% of our brain space, so why not think out of the box?

Dave Llorito said...

certainly, if you are putting up business in china, or is planning to work there in whatever capacity, learning mandarin is necessary. but that should be part of one's personal choice and not as a matter of public policy.

Anonymous said...

Nobody was saying that it should be forced upon people sir. It should be encouraged more and thats why I laud current president GMA for her 2001 speech at Binondo of encouraging the offering of Mandarin at institutions of higher learning. Now there are over 20 colleges and universities that offer it as an elective.

It's rapidly becoming an in demand language, one example is the full classes here in the USA, but still a lack of teachers and even strong demand in the UK, both countries of which are the bastions of the English language. Thank you.

Dave Llorito said...

americans and the brits are setting up businesses in china, that is why they need to offer mandarin. i agree with you. but even the chinese in their drive for innovation are still trying to master english. the koreans are doing the same. the japanese are doing the same.

many pinoys are going to china to work. they would surely need mandarin. but if we are to develop our domestic capability here in the philippines, english is the way, plus the greater emphasis on math and the sciences.

Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree with your emphasis on English, math and sciences. But think of it this way, since English brings innovation, it is also a doorway to learn other cultures to reinforce the Filipino people today. Especially that which is in demand and what is also practical for Filipinos to learn and that is also Mandarin. I just didn't agree with you downsizing it to a language to be used as a servant. The USA and Great Britain are not only emphasizing Mandarin for business purposes, but for exchange in education, culture and science. Thats why you can see many colleges and universities in the Philippines not connected to Hotel and Tourism+business also offering Mandarin. Like Mapua Inst. of Technology, Ateneo de Manila(Confucius Institute), Philippine Polytechnic Univ., UP-Diliman, DLSU, La Consolacion, and dozens others. Because it is known that Mandarin is not only the language for doing business in China. Mandarin is also an innovative and creative language to learn.

Let me say this, I will side with you on the emphasis of English, math and sciences, because according to little know news reports, GMA is planning to reinstate Spanish as an official language to be taught mandatory in public schooling again after 1987. To me that is totally unecessary and a waste of funding, effort and time. Spain and other Latin American countries are not even major economic providers to the Philippines. I will fight to keep Spanish out and English and Tagalog as the only official languages.

Dave Llorito said...

i really enjoy this conversation of ours re the english language. for as long as we agree on the importance of english, math and the sciences, fine enough with me. the rest of the issues are secondary. yeah, i agree with you that we dont need spanish; it should be made optional.

Anonymous said...

Hello again Dave. What have you heard about the reinstatement of Spanish in our public school system? In your opinion, do you think Filipinos would actually support it?

Dave Llorito said...

i dont think GMA is serious about it. she has this habit of blurting out unprocessed thoughts that gets here embarrassment. spanish will never be popular here. it should be made optional.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kuya Dave. It seems the word has gotten out that Spanish will be reinstated next year. I strongly oppose it and support the improvement of English first and foremost, only. My talks with you about Mandarin is another subject. Where and who can I go to in the Philippines to file a petition against Spanish as an official language? Could it be that ULAP is behind it?

Anonymous said...

Kenneth, your point is well taken and eloquently stated.

As a Filipino-American living in California I agree with your take regarding your opinion of Tagalog and English.

First, not out of disrespect, but I am Ilocano, yet am equally proud of my Filipino heritage. Tagalog does not represent me nor does it connect me to my fellow Filipino-Americans who only know thier parents' provincial language and not Tagalog. It is here where English ties us non-Tagalog speakers with being Filipino and to the diverse groups of people who inhabit California. Criticize this if you may, but it is a striking reality living in the States. Tagalog/Filipino does serve as the lingua-franca to the Philippines, and I totally respect that and it is imperative. However, it should NOT be the ONLY language that defines being Filipino!

Simultaneously, I am in total agreement with you that English should be mastered in the Philippines, because Filipinos have benifited from this attribute professionally (individually) and culturally (collectively).

Second, living in California (L.A. are) for all but three years of my 47 years on earth, I can't begin to tell you how important the Spanish has become and how it is going to grow in its importance for the future. There are many generational Hispanics here in the States that speak English as their first language and Spanish as thier second -if at all-. Through English, I discovered early in life that I had more similarities with Hispanics than I did with generational Asians from Japan and China who also uses English as their first language.

It is a given that none of the Latin American countries have the economic stability to substantially contribute to the Philippine economy. However, this is not the angle I'm attempting to illustrate.

Latin America's strength is in its "cultural" exchange. Meaning, tourism, historical ties and connecting the Philippines with its Hispanic component (along with its Asian and North American ties).

I see the Spanish language reinstating not to "re-colonize" the Philippines nor to build the economic potential of the Islands, but to potentially make the Philippines a "liason" that can mediate and connect three worlds -Asia, North America AND Latin America.

We did not choose to be colonized, albeit twice, but both legacies provides the foundation toward the new and future Filipino generation to be able to be fluent in English and Spanish (along with a Filipino vernacular) can provide the new generation of Filipinos to compete in a shrinking and globalized world-community.

No other country in Asia can claim to have this dynamic ability potential.

Remember, outside of China and Japan, learning Chinese or Japanese may be a little irrelevant because English is the lingua-franca they use to people who don't speak their language.

Given that (correct me if I'm wrong) people who live outside Manila are able to speak three languages anyways. (Tagalog, their respective provincial dialect and English). It would not kill them to learn a language that defines 80% of the people's last names, despite the atrocities of Spanish colonization to the islands.

It is not imperative that you and your generation master English and Spanish, but I exhort you to NOT discourage the new generation from doing so.

Remember, there are now approximately 400 million Spanish speakers world-wide and 21 nations that have it as an official language. That alone serves as a barometer.

Anonymous said...


Kenneth, I also wanted to solidify the fact that I am not "anti-Tagalog", pro-English" nor do I negate the cruelty and tragedy of Spanish colonialism that the Philippines had endured in addition to the fact that I do not claim to have come from a Spanish blood-line. I'm just "pro-Filipino" to the new generation of potential professionals that have a "golden" opportunity to define or re-define and extend the term "Filipino".

An abusive father is still ones father. The child has an option to linger -justifiably- to his mistreatment during his youth and grow-up bitter. Or he can accept his father's brutality, and make sure he doesn't treat his own child the same way and be a better man for it. Likewise, this is how I see the Spanish language being reinstated into the educational curriculum there.

I think the negative Spanish legacy is primary argument of those Filipinos who oppose to Spanish language's reinstatement as an official language.

The Philippines, due to being an archipeligo, seemingly has had a difficult time forging a "national" identity where one language defines an entire people. Cebuanos and Ilocanos can attest to that by not using Tagalog at home.

Again, living in the States, many Latinos who don't know the Spanish legacy in the Philippines often wondered why Filipinos can pronounce many Spanish words with authenticity. Little do they know that there are 2,500-6,000 loan words or "hispanismos" sprinkled within various Filipino vernaculars.

Don't get me wrong, the process may be difficult and perhaps impossible given the many obstacles and justifications of those who oppose the decree. That does not mean we cannot analyze its potential and weigh out the pros and cons.

Anyways, I'm on this side of the Pacific and I may see things a little differently. Latin America may never be an economic jugernaut, BUT what happens if they get there act together?

Need I remind you that Mexico is the 12th richest nation in the world as is Spain becoming more of a economic and political player within the European Union. They are NOT the economic laggards they were fifty years ago and who knows how they will evolve economically and politically over the next fifty.

I think President Arroyo-Macapagal knows this all too well.

Living in the United States where there are 34 million Hispanics (the largest minority, I can understand why.

Anonymous said...

Mr. LLorito,

I apologize if I strayed away from the subject. It is just I had taught English as a Second Language (ESL) for the past 10 years here in Los Angeles to both the large Latin American and Asian contingent of immigrants.

This maybe the underlying fuel to my passion.

What awakened me to the Spanish language's importance to Filipinos was the fact that I have had the privilege of teaching numerous Peruvians of Chinese and Japanese descent and Brazillians of Japanese descent whose first language was Spanish and Portuguese.

As I investigated this phenomenon, so I thought, I found that there are close to one million 2nd and 3rd generation Peruvians of Chinese and Japanese extraction. To a lesser degree, there are over 1 million Brazilians with a full Japanese blood-line (Portuguese speakers understand 80% of Spanish naturally).

The two economic giants in that region "already" have the "heads-up" should Latin America's economies and influence take a leap.

This is my plight. It would be a shame if the Philippines - the ONLY Asian country that shares 350 plus years with the region - miss out on an opportunity to become a "triple threat" cultural giant!

Dave Llorito said...

Mr Anonymous: thanks for a very good case for learning spanish, as well as english. right, filipinos should learn other languages but for purposes of policy, putting english up there should be necessary while leaving filipinos the option to study other languages without government fiat, should be the right approach.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

In re-reading your article, you definitely are correct. While I was rambling on with the importance of Spanish, I must say your point of view is true as well as thought provoking.

However, I am biased given the fact that English is my first language and Ilocano the vernacular my parents and relatives of their generation use (and they all can speak Tagalog) thereby becoming my "defacto" second language. Therefore my opinion of mastering the English language may be a bit slanted to agreeing with you on this particular debate.

I have noticed through my extensive observation within Filipino web-sites that even in writing, I noticed the lack of command in using correct verb tenses as well as numerous grammatical errors. Now, don't get me wrong, when writing comments in Cyberspace, there is the notion of "mispelling" words or typographical errors, which can be forgiven and overlooked. However, I've seen samples of writing -tainted with so many errors- that surprised me. Traditionally, the Philippines in general has been known to have the least problems (amongst the Asian groups) in writing and speaking English.

I did not know that Tagalog/Filipino had been the only medium of instruction in the Philippine educational system. No disrespect, but that is a tragedy given as you stated the usage of English is math and science world-wide.

I understand to a degree the cultural aspects of Tagalog becoming the lingua-franca of the archipeligo, but I see first hand how the Chinese government is almost "urgently" implementing the notion to master English strengthening your side of the debate.

What people fail to understand is that although the Chinese language boasts over 1 billion speakers, it is generally based only in China.

For what is worth, English is an official language in over fifty countries and Spanish, as I mentioned in my previous comments, is an official language in twenty. Both English and Spanish are "international" languages. Latin America is NOT one country as many may unkowingly generalize, China is.

This is another dimension of why I think the Philippines is poised to become an Asian "dragon" of a different breed.

Your opinion is highly anticipated and will be respected.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Thank you for your response. Perhaps I'm thinking too much with a "Yankee" mentality oppose to being sensitive to the domestic concern that coincide in reinstating the Spanish language and the monetary funding needed.

That does not mean I digress from my notion of the importance the Spanish language is to the Philippines and the potential it can have.

One question is, and this I failed to think out clearly, in GMA's proposed decree to reinstate Spanish, does that mean eliminating English or Tagalog.

My take was that all three can co-exist, much to the notion of how India's political decree to have declared many "official" languages in its constitution drawn in 1967.

In the case of the Philippines, should the Spanish be reinstated, English and Tagalog should be preserved. An ideal situation would be promoting it "not" to the entire nation but to convenient districts or provinces such as Zamboanga and perhaps chosen areas in Cebu where the language may not "feel" as foreign and let the cards fall as they may.

In your comment regarding China as a superpower, and mastering English to extend its influence is quite similar to my thought of the Philippines -albeit not a superpower- mastering English and Spanish to develop into a regional liason.

By funding a couple of school districts such as Zamboanga and a few others, it would initially act as the Philippines' Latin-card towards the wooing Latin American investors in addition to the trade patterns already established between Asia and America.

Replacing English, or Tagalog was not my argument. My vision was that the usage of English and Spanish can inevitably market the Philippines to extend its scope into three economic trade markets not primarily Asia and America.

If GMA's intention to officialize Spanish again to inevitably revert to a Tagalog-Spanish speaking country is out of the question. If that is the case then, no, Spanish should not be reinstated.

Dave Llorito said...

My view is that we should avoid legislating Spanish into the curriculum for all courses, but to courses like foreign relations, diplomacy, history outsourcing management (yes some schools are offering that one), hotel and restaurant management, etc. The reason for this is that local curricula are already loaded with too many subjects, many of them are probably not relevant these days. My core proposal is reestablish the prominence of English and remove those useless subjects so that schools could provide more laboratory courses for sciences and mathematics. But I could see that many young people are now learning Spanish because Spanish speaking call center agents are in demand these days.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Thanks again for responding.

You've touched on a perfect point to strengthen my case.

I'm not sure where I read this information but, it read that many Americans, when dealing with call centers in Asia, prefer to talk to a Filipino national opposed to an Indian national because the Filipino speaks English with an American phonetical pattern.

Now, add Filipino-Spanish speakers to the mix in this field of service and this would serve as an example of where I see the Philippines poised to be a "triple-threat" premium.

Do you see where I'm coming from a little more clearly?

But importantly Mr. Llorito, I stand behind you wholeheartedly and agree that English should be the primary focus in mastering in the Philippines.

It is imperative to compete globally for "the main meal". Spanish is just the "dessert".

What if Spanish were to be optional but mandatory in Zamboanga? Is that a fair enough compromise? Then Spanish would take it's place as a local dialect and leave the door open to the Latin-card should that ever take place.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Out of curiosity, other than the obvious, when why was English replaced as the medium of instruction in the Philippines?

Was the decision made solely based on nationalism and a retalition to the American intrusion?

Regarding the "overload" of subjects in the local districts, which subjects do you feel are not necessary?

Anonymous said...


Mr. Llorito, I have chosen a nickname by the way. I'm the ananymous blogger you have been dialoguing with.

Also, your explanation focusing on mathematics and the sciences are the exact same concerns here that most school districts face also.

In light of that, in California (and I think three other states) there is a shortage of qualified Math and Science teachers.

An article in the Los Angeles times - a few years back - stated that they would be recruiting abroad to the Philippines and India to meet the shortages. The teaching field - along with nursing and medical technology - have become professions where Filipino nationals and American born Filipinos are generalized to excel in.

Unfortunately, it probably perpetuates the "brain-drain" phenomenon in the Islands.

However, in the U.S., certified teachers tend to be under paid, compared to other professions that require a four year degree and beyond, which leads many to not choose the teaching field as their career. Those who do, tend to use the field as a stepping stone to "beef-up" their resumes -sort of speak- thus creating a vacuum. This inconsistency has also created problems that decrease the quality of education in our public schools, particularly the inner-city areas.

Do certified teachers in the Philippines face a similar dilemna?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Google to "Filipino-American Wikipedia" and read the highlighted topics under "Education" and "Economics". Check out the statistics.

It's a little proof of how beneficial it is to "master" the English language.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Here is another spin, not taking away from the importance of mastering the English language there.

You had mentioned that you oppose legislation in funding the Spanish language to its official status. I respect that.

In thinking about GMA's decision to reinstate Spanish, could there be a possibility that in doing so, that she is changing the "optional" status the language has to "mandatory" only to elevate the importance of what Spanish can
do to extend the YOUTH's marketability in a shrinking global community.

I really don't think that GMA expects those who are "too-old" to learn Spanish to actually speak it, but actually is targeting those at the kindergarten age and younger to further understand a Philippines without borders in the future?

Remember, it is the future that THEY have to compete in and it would be a great disservice to them should they miss the boat.

As it stands, the "optional" status the Spanish language has does not define the importance of learning a language spoken by 400 million people and growing.

Remember, my take in learning Spanish in the Philippines is to be "exposed" to it from the Kindergarten to high-school. Perhaps just one class in each level. I don't wish nor expect the Philippines to be solely a Spanish-speaking country.

Anonymous said...

Furthermore Mr. Llorito, in the cultural sphere, just because I speak English (as my first language) as do many white, black, Asian and Hispanic American does not mean that we all come from a British blood line.

In addition, the fact that my Filipino vernacular is Ilocano and not Tagalog does not subtract my cultural pride in being of Filipino descent.

It seems that the reinstating the Spanish language seems to be more of a "cultural-blood" issue that would change their "culture" oppose to a tangible "tool" to better prepare the Filipino youth to expand their global horizons.

I would not even be concerned with this issue had the Philippines not share a common history with 20 other sovereign Latin American nations. It just seems to be a natural "fit" to have Spanish be elevated from its "optional" status. The only way to do so is to make the language "official".

Anonymous said...

Until I think of another "spin" I would like you to truly understand I am sharing my thoughts with you as a Filipino man living in California, where I see first hand how important Spanish has become in addition to the "buying-power" of the Hispanics in regards to the U.S. economy.

In generalizing, what happens in California will eventually happen to the U.S., and what happens in the U.S., will have a great influence to the world. It is a "new-wave" that is developing. I truly hope that the Philippines does not miss the ride based on a factually-perceived negative colonial past. It is not fair for the youth that has to live in a shrinking-globalized economy.

Dave Llorito said...

my position remains the same. strengthen english as part of the filipino heritage and give schools the elbow room which discipline to require spanish as part of the curriculum. some schools are offering courses on outsourcing and spanish might be a good addition. so are courses like history, etc. even the latinos and hispanics are learning english, every body is learning english, so this should be the main strategic thrust, together with the sciences and mathematics.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

I'm not asking you to change your position. I'm with you 100% in mastering English even if it is to demote Tagalog to a "cultural" subject. By "officializing" Spanish is probably the only way to illuminate its importance from its "optional" status. The potential idea should be to develop a formidable percentage of "fluent" Spanish speakers of say 5%. That alone would "woo" Latin American and Spanish investors, and psychologically plays as a positive initiative knowing they can use THEIR first language to negotiate and invest in ASIA!

The example I'd like to use this time is Switzerland. How many languages are official there?

The Swiss are not a military giant. Nor are they an economic or political player in world affairs when compared to France and Germany. However, in banking, tourism and international dimplomacy, they are hands-down a pivotal player in the European continent. They have four official languages. French, German, Italian and Romanish.

They took "advantage" of their geographic location and its historical legacy with "foreign" invaders. Their "nationalism" is defined NOT by a language.

We are looking at the Philippines with two different lenses. Your plight is with the that "TAGALOG" used as the instructional medium in education actually detered the country's development to move forward. English should be mastered. There I agree.

However, the Philippines, needs ALL the help they can get economically. If reinstating Spanish can help forge the Philippines to have a national "persona" to that of Switzerland -given the similarities- then I don't see the harm in attempting to do so.

Lets face it, Switzerland understands that it can never be a France, Germany, or Italy in economics and political might.

Neither should the Philippines try to develop into a "dragon" in the same light as China, Japan and Korea. There is too much "given" complexities that make it impossible to do so.

When one thinks of Switzerland (in comparison to its larger and more powerful neighbors), what attributes do they think of? Why?

When one thinks of the Philippines (in comparison to the establilshed "dragons") what generalized attributes to people think of? Does "the laggards of East Asia" sum it up? If so, why?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorita,

Here is an elementary analogy.

You are a wealthy father and you yourself are the oldest of 19 brothers and with your father passed on you, by de-facto, are the patriarch of the clan. You still live in the days where YOU choose the young man your lovely daughter is to marry.

Let's say you are from Cebu, but can speak both Cebuano and Tagalog.

Then, you have two young prospects who happen to be identical twins. They come from a prominent family from Cavite. Both were graduated as valedictorians from their respective universities. One studied in Manila and the other studied in Cebu.

One speaks "only" Tagalog. The other speaks Tagalog and now speaks fluent -but not perfect-Cebuano.

Which of the two sons would you give your daughter's hand in marriage to? Better yet, who would your brothers tend to see their neice marry?

You and your brothers symbolize the Latin American investor. Meanwhile, one son represents and symbolizes a Philippines mastering English, and the other son also mastering English but a formidable population fluent in Spanish.

You just don't see Latin America as something the Philippines should take seriously in boosting its pathetic economic and cultural dynamic do you?

Nor do you fully understand how the twenty Latin American countries actually see what the English language symoblizes and the untapped opportunities of what officializing the Spanish language can create. Too bad, your putting all your eggs in one linguistic basket. Switzerland did not.

Anonymous said...

A couple of last questions,

Even if the Philippines and it's educational system allows students to master English, don't you still need a stable government that is not corrupt and a police force that local people see as a friend and not a foe?

Are these not two generalizations that have so plagued the Philippines since its independence in 1946?

Dave Llorito said...

mr filamerican:

if one's language policy, based on your assumption, should be solely anchored on the prospects of attracting foreign direct investments and tourists, then the philippines might as well have chinese, korean, or indians. these countries are now the strenght of the global economy. and yes, filipinos do learn these languages but they dont have to be officialized. and yes, filipinos are learning spanish but they dont have to be officialised.

but as a matter of policy, i say we should master english, without putting down other languages, because of two reasons: one, its already being used as a means of communications in schools, government, business, etc. and two, english is the language of science, of IT, of innovation. The chinese, the koreans, the hispanics, indians are mastering english because of this very fact.

Dave Llorito said...

mr. filamerican:

re "corruption," hmmm, you are nitpicking, sir. i thought we are discussing language policy here.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

My apologies, my excellent man! I got ahead of myself. Thank you for me bringing back to the subject.

I just want to see the Philippines tap into uncharted waters that's all. There is so much potential for the Islands but traditional "nationalism", I only observe, has been the deterent.

If the Philippines, as a collective unit, understand that the country's geographic mosaic consists of three components -Asian, American and Hispanic - perhaps the Islands can move on and let the economic, political and social "chips" fall as they may. Not by choice, but that is the way the archipelago evolved as a sovereign state. The primary example and barometer to excel as a nation seems to be compared to Japan, and not to a country like Switzerland.

You clearly have a vision in understanding that mastering English in the Philippines would benefit your youth and prepare them to compete in a globalized community.

Those who who advocate "Filipino" as the medium of instruction only see the internal benefits. That in and of itself is a debate that should not even be. Remember, my family is of Ilocano decsent, and I have had friendships with Cebuano and Pampango Filipinos who could care less if they spoke Tagalog or not. We celebrate our Filipino heritage THROUGH the English language in addition to them being fluent in a "provincial" tongue.

The Latinos here understand that Filipinos are a Hispanic-Asian extention and embrace us as cultural cousins, despite not knowing the Spanish language. This is something they do not share with our Chinese, Japanese and Korean counterparts.

Your vision is clear, feasable and logical towards the progression of the Philippines as a whole. I'm just adding an element of officializing Spanish as "beefing up ones resume."

Can I continue to dialogue with you in the future? I find your "language-dilemna" very important and equally stimulating.

Give me the green light or not. I respect your wishes either way.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

One last comment before I wait for your green or red light.

Living in the Los Angeles basin, in the summer of 2007, I had observed the Filipino-American celebration of Philippine independence downtown in what is called "Historic Filipinotown". It was an event where Filipinos and all "Angelinos" were invited to help celebrate and witness the "fiesta" of Filipino culture.

Did you know that there was a large contingent of Mexican and Central-South American "folklorico" groups "choosing" to participate in the celebration? In talking to a Mexican-American who headed the Mexican contingent, he believes that despite Filipinos being located in Asia and not knowing the Spanish language, the strongest cultural feature of the Islands is Hispanic. He and the other Hispanic groups felt strongly to include the Philippine folklorico groups in future Hispanic celebrations in Los Angeles.

Chinatown, Little Tokyo and Koreatown are only a few miles away. There was "no" contingent from these groups that chose to help celebrate in the fiesta. Why?

To help further understand my plight, there is a video on called Filipinas-Mexico-Hispana. This piece was put together by a Mexican national. His information may be elementary, romantic and trivial. His grammar and research in explaining his creative thought is not perfect. However, his conviction of Filipino people being "part" of the Hispanic global community is absolutely clear.

In addition, should you investigate this site, there are videos of the various Hispanic folklorico groups who participated in the Filipino-fiesta.

Cultural exchange may be a little door to boost the Philippine economy, but it is a door nonetheless.

Thanks so much for your time and input. It will always be respected and coveted. Again, my sincere apologies for "nitpicking". It must be the Filipino in me. LOL.

Dave Llorito said...

mr filamerican: i certainly enjoy this dialogue of ours. you certainly know your subject matter and i admire you for that. my opinion is as good as yours. let this dialogue continue forever even if we dont have to agree on everything. but i got your point there. i myself is thinking about learning spanish, for two reasons.

one, people in the US always talk to me in Spanish when i walk the streets. latinos always approached and talked to me in spanish when i took the new york subway. same thing in washington dc and virginia where i got relatives.

and second, my wife said i should because of reason number one.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

You are a true gentlemen and a scholar!

I guess, I look at the Philippines from the outside looking in and its unlimited potential.

You know first hand of the internal concerns of the Islands, which is more important.

I know we agree on one thing, English should be re-mastered in the Islands.

In your defense, in experiencing assistance from an international call service, and I listened to this woman speaking English. Her fluency was such that I thought she was Canadian. Canadians have a distinct flavor and elegance when speaking and those outside North America rarely detect it. I was pleasantly surprised when she told me she was from Manila and had never visited the United States or Canada. Someone is doing thier job in the Islands!

However, it is stimulating "agreeing to disagree" with you.

Now, regarding your statement earlier in exemplifying to officialize many languages to appease China, India, Korea...

Here is my view. Latin America is a totally different beast. "English" to them traditionally served as a language of superiority and further magnifies the region of their inept ability to be classified as first world countries. Yet, they have "unlimited" potential to do so. In your argument to master English in the Philippines, you mentioned that learning Chinese would be futile, because a Chinese investor IN the Philippines more likely has to dialogue in English, as with the Japanese, Korean investor and tourist.

Well, the "lingua-franca" to the Islands' Asian component is English. With North America and Europe, it is English. With the Spain and Latin America...English also? C'mon, given the Philippines deep cultural and historical ties with the region? Do you see the comfort level Latinos have with you immediately speaking Spanish, "thinking" you were Hispanic?

With American-born Latinos, those I know personally do not see Filipinos as "real" Asian. Not as a put down, but in fact a compliment. Latin America generalizes Asia with Chinese cutlure, Japanese culture, and Bhudda-Confucious philosopical thought. They see "Asian" as something very foreign and very different. They see Filipinos as thier "primos" who happen to be "located" in Asia.

To speak English to a Latino is respected, to speak English and/or Spanish, wins their hearts.

Do you see the "blue-print" of how I see the Philippines as a "tri-lingual" cultural giant?

1)Filipino/Tagalog for the locals,

2)English towards the markets of Asia, North America and Europe,

3)and Spanish towards the Latin American market. (And it can "only" be the Zamboangan province who could master Spanish...)

Is this "such" a farfetched vision?

Anonymous said...


Mr. Llorito, the reason when visiting the U.S. people speak to you in Spanish, is "probably" because they think you are Hispanic. Having said that, Hispanic means you are "guapo". Take that for what its worth...Shallow of me, huh? However, that is a generalized stereotypical truth. People talk to me in Spanish all the time! LOL

Anonymous said...


Hispanics are a "good-looking" people. They know thier own when they see one.

Here is another thing I know we can agree upon. Filipinos - hands down - are the BEST lookin' people in Asia.

The foundation of a "Hispanic" culture is already built-in the Filipino people, along with the benefits of the English language, in addition to a "treaure" of an indigenous multi-lingual mosaic which ultimately defines the Phillipines. I say;

a... know your cards,
b... understand the game,
c... keep your eye on the dealer,
c... then play the "entire" deck.

Mabuhay Filipinas,
Kudos to the Phillippines,
and Viva las Filipinas!!!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito, how are you sir? I hope all is well.

I was thinking about the Philippines and its Filipino-English-Spanish legacy and how they "providentially" interconnect.

The beloved Jose Rizal who desired "equality -not independence from Spain used "Spanish" to elaborate his love for the "pearl of Asia" in his writings and his classic poems. Thus, they were seeds that begat a national pride that eventually led to the demise of the Spanish rule in the Islands.

Then, the Spanish-American war materialized, and through a series of events, no longer talked about, the Americans - exercising its new world-power status - brought in English, albeit for its own imperialistic notions. English became the medium of instruction in the schools and did what the Spanish conquerers did not do, and established a formidable educational system.

Then, in 1936, the Americans "appointed" M. Roxas as the president of the Commonwealth of the Philippines declaring Tagalog as an official language of the Islands, despite himself being 50% Castillian. By 1946 with English as the medium in schools was also the year of independence from the U.S. The Philippines emerged as the second richest economy in Asia during this time.
As an independent country, all three languages co-existed as the official languages of the archipelago.

The Filipinos have for decades tried to solely use Tagalog -aka Filipino - to develop a national identity, thus denying, to different degrees, the importance of the other two components.

You see, all three languages define the Filipinos as a collective whole. They are interconnected somehow and I think this is where we NEED to build our national identity.

It is unique in and that of itself, which is a probable reason why many cannot understand it, are angry with it and blame the two colonial intrusions as a scapegoat for the present day identity crisis. Those who feel this way are absolutely correct and their embattled emotions are completely justified.

However, realistically, one needs to look at it as two "providential" gifts - despite the domestic atrocities both administrations left behind - but instead use their legacies as "tools" that can eventually levate the Philippines into an international "liason" thus taking its rightful place as a different yet equally important "dragon" in Asia.

By the way, there is an article I browsed into from Google that titled; Korea Dreams of Becoming No. 1 in English speaking. This article should add more "fuel to your fire". Go get em' Mr. Llorito!

Anonymous said...


A good example of my "interconnecting" theory can be exemplified in your visits to the United States.

Here you are, a Filipino man from "Asia", walking the streets of New York, Washington D.C. and Virginia, and are approached by people who speak to you in "Spanish" but you probablly responded in "English" that you are Filipino and don't speak Spanish, correct?

Need I say more? You are living proof of what I believe what a Filipino really is and that is a GOOD thing! Okay, stop laughing.

Talk to you soon!

Anonymous said...


Soon wasn't long enough, huh?


1)Re-officialize Spanish, BUT only mandate it Zamboanga,

2)Re-master English as the instruction in schools and that should not be a long-term problem being the youth is exposed to English everyday through the different forms of media,

3)Continue to use Tagalog as the national language and continue to respect the usage of the "other" major vernaculars.

The difference in the Spanish language as a "foreign" language opposed to it as a "cultural" language is defined by your name, Llorito. It is really "not" foreign.

The people of Zamboanga, 300,000 strong and whose vernacular is Chavacano which is 70-80% Spanish, should have no problem mastering Spanish. Thus, promotes a starting base in "re-establishing" Spanish as a vernacular used daily and a "Hispanic-pearl" within THEE PEARL. The 20-plus Spanish speaking nations, I'm sure, would greatly applaud the effort.

Remember, India, having English as an "official" language and a population of over 1 billion people, boasts 35 million English speakers. That amounts to be less than 4% of its populace. Yet, they boast the most computer-engineers in the world. Food for thought for Zamboanga and the Philippines!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Here is another "gem" covered in the mass of historical dust.

Many people who don't know, and those who do, care not to see its importance was in World War II. The generalized story is that the U.S. was the greatest contributor, with the USSR, Great Britain and France also contributing greatly, in silencing the tyranical rulers from Germany, Italy and Japan, TRUE.

However, many other smaller nations contributed also. One of them was Mexico. Picture it, in the 1940's, Mexico's economic and political infrastructure and economic influence was by far not an example of a superpower. For the most part, it still isnt.

However, it sanctioned its trade to the three countries who opposed the allies. More importantly, it had a small but formidable air-force unit that for the first and only time saw combat "outside" the Mexican borders.

Now, there were two theaters at hand during World War II; one in Europe/N.Africa and one in Asia.

Where did you think the Mexican government of that time choose to send its contingent? To Europe because of Spain? Nope, Spain was neutral during this conflict. They were sent to the Philippines. This small unit risked their few lives to represent Mexico's contribution to the global conflict IN the Philippines.

My question to you is, why the Philippines?

It's probably a "trivial" topic to Americans and Filipinos, but rest assured, not to the Mexicans who love history.

A ton of blood sacrificed may be greater than one pound of blood. It is sacrificed blood nonetheless.

Food for thought!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Here is another parable regarding my theory.

Say you have a charitable organization with a heart to educate, feed and clothe its poor.

They need to build a center to provide their services.

You have one man, who through an innovative sense of business, parlayed his $100 dollars into a stock which exploded globally and eventually increasing his asset worth over $100,000,000.00 and he contributes one million dollars to the cause.

You have another man, who squandered all his savings through bombastic and arrogant lifestyle now only had a life savings amounting to only $100.00. He sincerely learns from his horrid mistakes and sincerely contributes $50.00.

Who gave more?

With the million dollars from the first donater, the organization bought the material needed to build the center, hired teachers to educate the children, funded limited health care and built free-housing units for emergency shelters.

With the fifty dollars from the second contributor, the made the poor man buy material and gave him the responsibility to give the center a name. He proudly, tenderly and tediously creates a concrete sign and named the center "Centre para los Angeles" or Center for the Angels.

This center was built about a hundred years ago and is still thriving today. Some respect it, some call them unfair, some say they are an organization for the poor's dependency, some demand more services from them and forgot about the free services they alreay received. But overall, deep in the hearts of the people, know that it changed the scope of its society.

All three individuals;

1) the charitable organizer,
2) the rich donator and
3) the poor donator,

as a given, had thier own differnet motives and approaches in thier concern for these unfortunate people.

Which of the three components do people see as the greatest asset, now?

Every individual in the land casted their votes equally toward which individual contributed the most and still debate their reasons to this day. Why?

Anonymous said...

While the the people debate on which individual component is most important, each fraction has written books and commentaries to uphold their stand. They have even grown to dislike one another.

Likewise, their opponents have written books and commentaries to point out the "why nots". The most popular debate developed because the "material" used to build the center was made of cement, and not "mahagony wood"!

Everybody is right and everybody is wrong based on intellectual analysis and valid statistics.

While they argue, the world wonders why these "intellects" are not writing books on the "CENTER" itself and its potential of "how" to expand its influence further.

The world prompts them to celebrate the three individuals who equally and wholeheartely put their knowledge and personal convictions in creating what the center potentially symbolizes!

However, they have been arguing so long and have become so stoic in their ways of thinking, that they laugh at what the world sees because they analyze it to be impossible and not economically feasable.

Twenty years have passed and the neighboring nations of these people have become respected and some have been asked to be on the "board of world diplomacy" because of their advancements in cultural and economic influence.

Then, they go back to the location of where this innovative charitable center only to find the promising group of people still debating "which" individual contributed the most!

Then, these very same people ask themselves why "they" and "their nation" were not even considered to be amongst the "board of world diplomacy".

It is very sad really. Question is, who now is to blame?

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

One more example of a Filipino's "triple-threat" capacity.

There is a fine American actor named Lou Diamond Phillips. He has Filipino extraction in his blood line. How much, I don't know exactly for sure, but enough where he identifies himself as Filipino-American.

As an actor in the U.S., authentic Filipino roles are rare. He also champions the Screen Actors Guild, if possible, for hiring actors based on their ability and craftsmanship FIRST.

As a result, he has had roles in;

1) the motion picture "La-Bamba" which he played Richie Valens, an American rock-n-roller of Mexican descent,

2) a stage production on Broadway where he starred in "The King and I" which he played the King of "SIAM/Thailand".

3) numerous television guest starring roles where he played "Hispanic-type" villains and or heroes.

Him being Filipino-American "opened" the doors to play Hispanic or Asian characters and not strictly a typical Asian character. The fact that English is his native language allows him to play major roles where him casted to play a cop, father, lawyer, can be any American of any ethnicity. He does so, because he CAN.

Dave Llorito said...

mr filamerican: i really enjoy this conversation of ours. been quite busy in the last few weeks to update the blog. but yeah, i hear you.

re lou diamond philips, i've read somewhere he grew up in the philippines when his father, a navy man who married a filipina, was posted here. he went to the States during his high school days. yeah, he acts well; i watched lots of his films.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Llorito,

Inasmuch as Lou Diamond Philipps symbolizes my vision for the Philippines, he does have a comical but sad experience happen to his marriage (one of them anyways).

He tramps around Hollywood and bizzare things happen there, needless to say.

With his celebrity status, good looks, and his Filipino "mojo" (slang for sex-appeal) he had it goin' on!

He married some well known actress -can't think of her name - but she left him ! A normal hollywood story, right?

But she left him for another "woman" for cryin' out loud!

I know Filipino charm can both be a blessing and a curse, but this one takes the entire cake (OR bibinka)...

Now, delete this please, however it is a Hollywood fact.

To keep in the topic of language, this is one hell of a tragedy in any language - English, Filipino or Spanish, if I do say so myself. Some things translate perfectly from one language to another, don't they?


I had a good laugh for days, but hey, one needs a dose of humble pie sometimes. In his ex-wife's case, she went to the market and baked a special new "pie" not to mention barbecuing Mr. Philipps' ego! LOL

For personal reasons, I'm going on a "sabbatical" for a short time. Until then, take care my excellent "primo" moderator!

Anonymous said...

As a Filipino-Australian, I think it is imperative that Filipinos hold on to Tagalog and their provincial languages. 11 languages die every year. It is an important part of national identity and culture. I speak Tagalog fluently, understand conversational Visaya, and habla espanol tambien, pero muy poquito. I am only 22 years old and have lived in Australia all my life.

If the Philippines want to move forward then, yes, they should embrace English as a language that co-exists with different Filipino dialects, but also strengthen local industry and social welfare.

It is counter-productive to compare the Philippines with Switzerland, which is an economic powerhouse. The Philippines culturally, socially, and economically, has nothing in common with Switzerland where 40% of the population are expatriates, bordering three European nations. The Philippines, on the other hand, is a largely homogenous country, ethnically and nationally.

But I agree Mandarin would be beneficial also. Spanish, on the other hand, isn't relevant. The question of the Philippines isn't based on what language one should speak, but it's about politics, social infrastructure, and grassroots microfinance initiatives.

And, why in the world would local companies outsource to places like Latin America -- a competitor -- rather than giving the jobs to locals? It makes no sense. I do admit, I just scanned the comments, so you can correct me if I'm wrong.

Interesting post!

Eugene Carmelo said...

This is a reaction to the comment saying that Tagalog is for the locals. And English and Spanish should be learned as their foreign language. With all due respect, but Tagalog does not represent all Filipinos. I am Ilocano and I am 100% proud of being a Filipino but I am proud of being and Ilocano and I am proud of my language. But Tagalog does not represent me. I accept English as a required and official language since it has been like that several decades ago. But as for Spanish, not now. We need to prioritize, among other things, our other major languages. Our constitution must be revised, officializing the major languages in their own areas and creating a true Filipino language (that is one that is artificial, not Tagalog).

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