Why I write in Ingles (and why you should not)

As a general rule, writing or speaking in Ingles (read: English) in the Pilipinas will make you look haughty and out-of-coverage-area. It is common knowledge that writing or speaking in Ingles increase the cases of sudden, unexpected and dangerous nosebleeds in persons within a ten-meter radius. (The area of effect is wider when you’re holding a microphone. And even more so when the microphone is functional.)

Also, many stalwart and loyal Pilipino netizens often accuse the ingleseros and ingleseras of being unpatriotic, un-nationalistic, elitist, contaminated with colonial mentality and mas masahol pa sa hayop at malansang isda. (Over na man u…)

But I still write primarily in Ingles. I feel bad about this sometimes, but there you go.

And there is but one reason: I find it easier to express myself in this language. Mostly because I’m out of practice in expressing myself in Tagalog (my mother tongue, shall we say. But even that is a complicated matter.).

It wasn’t always hard, though. In fact, back in elementary school, a few classmates and I co-wrote a novel and I insisted on writing it in Tagalog. (The other main writer insisted on English, so we ended up with some parts in Tagalog and others in English. It was better that way.)

And the interesting part is that, I can point out to the exact moment where I just stopped using Tagalog (also known as Filipino or Pilipino) altogether. This is a story I have shared more than once because I think it has an important lesson for language educators to remember.

When I was in my first year of high school, our Filipino teacher asked us to write a poem in Filipino. That was no problem. I loved writing. And so I wrote a poem about isang bulaklak sa kabukiran at kung saan nito nakuha ang  kanyang kagandahan spontaneously.

But when I got my paper back, I got a note from my teacher along with it: waring hindi ikaw ang nagsulat nito (it seems like you didn’t write this).

Of course I wrote it!

At this point I had already written a lot of things. And those weren’t limited to poems that my mother cross-stitched and immortalized on the walls of our house either. In fifth grade, I had won second place in a city-wide feature writing contest. One of my essays in sixth grade English class had been published in our end-of-the-year school paper (And I had gotten reprimanded by my English teacher: Why didn’t you join the school paper!?!). In the summer before high school, my parents had coerced convinced me to send a few Ingles articles to a local paper, which that local paper actually published. In fact, the editor went as far as to write an editorial entirely about one article I wrote on the war in Mindanao. I wrote stupid little stories in notebooks that were passed around class, for crying out loud.

To me the message was clear: I was allowed to be good at Ingles. I was encouraged to be good at English. But if I was good in Filipino, all of a sudden it’s not ok because it’s suspicious and I’m now a suspect plagiarizer.

If I had been a healthy-minded, normal person at the time, I would have confronted my Filipino teacher and set her straight. But at this time I was (and in a way, I still am) painfully shy, severely lacking in self-confidence, and didn’t like being placed in the spot of proving myself not guilty when all I did was something I liked doing best.

So what I did was, to avoid a confrontation, I simply wrote something substandard, submitted it, got a good grade anyway, and proceeded to write everything from my diary to contest entries to essays to articles in Ingles. At least I’m allowed to write in that language without fear of suspicion.

This wasn’t the right thing to do and I’ll admit I can sometimes be a little passive-aggressive in asserting my rights. But that’s the true story.

That said, I sincerely believe that we should uplift our native languages. Not only is it easier to learn and express ourselves in our native language, it’s also in my opinion more spontaneous, more sincere, and a better reflection of our culture and individuality.

I don’t believe in the bullshit that we should be educating and expressing ourselves in English “because it’s the international language” and “our edge globally is that we speak in English very well”.

I’m not saying it doesn’t work. English worked very well for me, personally. But I also see the danger that we are making idiots of a profound number of brilliant people only because they cannot express themselves in English. Language skills (most especially English language skills) should never be taken as the sole measure for intelligence or competence especially in a country as linguistically diverse as ours.

As a final note, I am extremely sorry for any bleeding noses that have resulted from my irrational childhood trauma. As a gesture of my shame and regret, I will link you all to this article on first aid for nosebleeds (In addition to information provided there, an ice pack above the nose or the nape of the neck is said to help, also.). I sincerely hope it helps.

Please refer to Notes for Grammar Nazis, particularly No. 4 for this entry.

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2 thoughts on “Why I write in Ingles (and why you should not)

  1. There just is something about English that makes it a universal language these days. Yes, I am sure it has to do with colonialism. And with the predominant Western culture spreading over the world in .. English, as in some sort of second colonialism wave. Cultural colonialism. I dunno. And then there is the internet, which allows us to talk and understand each other in English. Imagine if I had only been writing and reading Dutch, and you only Tagalog. Of course we would have communicated in art. But still, it’s nice we can use English. And by using it, we form it and shape it, so it becomes ours. So I do really believe in the bullshit (maybe I have to: I was an English teacher.).

    But! Just because it is a universal language these days does not mean we should neglect our native language. Being multi-lingual (even if it is just bi-lingual) is something to be chertished too.

    You can be proud that you can express yourself in two languages, or more. But you should be no less proud that you can express yourself in the language you grew up with.

    • I do love English as a language. It’s the one I write the most in. And I do agree that we form it and shape it by using it. (Filipino English has so many lovable quirks!)

      I guess one of my frustrations is that in my country, people who can’t speak English (or the national language, at least, since in the Philippines there are like hundreds of dialects) very well are considered inarticulate. And since a lot of the subjects in my generation are taught with English, a lot of otherwise brilliant people would fail subjects just because they couldn’t understand as well as if it had been explained in their mother tongue. (The Department of Education has a new policy encouraging teaching using the mother tongue, though, so this may improve.) For instance, back in high school one of my friends was just horrible at English but was positively brilliant in Math. Unfortunately, since many subjects were taught in English, he tended to do bad in most subjects because he couldn’t understand them too well.

      Well, that and I have a bad case of post-colonial bitterness. 😉 (I blame it on the shock of being abruptly educated about the history of the island where I live in.) But, yes, multilingualism is fun! 🙂

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