Monday, August 29, 2011

James Soriano Disturbed You? Good

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I get it. The infamous viral James Soriano opinion piece provoked a massive “Kung sino?” snort from people. With their response they are proving him right.

Sometimes there is a fine line between making a point and speaking from your high horse. I try to be aware of that line when I write but I am sure I have crossed it a few times for some people. Mr. Soriano makes the point that English is the language of the learned. Let's explore that point. I have lived here in Manila for almost 12 years. Media is something I analyze over and over in this blog. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that my degree is in that vein.

One of my major beliefs is that your mass media is not there to educate you. They are there to attract you. Two different things. Mass media are beholden to their sponsors and not to you. In short mass media is not telling you what you need to know but what you want to hear.

Marshall McLuhan is famous for his quote the medium is the message. I can tell you from where I sit. That in this country the language is the message. First of all. Compare the news that the over the air channels provide in Tagalog with ABS CBN News Channels news. The intonation of the Tagalog broadcast resembles pro wrestling commentary. The tone of the English broadcast sounds more like golf commentary. Why? You are reaching completely different mentalities when you select in this country what language you will use. If you totally disagree with me or James Soriano be prepared to argue the case that there is no such thing as language bias. Take a cue from non verbal cues. Just like the traits are different when you tune into golf and when you tune into wrestling.

People's Tonight. Headlines in English but stories in Tagalog.

If you don't buy the tone of voice argument then explain to me why is there no newspaper of record in this country in Tagalog. I am no big fan of the Inquirer, The Philippine Star and Manila Bulletin. But they are text book Columbia School of Journalism compared to their Tagalog counterparts.

Here is an exercise for you. Those who do understand Tagalog (I do to some extent) . For the next week expose yourself to an adequate amount of Tagalog media. Newspapers and tv news. Then try to imagine yourself as one who totally avoids English media and only gets information from Tagalog sources. What would your perspective be like? What would you be missing out on? What blind spots inherent in Tagalog media would therefore be your blind spots?

Those of us who can and do seek English sources of information are exposed to a plethora of perspectives on numerous topics. I won't try to dictate to you what I view to be width or the narrowness of Tagalog media but try it for yourself. What would it be like if that is all you had to go on? That is why his point that most people seem to ignore is that if you are serious about learning then you are better off with a daily diet of all English sources than all Tagalog. It's all a question of values in those that tend to stick to only Tagalog. My view here.

Whether you like it or not, media is a reflection of the audience it is trying attract. Kris Aquino is the way she is because a ton of people buy into her emo pseudo victim act. The audience wants that so Kris delivers. Based on her endorsement contracts boy does she deliver. I don't mean Boy Abunda either.

If by now you still believe that English and Tagalog are just interchangeable let me ask you a question. Would Willie Revillame work if he did exactly the same show only in English? My personal opinion: you can't spell Revillame without "lame".

If the answer is no then don't shoot James Soriano for being the messenger. He held up a mirror to this country's face. The country did not like what it saw and blamed the mirror and the mirror holder. In the immortal words of Colonel Nathan R. Jessup " You can't handle the truth".

What do you expect from a population that is honestly convinced Journey owes it's career to
Arnel Pineda? What do you expect from a country that does not encourage soccer yet feels self entitled to being in the next World Cup? What do you expect from a population that rewarded a convicted plunderer second place in a free election for president?


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Marshall Mcluhan

Language, learning, identity, privilege

I think


August 24, 2011, 4:06am

MANILA, Philippines — English is the language of learning. I’ve known this since before I could go to school. As a toddler, my first study materials were a set of flash cards that my mother used to teach me the English alphabet.

My mother made home conducive to learning English: all my storybooks and coloring books were in English, and so were the cartoons I watched and the music I listened to. She required me to speak English at home. She even hired tutors to help me learn to read and write in English.

In school I learned to think in English. We used English to learn about numbers, equations and variables. With it we learned about observation and inference, the moon and the stars, monsoons and photosynthesis. With it we learned about shapes and colors, about meter and rhythm. I learned about God in English, and I prayed to Him in English.

Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English. My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.

We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”

These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino.

That being said though, I was proud of my proficiency with the language. Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province, so I never had much trouble reciting.

It was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult. I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English. And so, in much of the same way that I learned German later on, I learned Filipino in terms of English. In this way I survived Filipino in high school, albeit with too many sentences that had the preposition ‘ay.’

It was really only in university that I began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect. Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language, derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.

But more significantly, it was its own way of reading, writing, and thinking. 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.

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