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Saturday, February 6, 2010

On Being Played On

My professor today told the class that one of the main reasons why our university English department tried to expand our department in terms of number is because of the government’s, specifically the GMA Administration’s proliferation of the use of the English language. In other words, the government wanted to invest in training people to speak English well so we could “compete globally,” provide outsourcing services and have jobs and make money. Hidden behind these lines is capitalism or commodification, talking about the government’s utmost support of the call center industry and many other foreign-owned industries. I think that by leading the country, specifically the educational system in this way and making people think that what is more important is having jobs and getting paid (by foreigners), is rather a disoriented way of dealing with a nation’s culture, sense of identity, dignity and economy.

To put it simply, it rather feels like we have to be so good at something, and show it off to the world so they would get our service and pay us. This “commodification” scheme does not only kill the essence of nationalism, it also gives young people the sense of believing that to pursue an English major is to be able to work, not for our own countrymen, but for foreigners. In this way, the sense of nation building is lost and individualization is heightened. Because of a second language given much importance over our very own, it affects the way we view our own culture and sense of identity in that we are not being led to embrace our roots, and the uniqueness of being Filipino, but are rather unconsciously or consciously led to embrace that which is foreign, that which is not ours and is therefore “not us.” We have a sad history if we try to look back. The Spaniards, the Japanese and the Americans contributed much to the Filipino’s confusion of who he really is. According to my professor: “Ang Pilipino ay may fragmented sense of nationalism kaya mahilig sa halo-halong pagkain: halo-halo, chopsuey, pinakbet, etc..” (Even my professor had to be taglish.) We already have an identity crisis as a nation. Producing more English teachers to serve foreign interests will only worsen this. I believe that before we can truly be global, we have to be deeply rooted in who we are first. This is the reason why even if the Philippines has been active in “globalization” over the past years, we still have a crippled economy. Statistics overwhelm us of the following: From 24 poor families out of 100 in 2003 to 27 in 2006 and in about 25 years, our population will double to 130 million. The metro manila streets alone will tell you how poor our country has become. Considering this, we can then say that in the long run, our idea and way of globalization is really not beneficial to addressing our economic crisis. Rather, it appears to be a quick fix solution hiding behind nice ad catch lines, compromising many significant national issues.

It is sad to realize that many Filipinos are so good at English, the language of the country’s “best friend,” the language of the land flowing with milk and honey, and yet we remain at the bottom of the list of economically challenged countries. And yes, we could speak like Americans or the British, but those we share this “talent” with (the Koreans and the Japanese, etc.) are far more progressive than us. So, what’s the whole point? If being so good at the English language has not really alleviated our economic situation, then why proliferate it?

It is even more weird, you know to realize that I am writing this essay in English. I feel like a five year old, watching Blue’s Clue’s or Sponge Bob on Nickelodeon who wakes up one day realizing that English is easier for me to speak than my own mother tongue, only to come to terms with the reality twenty years later that it is not supposed to be like that; that had I not been so much exposed to a lot of English movies in my formative years and in high school, I would have appreciated my own mother tongue, would have written a book in it or written its orthography. And because I have no choice but to fall in love with the English language, I don’t know any grammar rule of my mother tongue or have a bit of a desire to know. Sometimes I secretly wish to be a real American. There are times I would wish everyone around me spoke English. And this is not good.

Identity being lost. The system simply played on me.

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