5 Reasons every Filipino child should be able to speak Filipino

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I came across this article in Yahoo this morning that prompted me to write a new post after a month of managing the overwhelming response to this blog. Thanks to all the readers who have sent comments, e-mail messages and phone calls in support of this blog’s advocacy.

Last year, the school had a parent seminar about a hot topic — Dual Language. In the Philippines, it has become a problem of epic proportion that children DO NOT SPEAK the Filipino language well, if at all. For the purpose of this post, I only write about Tagalog (when in fact there are 200 dialects in the country that we can choose from!)

In my point of view, it is more of a parenting issue than anything else. In the country, speaking Tagalog is viewed as “baduy” or “inferior” by the middle- and upper-class. Parents would rather have their children speaking in English because they feel that their children would be more advanced in society. It’s really bragging rights, people. I’ve seen parents telling their children’s caregivers and teachers NOT to speak to their children in Tagalog. They have gone to the extreme in even questioning the celebration of Linggo ng Wika!

These parents (unless you’re one of them) do not know what their children are missing. Teacher Ani Almario of the Raya School, our speaker for last year’s event, discussed her study on Dual Language in children. Her study showed that children using the mother tongue and using 2 or more languages, had higher cognitive levels than their peers.

If you read Dina Ocampo’s study on the Mother Tongue Education, you will notice that she does not remove English in instruction all together but rather encourages that both languages be taught in the early years. What are we afraid of, parents? That our children will not succeed in life as well as their English-speaking counterparts? Promoting English as their main language now does not necessarily mean that they will be cognitively advanced.. they can just speak with a “twang” which boosts our ego as parents.

What are the effects of this parenting nuisance? I can name 5 ( but I’m sure there’s more)..

1. Children in this generation can hardly speak Filipino, much so READ it. I will bet my teaching profession that if we test middle- to upper- income elementary students in Filipino, they will fail. Why? Because they don’t speak it!

2. The recent death of former Corazon Aquino woke up dormant nationalism in our country. However, for parents, you may love the Philippines but you don’t love the country’s language. You may teach your children the value of nationalism but if you do not encourage the speaking of the national language then our value is half-baked. Practice what you preach!

3. If no one is reading in Filipino, how can our Filipino literature flourish? Our preschool students can easily listen to an English story but are having a hard time listening when an Adarna book is being read.

4. When you cannot listen in Filipino, most of what is happening around the child is not understood. I cannot stress this enough. CHILDREN WHO SPEAK IN ENGLISH AND FILIPINO, speak better and faster. I have seen preschool kids who learned how to speak earlier in their life because they can understand everything going on around them and they can respond to it.

5. Since progressive education is socio-culturally based, we progressive teachers would want to teach based on the culture that we belong to. We have a difficult time teaching Filipino and Sibika to students who do not care for the language. And if we want to avoid Filipino and Sibika all together then we should all enroll our children in international schools.

Why am I writing this post in English? Because admittedly, I will have a more difficult time writing it in Filipino.

And you have to admit that you will have a more difficult time reading it!!

To encourage you further.. how can your child be president if he/she can’t speak Filipino? Learn from Cory. She came from the upper class and was educated in Manila, the US and France. Yet, when she addresses the Filipino people, she speaks fluent Filipino. Can you say the same for yourself and your child?

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29 comments

  1. Tama!

  2. Teacher Brian · · Reply

    Hayaan nating matuto ang mga bata na maging bilingual / multilingual. Naiisip ko nga eh, sayang naman at bilingual lamang ako. Gusto ko pang matuto ng Bisaya, Ilocano, Ilonggo, at iba pa! Napapakinabangan yun, lalo na kung lagi kang nagbibiyahe. :)

    Kawawa naman yung mga iisa lamang ang kayang intindihing wika. Maraming kulang sa kanilang karanasan.

  3. tonette · · Reply

    a friend /teacher in child psych told me about teaching kids to become bilingual .according to her these kids have better cognitive performance.her advise is to assign somebody (usually and practically the yaya) to speak exclusively in Filipino; while parents and significant others speak to the child exclusively in english.

    1. Hi Tonette! I agree! It’s only now that I see yayas struggling to speak in English just to please the parents of their “alaga”. I can understand Bisaya only because my mom would speak to the helpers in Bisaya and they would speak to me in Bisaya as well. How I wish that I learned to speak it too!

      Keep on reading! Please post a comment on my most current post. You may win a Moleskine notebook :)

  4. hi, teacher tina! my husband and i have recently recognized the need to talk to our children in filipino…especially after seeing how our son struggles in the subject in school. so we have an all-filipino weekend deal with them. and i’ve started reading adarna books in filipino, too. i hope the activities in school this month would be able to spark renewed interest in the language. mabuhay po kayo!

    1. Great idea! Thanks for posting your suggestion. I’m sure a lot of parents and teachers will learn from your comment :) Keep on reading! Mabuhay din po kayo!

  5. Kristina Dancel · · Reply

    Good point Teacher Tina!

    Having been raised in a Cebuano household where even our dog was named “Paaka” (bite), I can relate to the kids having a difficult time learning Tagalog. I think it’s more of a challenge for them NOW though than it was for me back then because of the ff:

    1. BATIBOT was regularly aired and I watched it every day. It was brilliant! Manang Bola and her Ba-Be-Bi-Bo-Bu…pure genius.

    2. We were allowed to go out and play patintero on the streets until dark, we were trusted to buy toyo from the sari-sari store starting age 6. We spoke to vendors and neighbors regularly in Filipino. The downward spiral of the quality of public education in our country has resulted in the spread of crime and drugs in our streets today. It’s sad and crippling for our kids.

    3. We watched Filipino Films, And they were so well-written and executed that we actually REMEMBERED the lines Sharon, Nora and Vilma delivered.

    Obviously we have to elevate Filipino Pop Culture so that Filipino culture in general will not suffer,or worse, disappear. Schools play a big role in this. Nest is doing a great job encouraging our kids to find adventure in learning and joy in discovering their Filipino identity vis-a-vis emerging global culture. Keep it up Teacher Tina and NEST team!

    1. Yey for Mommy Kris! The reason why Kaio rocks is largely because of awesome parents!

  6. Dear Teacher Tina,

    This is so true. I have a goddaughter that speaks only English with a “twang” and is always praised and noticed. Whereas, I always get asked “Why don’t you teach her English?” because my 3-year-old daughter speaks mainly in Filipino. I feel bad sometimes because comments like that make me think I might not be raising my daughter right.

    1. Tara, good job on your daughter speaking Filipino! I salute your exceptional choice for a mother tongue. Don’t worry. The statistics in studies will back you up!

      Keep on reading!

  7. I completely agree with you teacher Tina!My two year old son speaks in Filipino. He started speaking in straight sentences when he was 18 months, his language skills now are comparable to that a four year old. Everyone at home speaks in Tagalog and some Cebuano, I speak to him in English and Tagalog, while everyone in school speaks in English. He understands everything but replies in Filipino. I am okay with that. Why? Because I was raised speaking Tagalog at home, Cebuano outside the home (I grew up in Davao), and English in school. I turned out to be very good in both Filipino and English. I took my graduate studies in the US and I excelled, impressed everyone with my English speaking skills and even graduated with distinction. And when i was spoken to in Filipino, i spoke it very well.

    I see no excuse why my son shouldn’t be able to express himself in Filipino, especially when he’s raised here. Tama si teacher Tina, kung gusto nating matutunan ng ating mga anak ang pagmamahal sa bayan, kailangan nya munang matutunang mahalin ang sariling wika, at sariling kultura. Minsan kasi nakakadismayang isipin, bakit yung mga bata sa Amerika, yung mga ibang lahi tulad ng mga Chinese at Vietnamese, magaling silang mag-Ingles pero magaling rin sa sarili nilang wika. Bakit yung mga Pinoy, sa Amerika man o dito, hirap na hirap umintindi o magsalita ng Filipino, o Cebuano, o ano mang dialect, pero ang galing galing mag-Ingles. Naiisip ko minsan, paano kaya magkakaroon ng nasyonalismo, kung mismong sariling wika di natin matutunang mahalin o bigkasin. Bakit kailangang maging batayan ang galing sa ingles para masabing matalino ang isang tao. Ang dami kong naging mga kaklase at katrabahong di naman ganun kahusay mag-Ingles pero taglay na matalino dahil magaling mag-isip.

  8. hi. what’s the name again of the school which says it has strong Filipino values? starts w/ the letter R… thanks!
    p.s. i’m still waiting for your post about combining progressive and traditional way of schooling. ;)

  9. Suzette, it’s Raya School :) thanks for reminding me of my promise. I just published previously written posts. Don’t worry, I’m on it! Keep on reading…

  10. omg my mom never taught me filipino even if she grew up speaking it and my daddy too.
    And when I went to school I couldn’t understand anybody because they knew filipino. Even with the filipino subjects it was still so hard for me to understand it. And finally when I think I am becoming better at it, we move to an english speaking country. It is so frustrating since I didn’t have any friends bec. I could understand half of what they said.

  11. Filipino is not the only essential language Filipinos should learn to be ‘fully-baked’ Filipinos. They should also learn they native languages (not dialects), especially those who are in the provinces. And Tagalogs should strive to learn at least one of the other two major lingua francas of the country, Ilocano and Cebuano. Millions of Filipinos, non-Tagalogs, do not feel much nationalism since they do not feel they are integrated in the national life. And why is this so? Because their languages are being pushed aside into second-rate positions!

  12. Mark Roxas · · Reply

    I beg to generally disagree. Though it is proven to be true that teaching a child 2 languages will promote greater cognitive development and thus allow him to excel in different fields; I beg to debate on the 2 languages of choice, why should you teach the child filipino? Why not educate your child in English and Chinese instead of Filipino; by knowing Chinese instead of filipino you increase the chances of your child to do better in aglobal perspective; much more people speak chinese than filipino.

    To answer one of the questions/ points raised. Parents generally do not want their children speaking in Filipino not because they believe it so simply be the langage of the poor or of the masa but because IT IS THE LANGUAGE OF THE POOR. An upperclassman could very well understand Filipino ( though I agree he may not be able to write) in the same way a lower classman will be able to understand English (but will not be able to write). So instead of trying to teach the upperclassmen how to be literary geniuses in Filipino, why not teach the lowerclass better English. In this global community it is much much more advantageous to know English over filipino – an example would be science books, there are no science or math books written in Filipino, all the words and terms are in English how do you for instance translate cognative into Tagalog? with a better grasp of English it thus makes it easier to grasp all other subjects.

    For the Ablolishment of Filipino as the national Laugage.

    -Mark Roxas

  13. Melody · · Reply

    I have nothing against learning English and other languages. In fact, I am currently learning a third language. But I strongly believe that the children should master first their native language before they start learning another one. Enough with this elitism. Philippines would only prosper if we have concern for it – not only for ourselves. Very well, if Filipino is the LANGUAGE of the POOR, then that means PHILIPPINES is POOR. All of us. Which is definitely not true. We have a rich culture and rich country full of resources – it is wrong to focus our eyes only on the negative side. We can learn all the language we wanted to for the rest of our lives but we cannot betray our own blood by changing our very own national language. Sorry Mark Roxas. I understand your opinion, but I cannot accept the abolishment of Filipino as the national language. It’s like stripping ourselves naked of our own identity. I repeat, we can always learn a second or third language if we wanted to, but we have to master first our very own. Ayokong maging singaw o putok sa buho na walang maituturing na sariling akin. Pag-aaralan ko ang iba’t ibang banyagang wika at sa aking paglalakbay, malalaman nila na ang Pilipinas ay mayroon din palang sariling pagkakakilanlan.

    Ciao!

    - Teacher Mel :)

  14. I think English and Filipino subjects should be combined. For example, while the teacher teaches about the “The figure of Speech” the Filipino counterpart should be simultaneously taught too or vise-versa. — Pandiwa in English that would be Verb, and so forth. I know this would be difficult, but it is not impossible.

  15. hi teacher tina! this post really hit the spot for me because our daughter answers in Filipino but can fully understand English and she is seen as inferior by others because she speaks only in Filipino. I have often wondered if only speaking to her in Filipino was correct but we feel that if you are going to do something, do it right and what could be better than teaching her our native tongue and teaching nationalism also. Besides, we spoke only Filipino at home and English in school when we were young and we excelled in English, so why not do the same? Another reason is that we leave our children under the care of yayas who sometimes try hard to speak English and failing miserably at the attempt (diction, grammar mistakes, etc.) and our children absorb these things. I wouldn’t want my child to speak in English but have an accent or have grammar mistakes. Mas nakakatawa kaya yun at mukhang trying hard ang bata. Bragging rights lang naman ang magaling mag-English na bata, ang sukatan naman nyan ay kung pano haharapin ng bata ang buhay at kung paano nya gagamitin ang mga natutunan nya sa paaralan sa tunay na buhay. I think that is what school and learning should be, practical application.

  16. this is such a good post.. im going to RT this article and even post about this someday soon!

    we are homeschoolers and i wonder if we are the only homeschoolers who don’t speak in english at home but this post has greatly encouraged me today…

    God bless you!

  17. Hi Teacher Tina,

    It is really comforting to know that a teacher like you have the same thoughts like I do.

    When you’re a parent, you always make the best and hardest decisions for your family. Choosing the language of your child is definitely one of them.

    Like on of the comments posted here, I am always asked why my son doesn’t speak in English. He’s only 2 years old. It oftentimes gets into me but I try to keep my cool.

    My son will be learn how to speak in English but he needs to learn Filipino first. Why? Because he lives in the Philippines and he is a Filipino.

    Why not make the Filipino language “globally competitive” than abolishing it? Learn more languages but never forget where you came from.

  18. This is a good perspective. It makes me re-think what I’ve taught my toddler all these years. As of now, he basically knows about 90% English — and the rest are divided between tagalog and taglish.

    When we were younger, Tagalog was largely spoken at home since both are parents talk to us in Tagalog. However, in school, we would mostly talk in English. We even have an English Week wherein we could only talk in English and gets penalized for every Filipino word that we spoke.

    What made us excel though in Filipino literature like Noli etc., was the fact that every summer, our parents would bring us to the province and leave us with our grandmother for a month or two months, and all our other relatives, would speak Tagalog. In order not to be discourteous, we should respond and reply appropriate Tagalog words as well.

    I would like to teach my son Tagalog as well, but English has been my default language growing up. Introduction to Filipino will have to be two-fold then, I have to relearn it, to be able to teach it.

    Thanks for the post. You made me rethink concepts.

    1. Thanks mom@law! If the post made you rethink on how to introduce Tagalog to your child then our goal was met! Hope you visit again and tell us about your experiences on your new found love for our national language. Mabuhay ang Filipino!

  19. My 4-year-old daughter is just starting to learn Filipino language. She’s now enrolled in a Philippine school here in Dubai. But I really got surprised when I learned that the Filipino subject was not really given that much time and importance in the school. I’m doing my own research now how to teach her Filipino. It’s good that my daughter seems to be interested in learning too…

  20. My simple reason for teaching my daughter to speak both in English and Tagalog is that I know how to speak them. She can speak with (almost) anybody when the family is either out of town or out of the country. She responds in Tagalog if you talk to her in Tagalog, and responds in English if spoken to in English. And if only I know how to speak in another regional dialect, I would have taught her that too. Why limit the opportunities? :)

  21. Mommy Jo · · Reply

    Hi Teacher Tina,

    Thank you for this blog. I totally agree in teaching our kids how to communicate with our mother tongue. It’s just so sad nowadays, that the measure of “how well educated” you are is in how you speak and express yourself through other language. Although my son first learn the English language (blaming it on TV), I am instilling in him the Tagalog language. My pedia even encourages me on this, and according to her, kids from 0-5 years old can learn to as much to 5 languages. Therefore, this is the best time to teach him languages that we feel will benefit most our kids. Like Mommy Thea says: “Why limit the opportunities and possibilities?”

  22. I got to your blog because I’ve been finding some tips on how I can teach my child the Filipino language effectively. We live in Spain, and her father is spanish so, you would understand my struggle to instill in her my Filipino language. Both husband and I have agreed that our daughter will learn my native tongue, which is Filipino obviously. She will sure benefit more by learning english academically but for us, knowing and living one’s root is far more beneficial than academic titles or advantages. Besides, she will sooner or later learn engilsh in school. Currently, our 2-yr old understands 80% of what I tell her in Filipino… she would answer me in Spanish though. Lately, I am having a hard time to follow through with her Filipino basically because we are sorrounded with Spanish community and I am the only one who speaks Filipino here… so even though I want to stick to talking to her in Filipino, there are too many moments that I have no choice but to talk to her in Spanish. and I feel like I am losing “battle” for her to really learn Filipino… so I really need tons of help!

    Parents should be more aware that young children CAN learn 2 language so easily so they don’t have to put Filipino aside just for their children to speak english well.

    Spanish Pinay

  23. Joy A. Santeco · · Reply

    Hi Tina,

    I’ve added your blogsite in my favorites section as I’m sure I’ll be getting real words of wisdom here. I just came across your blog on the importance of dual language for kids (speaking and writing in their mother tongue and competency in the English language) and I couldn’t agree with you more. It’s tragic really to see Filipino kids here and abroad who are good in English but couldn’t speak their own. There’s so much to gain and nothing to lose really when we excel in both. I would want to be a linguist if I have the choice, time and resources, and in my younger years! Having the ability to speak or write several languages would be great so how could you just limit yourself with just one!?English, and worse, deprive your kids of the learning opportunity to know their roots by being in touch
    with their native tongue as one step towards that. Some parents allow this to happen simply because of ignorance. Ignorance on knowing the importance of having deep sense of country, the benefits that stems from loving what is truly ours. More than anything, this happens and continue to happen because some of us choose to just look at the shallow reasoning of our choices and fail to look deeper for what is pure substance. Thanks for your articles and please continue sharing them.

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