English vs Tagalog - Manuel Buencamino comes out a chump telling James Soriano off

As usual, ProPinoy.net resident Mr Important is trying to be cute in his latest blurb where he presumes to tell current hero of the Illustrado class, James Soriano a thing or two. Too bad that thing -- even two of it -- falls short on sense. Nice try, Mr Manuel Buencamino. But do think again.

English is just another means of communication.

That is true -- among a people who have strong traditions of scientific, technological, and commercial achievement. Thus among successful societies, it does not matter whether you speak English, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Swedish, or Singlish. These languages -- and the people who speak them -- are peers among themselves.

But when we add Tagalog into that mix, then it does matter. Because between speaking in Tagalog and speaking in English, Japanese, Korean, German, French, Swedish, or Singlish, clearly the Tagalog speaker will be at a disadvantage -- because Tagalog is incomplete. There is no Tagalog word for efficiency, for example.

Perhaps among German, Japanese, and Chinese speakers, English speakers will be mere peers. But among people who speak Tagalog -- or Cebuano, or Ilocano, or Tausog -- English speakers will always be special, because all things being equal, English speakers will always have first shot at that high-paying white collar job in Makati, will have first shot at that promotion, will have first shot at that junket to Silicon Valley, and will have first shot at that statuesque fair-skinned colegiala sipping a a latte while tapping on her iPhone in Starbucks.

A Hermes handbag will not get you into the salons of the old rich, but then who wants to?

Bottom line is, becoming proficient in the English language will vastly improve most ordinary Filipino schmoes' ability to compete with those privileged enough to have been born to old money. That means that the old Atenistas (sige na nga, and La Sallistas na rin) will, for the first time in the history of this sad nation be given a run for their money by an entire generation of English speakers graduating from that hypothetical Philippine public education system that had finally chucked the old "national language" into the rubbish bin and focused its meagre resources instead to the language of winners.

Indeed, Buencamino inadvertently highlighted the very point I've been making for much of my online career -- that English is a language of privilege and opporunity monopolised by the Philippine elite.

That Buencamino would assume that Soriano's goal is to bandy around his English speaking skills like a Hermes bag-toting socialite wannabe reflects the classic typically-Pinoy underclass mentality. You can't really teach minds infested with underclass mentalities to get the sort of points Soriano makes.

In the Philippines, "we do not print textbooks in our native language."

Absolutely right, Mr Buencamino. So imprisoning the Philippine masses in a language (or whatever local dialects we remain fixated to) that utterly and consistently fails to attract scholarly authors is like double whammying an already wretched majority chunk of our collective intelligence.

With every sentence you bang out of your keyboard, you merely highlight the overall futility of those who continue to prop up a language (or dialects) more associated with underprivilege than with the "pride" in "country" that we imagine it to embody.

We all acquired the belief that "Pilipino" is "inferior" and that it is the "language" of our streets by ourselves, Mr Buencamino

Indeed, it does not take an expert to work out that the poor sods who can't string even a two-word English sentence together to save their mother's life are less likely to work their way out of a mail room than their Arrrneo-accented counterparts in the office.

And, yes...

Unlike Hong Kong people, Filipinos cannot afford to hire college-educated maids who can speak anything other than a domestic language or dialect.

That is because we are a society with an entire way of life built on the back of cheap labour. Every spare hour we have to nurse our lattes to room temperature in the local Starbucks, for example, is made available to us by a poor probinsyana ironing our faux designer clothes in a mosquito-infested corner of our village houses. The trouble with cheap is that we get cheap. And we get cheap, because we deprive an entire sector of our society -- those unfortunate enough to be subject to a public education system that has to allocate precious resources to delivering instruction and material in a no-results language -- the chance to compete by arming them with full access to a language that levels the playing field.

And I can't agree with Mr Buencamino more when he says that...

To speak English and to be learned is not the same thing.

Of course. There is no causal relationship between learnedness and English proficiency. The causal relationship lies between English proficiency and opportunity. English opens doors for its best speakers to a world of achievement in science, technology, and commerce that trades in knowledge overwhelmingly articulated in English. That said, I'll be the first to point out that even among English speakers, there are very very few truly insightful minds among them. But the reality is that even stupid English speakers are more likely to get ahead than smart Tagalog speakers. You need not look further than Philippine politics and our entertainment industry to appreciate the Truth in that.


  1. "There is no Tagalog word for efficiency, for example." - I think "mabisa" is the equivalent.

  2. Bening0/Ben Kritz (same person),

    There is a tagalog word for ANY english word. For efficiency, it can be episiyensiya or episiyente. If you are wondering how these words were constructed, let me EDUCATE you. Tagalog is the ultimate language because it gives the user the power to assimilate all languages (parang Borg diba?) using its unmatched flexibility.

    Once again, you underestimate the ingenuity of the Filpino ancestors. Your attempts to make us believe our great language is inferior will never succeed.

  3. So where are the results of this "ingenuity"?

  4. Those are not really Tagalog words, those are Tagalog approximations of a concept which is lacking in your language. If by "ingenuity" you mean the ability to copycat anything, I'll grant you that. That doesn't make you inventive or innovative.

    Oh, and by the way, I love how you still think we're the same person. I'm honored by the association.

  5. @Anonymous - "Mabisa" = Potent

    @Bayanihan - I would really love to see you translate everything that you said into tagalog.

  6. @Bayanihan

    'Episiyensiya or Episiyente' are of Spanish vocals and at best its derivative
    conception not Tagalog in origin.

  7. Benign0 Kritz,

    You think you can fool us just by using different logins? So funny. Keep trying.

    You say that my examples are approximations of another word but I say you are IGNORANT of the FACT that most English words are themselves derivations of latin, greek, or many other sources.

    If the English language can borrow, adapt, and assimilate words from other languages, why not Tagalog? Once more I have EXPOSED your double standard against the Filipino. Your arguments are flawed but none of us are surprised for you never seek the truth. It has been always your objective to destroy our great culture. You will not succeed.

  8. Well, it is of course your prerogative to keep on guessing. :-D

    On to the topic at hand, shall we?

    There's lots of Tagalog words for rice: 'bigas', 'kanin', 'sinaing', 'palay', etc. That's because rice is an important aspect of Filipino culture and society. The number of words in Tagalog devoted to articulating specific aspects, forms, and natures of rice reflects the importance and significance Filipinos place on it.

    Tagalogised versions of "efficiency" can be incorporated into Pinoy speech NOW but the fact that this is being done only NOW illustrates our society's and culture's lack of an internalised notion of it - which is consistent with our strong tradition of ineptitude in fields that require it.

    And yes, I do in fact have a bias against most things Pinoy. That is because there is STRONG BASES for that bias. You need only ask of Da Pinoy Way:

    Where are the results?

  9. Mali si Soriano.

    Eto ang ebidensiya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5IRKbYDCy0

  10. I ride jeepneys and I’ve never enrolled in Ateneo so I struggle quite a bit with the English language. From what I understand though, English is just another language that is in equal use in learned institutions as it is in machine shops and dockyards across the English-speaking world. Here in the Philippines, it sounds like English is the caviar that drips from the mouths of the “elite”. A vocal measure meant to determine one’s place in the stepladder of social and professional standing? The idea sounds like it has the makings of yet another of our unique little creations designed to undermine ourselves, the way I see it. I especially find it curious how ability is casually equated with money and tuition in a university with manicured grass.

    True, the twang of the type of English spoken in these places might sound convincing, but it doesn’t mean that the words actually make any sense. Unfortunately, the magnificent turn of the tongue in the act of puking English words doesn’t always assist in the creation of meaning. I believe that a respectable knowledge of English, as opposed to complete proficiency, is enough for a person who has actual talent and the commitment to achieve things. In the long run, the machinery of professional demands will be the sieve that separates the well-spoken from the qualified.

    I’m not saying that English proficiency is not necessary, because it is. I just don’t think that everybody is actually interested in chatting with fair-skinned “colegialas” in Starbucks, competing with the demi-gods of old-money, or working their way out of the mail room. Some of us are pretty happy where we are, believe it or not. In addition, I don’t think everyone wakes up in the morning with the shadow of the Louis Vuitton set slowly falling upon their horizon. Some of us are simply not blessed to have such active imaginations.

  11. @benignO

    My knowledge tells me that there is Tagalog translation for "efficiency" - namely, kahusayan, kagalingan, kakayahan, and kadalubhasaan.

    If Tagalog is "incomplete", what language is complete then?

  12. Thailand doesn't have the high degree of English proficiency the Philippines has, still they managed to be 2nd biggest economy of ASEAN, Japan and Germany largely retained their matove tongues, yet are big economic players in the world. Hint: effective governance, good infrastructure, offering high quality products make the cut, not (only) English proficiency.

    Other countries don't find it necessary to give up their language entirely in favor to sound good for the Yankees, yet they still can manage well.

    I don't say, throw away the knowledge of the English language, no no, but there are many evidences, that the proficiency in English language isn't the most crucial factor for becoming competitive.

    1. In the last sentence I mean, that the proficiency in English language isn't the most crucial factor for a country to become competitive.

      Or else, you can't explain why PH became a laggard for many decades until the 2010s. (It is just in this decade that the PH shed off its image as "sick man of Asia" which now goes to Thailand due to theit political turmoil -and not because they have worse English proficiency.)


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