Home > life in the philippines > the truth & reality of James Soriano’s article – comment from a mom

the truth & reality of James Soriano’s article – comment from a mom

September 30, 2011 Leave a comment Go to comments

from a reader, Gravy, comment #327

I am a mother of a teenage son and a toddler daughter. James Soriano’s piece strikes a chord as I am faced with a dilemma on what language to teach my toddler. While I was raising my first-born, it didn’t occur to me at all about what language to use The whole family spoke in Filipino. My husband is a Filipino teacher, we chose to stay here in the Philippines despite opportunities to immigrate, we imbued love of country to our son.

In high school my son reaped academic awards, always placed in the top 15 of the batch, and was a leader to his peers. He joined a lot of activities and is comfortable in public speaking, even joining a debate club, albeit his difficulty in using the English language. However, his struggle with the English language caught up with him and affected his confidence in using the language. I surmise this was what caused him to drop from the debating team and another activity involving public speaking. We have successfully raised a well-rounded, competitive high achiever. He has the confidence, and this should have taken him far, but the reality is, his inability to speak English fluently crippled him, and I find it unfair.

But that’s reality, not only in school, but more so in the real world of his chosen profession (business) where he wants to dabble now that he is in college.

Because of this concern, I asked my sister-in-law who is a preschool teacher in an exclusive school how the kids in exclusive schools are able to speak fluent English, and she shared with me that the families use English exclusively in their homes, and this came to me as somewhat of a shock. I myself am not comfortable speaking in English, but I find it a “forced responsibility, slash, obligation” that I teach my toddler English as her primary language if I do not want her to feel limited in enjoying her interests and reaching her goals later in life, as what happened to her brother.

It’s a good thing though that there’s a trend these days to raise a bilingual or even a trilingual child, as advocated by child psychologists, as this supposedly helps babies’ brains to have the capacity to learn more. I won’t go into the theory of that, but the implication of that in my household is for English, as well as Filipino, to be taught to the baby. If there was no bilingual movement, I doubt that I’d be teaching Filipino. I’m sorry, but I’m just being honest. The family members speak to the baby in English and the househelp are delegated to speak to my baby in Filipino. It’s not because “FIlipino is the language of the unlearned,” but perhaps because it is a matter of convenience that between the family members and the househelp, the family members are more equipped to communicate in English. But we all speak to each other in Filipino.

True enough, my daughter is quickly picking up and understands both languages, but as expected, she’s speaking more in English. When we ask her to say “ball” and she says “bula,” I am proud that she knows both languages. But then deep inside, knowing our own limitations in speaking English, I know we can only go so far and we will eventually default back to using Filipino. And it’s hard to cast away the apprehension that we will inadvertently be “depriving” my daughter of her ability to reach her full potential without a full grasp of the English language. If one can be honest to himself, just by looking around, it’s not enough to know how to speak in English, you have to speak it fluently and naturally. You have to think in English. And you have to start young and have the language ingrained in your brains, and it’s the mothers that do this, and I can’t blame them.

I thank James Soriano’s BRAVE and HONEST characterization of what the Filipino language’s role is in his life, and I must say it is an accurate reflection of not just the current, but what has always been, I believe, the state of our national language. It is a wake-up call to all of us. But with mothers like me who would teach English as a primary language only because they want the best for their children, in this very competitive world and with not much support from the government to change the system to benefit Filipino speakers as compared with English speakers, this “illness” will continue to persist, as the mothers will just pass it on to the next generations, if they do not wish their children to be put to a disadvantage.

I had the opportunity to immigrate, but I chose not to. I love my country, and I have imbued that love of country to my son. My husband is a Filipino teacher, and is fully equipped to teach my baby very good Filipino. I just find it ironic that we, Filipinos who chose to stay behind, would find ourselves at a disadvantage to use our beloved Filipino language in our beloved country, the Philippines. James Soriano has a message, as painful as it may seem, and I hope critics would surpass the initial shock of the truth and actually get their minds together for a more useful and meaningful purpose, and that is to constructively help address and solve the problem.

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