World has more than one English

Eric Ariel Salas

Eric Ariel Salas

Whenever you hear a non-native English speaker, a Filipino specifically, uttering broken “carabao” English, or a version you are not used to hearing, please reserve your criticism. Entertain, instead, the notion that the English language might be evolving, that nobody owns the language any longer. To a certain extent, it is already shared across continents and cultures. Just as there are American English (read: the ever prestigious), British English, Canadian English, Australian English and Indian English, there is also Philippine English. In this day of unimaginable innovation, English is no longer a singular term. Numerous Englishes exist around the world!

“You are like constipation, you take my breath away.” Here are two more: “My blockmates and I took on different roles as Supreme Court Justices.” “I stayed in some barong-barong in town.” These are sample lines to show that we, Filipinos, are fond of coining, compounding and innovating words to make it our own. The use of mate is basically abused. We can connect it to any existing noun to create new words with new meanings. So what if “every now and then” means “often” to majority of our locals when in standard American English it means “occasionally”?

This is part and parcel of the Philippine evolution of English. We colonize the English language to create a culture of our own. Today, the Filipino English has its own entitlement, just like other English languages in the world. I concur to what Isabel Pefianco Martin, President of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines and member of the International Year of Languages Committee Philippines, has said that all languages are equally perfect and complete from the linguistic standpoint. In other words, no language is second-rate to the other.

The week I started writing for The Collegian, I thought I could have my articles Americanized, structure them to sound and read like the articles you have been following from other columnists. Failure. Each issue, I was seeing a white flag at the end of that brain wave. My way of writing would never be like “theirs.” Although I was forced to learning the standard American English in school back home, which Filipinos are being taught as our second language beginning the day we enter pre-school, our being linguistically innovative has shown its prize. English evolution in the country is very evident that errors sometimes become features of Philippine English. Even Nanette Fernandez, assistant professor of English from the Ateneo de Manila University and a founder of the Ateneo Center for English Language Teaching, affirmed that the “nativized” form of English that the Filipinos use is acceptable albeit it is poles apart from the English, spoken or written, in other parts of the world.

The explosion of our own English version, thus the slow death of the standard American English in Philippine society, is not restricted only to the uneducated masses. In academic circles, the neither-here-nor-there English expressions are acceptable and frequently used. The hundreds of Filipino educated bloggers are into this culture as well. Who is complaining? No one. In the end, the culture becomes a standard.

Although I normally use the ‘Filipinayz’ standard way of writing my Collegian articles, I have no intention of diffusing the culture to and influencing anyone. For Americans, you can start your own or keep the one you have, or even much better, further hone the language you were born with, which the world has been continually marveling at.

Let me just take pleasure in my brand of English language that I regard as valid and colorful, that I view with confidence and pride. What is the use of the Philippines being the third most populous English-speaking country in the world if we do not have our own variety?