On Language

I grew up speaking Cebuano (or commonly known as Bisaya). Everytime people, mostly Tagalog-speaking, comment on  someone’s “off” accent in English  as “Bisaya kasi”, it really turns me off. Most of the time, I don’t say anything because I find it exhausting to argue. Sometimes I want to retaliate by saying, “I’ve heard a lot of Non-Cebuano people say em arrr teee with a rolled R when they say MRT. Or they say wan tertiii, again rolling the R, when they want to say one thirty. Also they say sirkel when they want to say circle.” I could get as stereotypical as they are and inform them that the best English speakers I have met in the Philippines are Cebuanos and Ifugaos. But I keep my mouth shut because again I am not as aggressive as I really want or ought to be. Plus, how better off am I if I judge people by the way they pronounce things?
However, I do wish that teachers would especially make the effort to be critical about what they say in class because they have the power to influence children. If anything, they should encourage children to be more articulate in ANY language they are comfortable with. And how I wish we were all comfortable in our language no matter what it is. During one of our field work in college, one of our Matigsalug interviewee shared that some Matigsalug children sometimes did not want to speak their language in school because the Visayan children would make fun of them. This time, it’s the Bisaya who think they are better off in a so-called hierarchy of languages/ethnicity. To even think that there should be a hierarchy of ethnicity is limited, too linear and actually HORRIBLE but this is what society perpetuates. I write more comfortably in English than Bisaya but I speak more comfortably in Bisaya than in any other language. It’s never black and white. It’s complicated but it’s also exciting. That’s the beauty of diversity.
Note: This post was brought on by a news clip from Al Jazeera about languages that are used less and less.

14 Replies to “On Language”

  1. i agree…most people look down at those who are speaking Bisaya simply because we are not located on the capital. And treated like what they usually depict on telenovelas and movies that most housemaids are Bisaya. People from the lower part of the country are not uneducated. We are academically competitive as those in the capital. boo to those who are so discriminating. nice post.

  2. Although I was born and raised in Manila, my Mom is Bisaya and she is very fluent in English, better than a lot of Tagalog speakers I know. Of course there's the accent but it's better than sprinkling it with a lot of ums and ahs and speaking in Taglish which I hear a lot here.

  3. I agree that we all should be proud of our languages. However I have different experiences related to this. I am from Luzon and I don't speak Bisaya although I have been to different parts of Western and Eastern Visayas. The Ilonggos would usually reply in Tagalog if you speak to them in Tagalog. But Cebuanos would not do the same. By the way, I have friends from Cebu and I love the way they speak to me in Tagalog. Maayong buntag!!!

  4. A friend who had a lot of Cebuano friends told me that often Cebuano's are more comfortable speaking in English rather than Tagalog. Is that true?
    And that majority of the best English speakers are Cebuano's.

    I think accents can't be helped and to make fun of it is pointless. You're right teachers should teach students not to make fun of anyone because they're different from everyone else. Kids can be a bit mean sometimes and this kind of situations are not made aware to the parents. It's really up to the teachers to acknowledge this when it happens.

  5. My mother tongue is Bisaya and Surigaonon…my Tagalog-sepaking friends told me once that they envy Bisaya because we can speak Bisaya as well as Tagalog:)

    Our teachers have major role in teaching students the correct pronunciation and diction. As an ESL teacher in Thailand, I had hard time correcting pronunciation bec. children are used to what their teachers taught them like saying “sick” instead of six or sewen instead of seven:)

  6. I think language is communication. As long as the message is understood, pronunciation should not be an issue. That said, I understand the 'sirkel' thing.

  7. I hope all people are like you who believes pronunciation isn't an issue. I would like to assume that you are a Tagalog speaking basing the “sikat101” name you've assigned and I agree that “sirkel” thing shouldn't be an issue.

    But these are just little retorts from the Cebuano speaking population who are usually ridiculed and laughed at when they speak hard-accent tagalog. It's just like a simple “judge not that ye be not judged” kind of thing. LOL!

    Don't get me wrong on this, but most people from northern Philippines especially those who are from Manila doesn't even know what “bisaya” means. This has been a mistake. Just be it known, that all people from the visayas and mindanao islands are called bisaya and not just the cebuano speaking people, like me. The Ilongos, the warays and the cebuanos; we are all bisaya.

    I hope with this new program from the Department of Education, that primary school pupils should start using their local dialects, is a big help in changing the wrong mentalities among us, Filipinos.

  8. I am a proud Cebuano too. I am more comfortable speaking english than tagalog, how is that possible? maybe because of the accent thing and because I also had my shares of stories being ridiculed for saying Hassle instead of Hassel. I mean really? I thought Hassle is an English word? Have you heard Americans say Hassel?

    I wasn't proud of that moment though but I was just trying to make point. I just HAD it you know.

  9. I admit I sometimes put a grin on my face whenever I hear other's having a hard intonation but I don't make fun of them because I too have a Visayan blood it just so happen that I grew up in Manila.

    I think we all have our differences and it is not right to make fun of other people. Yes you may grin or smile when you heard something with different intonation but don't make fun of them.

Leave a Reply