I remember attending a friend’s debut party and, as per the tradition, select friends of hers would give her a gift (“treasure”) and prepare a short speech for her. As I was getting ready to go onstage to give my gift and speech, someone told me: “Hey, you graduated from (this school) and (that school), so show them you’re better than everyone else and deliver your speech in English.”
I really don’t understand why people in my country think that English speakers are better or smarter than everyone else. People are actually using English proficiency as a measure of intelligence and worth; if you’re not English-speaking, or if you’re not good in the language, then you’re just an ordinary person and not worthy of any attention. This thinking is so widespread that even new parents, often from well-off families, are teaching their children to talk in English or Taglish (mostly English with a mix of broken Filipino/Tagalog), and not in the native language.
For me, there is nothing wrong with wanting to speak in my native tongue. First off, I am in the Philippines and everyone speaks in Filipino, so why on earth would I speak in English? To distinguish myself and make it seem that I’m smarter than my peers? To make it look like I come from a good family? I don’t get the labels and the need to show off to other people. I think it’s safe to say that I am fluent in English and I can express myself in the language if needed, but I am more comfortable in Filipino so I choose to speak it. I don’t get why the Filipino language and Filipino speakers are being put down.
Besides, graduating from good schools doesn’t automatically mean that I would want to forget my language and embrace a foreign one just to make myself look like I’m one of the “elites”. Don’t get me wrong, I think learning a foreign language is very useful, especially in today’s world. But the native language is just as important too, since it is closely tied to our culture and identity as Filipinos. Actually, my academic life has taught me that in order to achieve my full potential, I must fully know and embrace my identity (both the good and the bad sides of it). When I’m in touch with my identity, I would gain confidence in myself and in turn be able to communicate effectively with the people I encounter, thus helping achieve goals and contributing positively to the world around me. The current attitude towards English and non-English speakers only serves to alienate our countrymen from one other, and not bringing them together to help achieve common goals and foster friendship.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened in the party, I gave my speech in pure Filipino. No problem! 😀