Language Struggle, 3

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Language Struggle, 3

 

(Note: This is part of an exchange I had with Ms. Ched Arzadon, one of the proponents of Mother Language Education. I removed the unrelated part of her e-mail to account the context of my response. The struggle for language rights in the Philippines has gained currency, again and again, because of the continuing oppression of the linguistic rights of the non-Tagalog peoples of the Philippine homeland.)

Ched, aloha:

Let me be very frank as well with my response to you since we are in the MLE advocacy now.

There are two sides, at the very least to the debate on whether we have to have a national language or not. My answer to this issue is yes and no.

Yes, if we are philosophically ready to revisit the question of nation, nationalism, and cultural nationalism.

There is a problem: if nationalist language–and the notion of ‘nation’ in that national language is a statist notion of nationalism, then we are done in: there is no recourse but for other languages and cultures to declare a fight a now. Here is the score: for the last 73 years of oppressive marginalization since the institution of the oppressive provision of the 1935 Constitution, what has ever been done to preserve and sustain and allow the ‘othered’ Philippine languages to thrive? 

Nothing. 

The thing is this: that we paid our taxes to develop Tagalog and Tagalog alone so that after 73 years of being developed, it now is a force to reckon with in terms of linguistic oppression. You go to the field and you will see the rampant cultural denigration of our languages. No one would like to be caught speaking in Ilokano anymore because even at the Laoag International Airport–as in the Ilokano classrooms–Ilokano is not legal, it is not legitimate, it is not moral. This is how bad the field data is. 
You tell that this is not the fault of Tagalog. Yes, it is not: it is a problem rooted in the Tagalogistic language and culture policies of this government. 

Now, tell me: if our language were accorded the same respect, as a matter of vision and insight, would we be at this stage of self-hatred?

The other side of the debate is: do we need a ‘national language’ based on a statist notion of nation? No, we do not need one. 

Perhaps, the question needs recasting: Do we need official languages

Yes, and the official languages should be the lingua francae of the country. Let justice be served. There is a big difference between ‘nationalizing’ a language and ‘officializing’ it. Why get stuck up with that Quezonian fetish for a national language? It does not make sense when many nation-states of the world, despite or because of, globalization, cultural pluralism is a mark of modernity, civilization, and multicultural competency. 

What about English? 

You talk about demarginalization and its powerful liberatory promise for all our peoples? 

English is not going to be our national language but one of the official languages. We need a language for international communication and Tagalog is not going to be one of them, as a matter of fact. 

I used to believe in Filipino and its promises; in fact, I was the founding president of an advocacy group of teachers and cultural workers called KAGURO SA FILIPINO, Kapisanan ng mga Guro sa Filipino. But the way the Tagalogistic mindset has railroaded our linguistic rights by way of the continuing creeping in of Tagalogism made me realize that this ‘Filipino’ this is not the way to go to offer our people redemption. 

I am not for ethnocentrism. This means that I do not believe in the sacredness of Ilokano and Ilokano alone; there is no such thing. Corollary to that believe is recognition that Tagalogization/Tagalogism (being passed off as ‘Filipinization’) is pathologic of the same social malady we all do want to happen. We abhor Gulag, Dachau, and the gas chambers so the Ayran race will be purified. 

This Tagalogization/Tagalogism is one such rite and ritual. God forbid, we will be monolingual in the days ahead. Many countries that have awakened to the reality of diversity and pluralism are beginning to create spaces for other languages to survive and thrive. The United States has been talking of ‘English only’ educational directions but this is not going to happen, with its commitment to plurality as a way of life. Many countries, if you ask, are doing the same thing while we in the homeland are quickly turning everyone into Tagalog.  

Ched, the field data cannot lie; we only need to be sensitive to what it tells us. 

One last note on your preference to Tagalog, the colonizer language, to English. My answer is quite simple that people do not see in this simplicity is the blatant, brutal truth we refuse to admit: that every act of ‘colonization’ is an act that immorally violent and brutal: the truth of that colonization if forced upon a people and then a cottage industry of promotion and marketing is created, and repeated over and over again until those who listen to that promotional and marketing tactic becomes so numb he can no longer distinguish fact from fiction, and then, and then, like the Goebbels tactic getting the results, we believe–we believe. In this day and age, we are not going to even think about admitting any form of colonization. 

Ask me again, and I will respond to you in frankness what I think about issues deeply affecting us.    

Best now in the name of all the languages of the homeland, in the name of the anito of our cultures,

Aurelio

11/18/08, Ched Arzadon 

From: Ched Arzadon 
Subject: RE: Translation of Manifesto into Ilokano and Tagalog
To: aurelioagcaoili@yahoo.com
Date: Tuesday, November 18, 2008, 5:55 PM

Since I find you a kindred spirit (for your passion for MLE) and being a fellow Ilocano and a respected expert in languages, let me share to you my initial reactions about MLE and hope to hear your feedback.

My area is Education (particularly development oriented type like nonformal and informal education) and so I was drawn to MLE because of its demarginalizing
possibility. Having jumped into this advocacy exposed me for the first time
to the language politics among linguistics people. I never knew that such
conflicts and divisions existed. Yes, I see the point why Tagalog should not 
take the privileged position. But what would we use to communicate to each
other at this time? Why English? For me I’d rather use one of the languages
of the colonized (Tagalog) than the language of the colonizer. I also see
that each linguistic group has the responsibility to develop their own
language. Maybe I have never understood fully well the insidious nature of
the Tagalog linguists that was alluded to by people in DILA. For me, I see
myself as a Filipino and I value all languages in the land.
Although Ilocano is my mother tongue, I see that Ilocano is co-equal with
other Filipino languages. I also do not see why a God-given gift like our
language would divide us. I do not intend to sound offensive or self-righteous. I am just perplexed about the whole thing.   

Agyamanak manen apo kaniayo gapu iti kinaingetyo nga agbaligi iti advocacytayo.

Ched  

3 thoughts on “Language Struggle, 3

  1. Ched,

    The colonizer now are the Tagalista (I won’t say the Tagalogs… I might be called a racist).

    In El Filibusterismo, Rizal implied that Spanish could unite the islands, but Filipinos could express themselves fully in that language because it’s not the language of their hearts.

    Likewise, the non-Tagalogs could not express themselves fully in Tagalog. It is as foreign as English. Only English, and Spanish to some, could unite our country because imposing Tagalog would only breed resentment because there would be a dominant group, the native Tagalogs, and the non-Tagalogs who speak Tagalog as their second language.

    Imposing Tagalog further divides the country.

    Ched, Dios Mabalos!

    –Caloy

  2. and the non-Tagalogs who speak Tagalog as their second language would be at a disadvantage.*

    Sorry for the typo.

    Retyped:

    The colonizer now are the Tagalista (I won’t say the Tagalogs… I might be called a racist).

    In El Filibusterismo, Rizal implied that Spanish could unite the islands, but Filipinos could express themselves fully in that language because it’s not the language of their hearts.

    Likewise, the non-Tagalogs could not express themselves fully in Tagalog. It is as foreign as English. Only English, and Spanish to some, could unite our country because imposing Tagalog would only breed resentment because there would be a dominant group, the native Tagalogs, and the non-Tagalogs who speak Tagalog as their second language would be at a disadvantage.

    Imposing Tagalog further divides the country.

    Ched, Dios Mabalos!

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