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English as a foreign langauge

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  • Tim Harvey
    We have had discussions about a national language, and some have rejected English as foreign - not native to the Philippines and Filipinos. In such debates
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 15, 2002
      We have had discussions about a national language, and
      some have rejected English as "foreign" - not "native"
      to the Philippines and Filipinos.

      In such debates about language, the final test of the
      expressiveness of a language for a people are the
      nation's poets and writers. And, this is the test
      Linda Maria Nietes did, very eloquently, in a post to
      HispanoFilipino where she discusses the thesis of
      poet-scholar G�mino H. Abad, which I've provided

      The Abad thesis, which I share, is that English has
      been "colonized" by Filipinos and made their own.

      Unlike others who concentrate on the foreign
      influences, I find a more prevailing and persistent
      influence arising the peoples of the Philippines that
      adapts and hews the jetsome that drafts up on the
      shores, including visitors who masquade as colonial
      masters before the winds of change and world
      circumstances carry them away again.

      If you are not familar with Linda Maria Nietes, it is
      no exaggeration to say that she is the Philippine's
      own muse in residence in the Unitied States. Before
      coming to the United States, she operated the Casa
      Linda Bookstore in Manila that served as a center for
      writers and intellectuals, and for nearly two decades,
      Philippine Expressions in Los Angeles where she
      singlehandedly brought the rich Philippine
      intellectual life to the American public in the dark
      ages before Web access.

      Linda's statement is one of the best, most compelling
      I've read so I'm inclined to include it at the DILA
      site as the representational statement on this topic.


      Aug 2001
      Tim Harvey
      [hispanofilipino] Digest Number 185

      Bravo Linda! How eloquently put.

      It is wonderful to see such evidence of a "Filipino
      spirit" that comes from within and transcends foreign
      languages and influences. Leave it to the poets and
      writers to raise this veil.

      English. . . we (Filipinos) have already
      "colonized " it, and it is now OURS.

      Indeed it is! I couldn't agree more. And, to English,
      I would add Spanish as well. Both are fast becoming
      hollowed out rinds, nourishment long consumed and
      discarded along a journey through the darkness towards
      a unique and enduring light, a Filipino light.

      Thank you Linda.

      Message: 6
      Date: Mon, 20 Aug 2001 18:07:31 -0700
      From: Linda Nietes <lindanietes@...>

      Do you know that English is not really a foreign
      language in the Philippines anymore? Why? Because we
      (Filipinos) have already "colonized" it, and it is now
      OURS. Perhaps this is the reason why Filipinos have
      taken a lot of liberty in changing it, not only in
      usage but also in pronunciation! And also turn it
      around, spike it with Spanish and English words and
      totally change it, that nobody will ever recognize
      it as the King's language...which was perhaps only
      spoken during the two-year English Occupation of the
      Philippines in 1762-63.

      This is the pet thesis of Filipino poet-scholar G�mino
      H. Abad, and the claim has gone around the globe, even
      gaining exact quotation in a recent article in the New
      York Times titled "Nations in Asia Give English their
      Own Quirks."

      His general thesis regarding our (Filipinos) writing
      in English over the last century is that

      ". . . it seeks to recover a country we have lost, but
      that also, our country now is within ourselves, as it
      were, a spiritual homeland." Our poets, most
      especially use an adopted tongue (English) into a fit
      instrument for their poetic representations beyond
      what the English vocabulary and syntax might by their
      own cultural subscript tend to disfigure. At first our
      writers wrote in English, but later they wrought from
      it. All along, over the past century, our writers have
      colonized English, by which it has been remodeled to
      our own image."

      In 1941, another Filipino poet, Amador T. Daguio
      wrote, "To Those of Other Lands,"

      "Though I may speak the English language,
      Let me tell you: I am a Filipino,
      I stand for that which make my nation,
      The virtues of the country where I was born.

      I may have traces of the American,
      Be deceived not: Spain has, too, her traces in me,
      But my songs are those of my race...

      ... Our fathers gave the graces,
      Our hearts pure as the hills, clear as the seas,
      I tell you not of greed nor of accumulation.
      We have washed off these stains of the West.
      Look through us then, beyond what you think,
      Know us, understand us; we, too, have our pride.
      If you give us flowers, we exchange pearls;
      We greet you sincerely; acclaim what we have."

      Amador T. Daguio was only 20 when he wrote "Man of
      Earth" in 1932, but the translated voice in Fernando
      M. Maramag�s "Cagayano Peasant Songs" in 1912 seems to
      have already found an English tongue that does not
      falsify it. The word translation is from the Latin
      transferre, translates, meaning, to carry or ferry
      across. "Man of Earth" is translation in that
      deeper sense: the poet ferries across the (English)
      words his soul�s native cargo; no sea-change is
      suffered because the words have rather been found
      again or reinvented so that, in the poem�s own usage,
      they establish a native idiom. We must quote Daguio�s
      poem in full because it marks a turning-point in
      Filipino verses from English.

      Another poem, originally called "Land of Our Desire,"
      is quintessential Daguio: the verse or medium is
      English but the poetry or matter is Filipino.

      Another poem, "Mountain People" of 1934, is remarkable
      for its prescience in the predominant use of imagined
      dialogue, which has become a contemporary poetic

      Further, Abad points out, "It is very interesting to
      note how the poet Daguio forged a new path through
      English under the New Critical influence in the 1950s.
      His poem, "Off the Aleutian Islands," which the
      American New Critic, Leonard Casper, included in his
      anthology, "Six Filipino Poets," in 1954, is as it
      were the New Critical version of "Man of Earth." It

      "I have reaped the sickle edge of rain,
      Rain harvests that had no grass:
      In youth I let, instead, lusty mushrooms
      Discover me.

      Also have I known
      The craving blade of rainwash, clean
      To my clean bones. But overnight I rose
      Upright in marsh ground, naked
      Looming with rain.

      Now, I do not cry, here, because I am bigger
      Than a sea gull. A sea gull screams,
      Ungently leaps into the wind
      Following the concave shine of water.

      Does it break, irrevocably,
      The all-pathos of mirrors,
      To look back at rain memories, unvexed?
      A gull now cries to the other
      Sea gulls: follow me.

      What a beautiful phrase, that "craving blade of
      rainwash." As well "the concave shine of water." How
      imagistically 90s, how millennial and universal. How
      far-seeing it must have been for Daguio�s time.

      We salute Amador T. Daguio, as we salute G�mino H.
      Abad on his excellent exegesis, as finely and
      charmingly delivered before a lectern as it has been
      wrought, from English, on paper, as wondrous part and
      parcel of our "soul�s native cargo."

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