Is Filipino Language Our ‘Identity’? To Hell With It!

After reading an article titled “Language, learning, identity, privilege”, I was reminded of my passionate and serious discussion

"He who loves not his own language/is worse than a beast and a stinking fish." TO HELL WITH IT!“He who loves not his own language/is worse than a beast and a stinking fish.” TO HELL WITH IT!

with some people on certain Facebook group a few days ago, and the topic was “English versus Filipino”. In that discussion I strongly rejected the notion that language is the soul or identity of a nation. I said language is simply a tool of- first, cognition- and second, communication. You cannot think without any written or spoken language.

The author of this article talks about the Filipino language as the identity of every Filipino. He wrote:

There are ideas and concepts unique to Filipino that can never be translated into another. Try translating bayanihan, tagay, kilig or diskarte.

Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.

But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.

It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.

So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.

I believe that the degree of completeness, sophistication and quality of a certain language determines the degree of a nation’s civilization. As language expands and improves, so the economic, political and social condition of a nation. For instance, the advent of the age of industrialization in the English-speaking Western world led to the evolution of the English language. Technical terms and new words were added to the English lexicon and dictionary. Also, the advent of the Internet age further added countless of new terms and words to the English dictionary. These developments made English the lingua franca of global trade, of economics, of politics, of science and technology, of aviation, of education, etc.

The author of the newspaper article wrote: “English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English.”

That simply confirms the fact that language is a tool. It should not be regarded as the soul or identity of this nation or any nation. Logic has it that if you seriously take that so puerile a claim that language defines you, then that means Filipino, which is our national language, is your identity and inescapable. This means that to embrace a superior language (according to your values and understanding) means you’re a traitor to your own society, self, and soul. This means that you have no absolute control over your own destiny.

Such an infantile idea is, in fact, a pathetic attempt by some of the country’s intellectual flips to equate Filipino with our skin complexion and personal identity. They say, “Filipino is part of your identity so wherever you are and whatever language you use, you are a Failipino!” You cannot escape it, they say.



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