Thursday, January 10, 2008

vernacular verses

i actually wanted to write this blog entirely in tagalog, owing to the fact that when in speech, i could express myself pretty well in either english or tagalog. this however is not quite the case when reading, much more writing.

bebs, a friend of mine whom i met online, like a lot of ppl nowadays, chronicles his life with a blog, yet his is mostly written in tagalog. though understanding tagalog was never really a problem for me, reading it is totally different. it would probably take me twice or even thrice as long to read through the same length of tagalog text than it would take me to read something in english. the mere unfamiliarity with the words i guess cause most of this problem. i read somewhere that when we read, we don't actually READ, ala sesame street, by connecting letters with sounds to make sense (puh-lees, puh-lees, please...). but to conserve energy, our brain just remembers the words as a visual cue, with letters, so that when we encounter the same word again, we immediately know what it is and what it means. hence, the famous exercise of having a jumble of letters yet still being able to read it, just because the first and last letters are the same, as well as the length of the word (lgtenh is length).

since i never really bothered to read in tagalog, i never was able to create that bank of tagalog word cues for me to be able to read fast enough. every tagalog word has to be read and learned the old fashion way, which for me just takes too much time. sad actually, since bebs' writing is actually good and a lot of the times, very funny. there are things that can only be stated in tagalog unfortunately. delivery is the key!

this said, it got to wonder how language is so important, not just for communication purposes but also as a means of creating a cultural identity. we know the richness of the local language but never seem to use it to improve ourselves. locally, to speak in tagalog is never really looked upon as "chic" or worse yet, "educated". tagalog has been relegated to the impoverished as the language of the impoverished. english was the way to go if u want a boost up the social and economic ladder. blame it on our colonial past but i sincerely believe we have blamed too many others far too much, far too long already. we have to give ourselves a bit of credit as well to our cultural decline.

i'm not really saying that it's wrong to use english. heck, i'm writing this blog in it! but just the mentality about tagalog has to be changed. the philippines prides itself for having the third largest english speaking population in the world, yet to what cost? to the death and maltreatment of its own mother tongue?

i got to chat with vikki last night and she's starting her turkish classes today. she expressed to me her apprehensions of learning a new language but not downplaying its importance of learning it still, because in turkey, no one really bothers to speak in english. now, if this was a third world country in a far flung corner of the world, i would think that such attitude would tantamount to the nation's backwardness. yet since we are talking about TURKEY, a country whose civilization oozes with history and culture that spans TWO continents for THOUSANDS of years, such blatant disregard to learn english can only be defined as a nation's very high regard to it's identity. apparently, everything in turkey..well, is in TURKISH! the same is also true if you go to thailand, or japan, or to china. countries who treasure their identity take measures in safe guarding it. all information, visual or otherwise is delivered in the local dialect. english is only used for the sake of translation for international visitors.

for a country who is supposed to pride itself, you don't really see this much around. to be honest, u can count by your fingers the things that you see in public that is written in tagalog. everything is in english. now, it wouldn't be fair to say that this is the sole indicator of the nation's lack of self esteem, but i sincerely believe it is a major cause of it. there is an untapped potential in the language, as we have history and even modern artists and writers who prove this top be so. but if the people cannot make themselves appreciate its richness, then, maybe we're better off not having it.

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