02 August 2009

Manila Times column for 02 August 2009: "Loving (our) literary languages"

original post here.

buwan ng wika na. whatever that means. labo, kelangan ng one month to speak filipino. bleh.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

By Libay Linsangan Cantor
Loving (our) literary languages

I know it could be difficult to write—and be excellent at it—in one language, let alone two or three. But how about reading? Is it that difficult to read Filipino literature written in Filipino than in English? Some say yes, and I really find that funny. Aren’t we Filipinos automatically “ready” to read texts written in English and Filipino (at least those of us who were reared in these languages)?

I thought about these things because I am reminded of August and the celebration of “Linggo ng Wika” in schools within this month. Isn’t it funny that we set aside one whole week of a year to have a “special” celebration of our own language? Shouldn’t we celebrate our own language every day of the year? And reading literature written in Filipino or any of our other regional languages could be a good exercise in celebrating our own languages. Yes, we actually have many, not just one or two. Sometimes I really envy those who could speak, read and understand languages other than Tagalog, such as Ilonggo, Cebuano and Ilokano, as we have so many great literary texts written in these languages—but that’s another column entry.

Sticking to Filipino and English, I could say that we are mostly exposed (or at least those of us who are based in Metro Manila) to literary texts written in these languages. But I really find it funny that some literary writers declare that they cannot read (or don’t have the patience) to read literature written in Filipino. I’m not even referring to the Balagtasan-type of “deep” Tagalog but just plain, everyday Filipino language. Some writers say they prefer reading Filipino literature written in English because it’s “easier” for them to read that.

I also found it alarming that some lawmakers believe Filipino will not help us much, therefore they want to legislate English as the official medium of instruction in schools. I wonder if these folks really love our country, because for me, loving one’s country also means loving its language—or in our case, languages, and not just the dominant one we use to communicate with foreigners. It’s one thing to make us globally competitive, but it’s another thing to make us ashamed of our own heritage by not upholding the beauty and integrity of our own national language(s).

So maybe as we ready our kids to join the Filipino declamation contests and Filipino language-oriented activities this month, maybe we should also stop and think about how we celebrate our language in our everyday lives. Read more Filipino literature written in Filipino or any other regional language you understand. That always helps.

It’s time we love our own more, don’t you think?

Comments? Suggestions? E-mail libay.scribevibe@gmail.com. She is also at libaycantor.multiply.com.

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