These 3 Major Challenges of the English system in the Philippines that make our English as unique as it is.

Why is English a  unique language in the Philippines? English in the Philippines is unique because we have faced unique challenges that mold us being the Speakers of English as a Second language.

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We have been using English since American occupation. Because of the American influence, the English language has become part of our culture and our way of education life. In my country, we use  English as the language of instruction(it simply means we are using it as an official language in teaching the students and never been used as our local language. Except for some parents who are very consistent to teach their kids the language, they speak English at home. (O’Connor, 1955). It will much easier for students or people who can speak the language to interact in the different sectors of the community because English is not only spoken in school, but we also use it in the Government or any official professional businesses (for example during  the political sessions or meetings,  during prosecution hearings and documentation). Therefore, the English language in the Philippines is always the common language in the professional world from  business communication to job application in the country.

Despite the importance of English language in the Philippines, we still face these 3 major challenges to compete or (at least) to level with the native speakers English skills:

  • The English language gradually becomes vernacularised (Spoken English associated with the local dialect or language)

After the war, many of the Filipino teachers had started their education and joined the professional ranks of the school system.

  1. But, these English teachers (Filipino) were not in school until they aged of 9, 10 or 11;
  2. because of too many students during their time, the school had to shorten their classes to accommodate more;
  3. and it was also mandatory during their time to learn two languages (even up to now).

Since then our first Filipino English teachers had to suffer from the previous school system, they had no choice but to substitute the standard English (and for all languages in the Philippines) to vernacular patterns. Also, they vernacularised in sound, sentence structure, intonation, and even vocabulary because of the absence of the native-speaking models. Of course, our teachers has a great responsibility to the young generations, so they only teach what they know. (Lorelei Fajardo)

  • English language system in the Philippines has been deteriorated.

In the light of Andre Gonzales, he mentioned that sociolinguistic(a study of cultural norms and language context) is the most important factor why our language situation in the Philippines has changed especially after the war.

  1. the scarcity of books or learning materials were limited or sometimes unavailable in which this condition continues up to now because of the rapid growth of population in the country.
  2. poor salary scales and heavy demands of working conditions that lead to the gradual decline of quality occurred among teachers since the period of 1975 – 1985 up to now.
  3. The absence of native speakers as our language model ( in which few of them) retired or returned to their home country after the period of independence. From then on, we can’t expect from their long-term impact in improving our English(educational) system because they are no longer here.
  • Some students or professionals have fossilized English language skill.

Of all the factors I have mentioned above, what is the worst  factor is the negative attitude towards learning the language. Sad to say, but our prestige as an English-speaking nation continues to decline because we do not meet accepted standards. Phebe S. Pena has pointed out that the English of the Philippine Classroom now is basilect – mesolect- acrolect continuum.  She explains that most students and administrators are basilectal, having wrong forms, but have already fossilized. (89-90). A person can be fossilized in their language when they stopped learning – and this can not remedy by further instructions. So, the absence of native speaker model is not enough reason not to be acrolect (nearly native-speaking like) it is the attitude matters.

Not only to speaking English but especially to those teachers who are teaching the language.  Some teachers are not willing to improve and don’t like to adopt new trends of teaching the language. If that would be the case, it would be very difficult for teachers to exhibit a good teachers model, when teachers themselves have difficulty to learn.

For all the problems I mentioned from sociolinguistic factors to attitude problems, I have felt the need to take part in addressing the right solution to solve them (here are my 3 suggestions on how). But, I know it is impossible. At least I/we have done the first step is  to acknowledge that there is really a problem in our English system and we should help our country to enhance our English speaking skills because this perhaps can be our source of our income (businesses and the professional world) or only way of surviving the global competition. I believe that  our English is unique and will stay as unique as it  is because of its usage and history. And so, I am hoping we take care of it and continue to enhance our English skills despite the absence of native speakers as our speaking model.

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