July 6, 2008
By: Rocky Cajigan
It has been a complete downfall. How we have managed to betray the reputation of being an English Language powerhouse; and embarrassing to say the least. There is a piece left from the fruitcake to take real pride from of the impression from people that we from the north, the mountains, have managed to characterize ourselves as English speaking individuals. Proficient in the language, they say.
I was reading the first few chapters of Michael Moore’s Stupid White Men (a book I was so happy to have found in a shelf inside a thrift store –wagwagan, and cost me 40 pesos) and felt good on how he simply wrote in words the pitiful state of his nation from the eye of a commoner in the kingdom of corporate America. I couldn’t help but appreciate the conversationalist way of his words in pen – very strong. Who couldn’t be a better inspiration for a wannabe writer like me? And then it hit me. I wanted to write about writing, about words and the sad state of the English Language command of the now generation. You see it as well as I do. I hate to make reasons that do not really mean anything because they do not help in what we can do as a nation, but this cannot be because the Americans have left us and those who were with them during the American Colonization are now lost to history. Or is it? What happened? It’s as if I almost would like to suggest that we all forget English because we’re working our way at becoming so bad at it that maybe we can learn math or science better in Filipino. Not in a language that really isn’t our own. Look at them Koreans (South of course), how success became their last name. They understood what their teachers were saying because they understood the language they used. So I guess in effect we have failed the educational system because we can’t understand each other. How can we be so silly to have not seen it coming? Or I suppose it is simply because we are so overconfident to believe we’re still good. Face it! We’re not.
But who’s doing anything? Yes, the government or yeah, I guess the teachers –reality check! And I will say it; even my college teacher has a hard time trying to convince us that she can say whatever she’s saying in English. And she’s not the first in my very long list. Without intent to sound very condescending, it really is happening. I was shocked to hear her say, my teacher, when she was talking about cooking or something that they towed carrots as they cooked. What? And then she said, “You know. Towed?” and went on to spell it on the board, T-H-A-W. Aha! There’s another slip. My phonetics teacher advised us to just let it go and pretend like you didn’t hear anything if things like those happened. But how can that be, when I was understanding only a quarter of what my teacher was saying? So I guess I should just let it go? Or let’s all just let it go? There is what they say in effective listening (which should be a school subject essential to kids and just as important as reading, if you ask me), that to understand a speaker, you don’t busy yourself with whatever his slips are but the essence of the speech. Absolutely right –whoosh, bull’s eye! But please spare me the sympathy when I say that when someone is all over the place with his or her slips then might I say, “I’ll take it sir, good to go!?” Who’s the fool?
Embarrassing feeling number two has to do with teaching ESL (English as a Second Language): popular to Koreans and to the City of Baguio where most teachers are from the mountains themselves. Being a Korean in Baguio means “I needer to finderuh the cheapestuh placeh to study Engrisher! Vacationeh!” (Said in a soft tone and shouting at the end, no offense intended.) Voila! Baguio! Where the climate is right and the teachers they say are good. Good? Half of the time I’ll say. The Koreans already have a hard time with their vowels and I hate to say it but some of us are making it worse. It’s at the least, shameful.
But the most hit by this tidal wave of corruption of a language are the primary to secondary students. I have to say I was blessed to have had very good teachers who taught me more than I needed to know when I studied in Bontoc, possibly the last wave of good teachers. I’m not pessimistic but who’s not talking these days?
I started out writing for the school paper in high school and I guess had an idea of how it was to write. The best teachers though were the books. Read anything, from science fiction, spy, to historical romance and you’ll see what I mean. Watch Foreign movies in English and you’ll see it from there too. I was not raised to speak in English as a little boy (which I vehemently detest especially when the parents talk their kids in their FORMATIVE YEARS in corrupted English) but I eventually learned it after from whatever visual material my uncles and parents provided on the table. The teachers came after.
I guess this is yet another case of parenting inadequacy.
It is a simple choice for all of us. Drop the I-think-I’m-so-good-at-this-I-might-as-well-plug-my-ears attitude and get yourself a slice of humble pie. Eat the whole pie if you can and listen. If we want to get ahead it’s time we retrace where we went wrong. There is no damn good in saying “Oh it’s the youth; they’re too stubborn and lazy.” Who birthed the youth anyway? (For comments and suggestions, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or SMS at 0916-635-5744)