Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Take On James Soriano's Controversial Article

I just read James Soriano's controversial article (finally!), and I have to hand it to him for being honest. That doesn't mean though that his words "it is not the language of the learned" sits well with me.

While it is true that English is the language used in our schools and board rooms (I was asleep while being operated on so I have no idea what language they used in the operating room :p), his conclusion that "it is not the language of the learned" is simply false, even downright stupid. It also irks me that he considers the English language to be a "tongue of privilege", and to which he even partially attributes his success in life, thinking that as long as he has mastery of the language he will always have his "connections".

Forgive me if I get a bit prickly, but the snob in me is aroused every time I encounter people (or at least the writings of people in this case) who deem themselves well educated when what they are doing/saying/writing is proving them otherwise. I'm not saying James Soriano is a total idiot, nor that he didn't get an education. What I am saying is that he hasn't educated himself enough in this particular issue to arrive at the proper conclusions, and more importantly to school himself to conquering his biases towards the Filipino language and his fellow countrymen.

I say he arrived at the wrong conclusions because what he might not realize is that some of the best minds in the country do use Filipino as their medium for creating art. The use of the Filipino language is not relegated to art alone either, with professionals using the language to converse everyday not just to communicate with the "uneducated yayas and drivers" but simply because it is their language of choice. Masarap pong mag Filipino. I can think of more examples, but what's the point?

Another thing that I think needs pointing out is the fact that the lack of mastery of the Filipino language actually indicates a lack of learning on our part. Yes, myself included. It angers me that we Filipinos put a premium in learning other languages (not just the English language), but do not applaud those who have mastered our very own language nor count it as a sign of an educated man. That is truly crazy because language is just a tool we can use to be able to understand concepts and ideas, communicate with more people clearly, and ultimately to broaden our perspectives and get a real education. Hence, the more languages we learn, the more chances we have of learning new things. There is no one language of the learned. What Mr Soriano said is plain and simple hogwash. To believe that there is one such language, is to have a shallow understanding of what education is really about.

On another note, what truly frustrates me is that Mr. Soriano is not alone in his dismissal of the Filipino language as being irrelevant in this day and age. Parents and teachers alike are still sending wrong signals to kids these days with their English-only rules. I know that in most cases that is not the intention at all, but what else will kids conclude if they are being banned from speaking Filipino? Like James Soriano, kids are apt to think that it is because English is more desirable than Filipino, and God forbid, that the Filipino language is only for their yayas. Without even realizing it, kids are being taught to treat their yayas differently and to be condescending towards others. Ask yourself, is the early mastery of the English language worth teaching kids wrong attitudes towards our own language and their fellow human beings? Or maybe there is another way of helping them get ahead in this world without having to sacrifice their respect for the Filipino language, while teaching them to truly connect to other Filipinos on a human level. I say, just let them learn what language they will. After all kids are like sponges and will likely learn both the English and Filipino language (even more) if you just let them. Teach them to appreciate both, and even more importantly, pass on to them a real love for learning. Not just the learning you will get from reading textbooks to get a high salary, but the kind of learning that would make them aspire to never stop growing.

In the end, I think this issue is even more pressing than whether Filipino is for the learned or not, and whether Mr Soriano is offensive or not. You can even say that he is to be thanked for his candidness because it inspired (hopefully) productive thought and discussion in our country (or at least in Facebook). The question is not whether he and Manila Bulletin (their taking down his post was a stupid move) learned something from the big hoopla, but if we learned something from his biases and shallow thinking.

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