Tuesday, November 14, 2006

"There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven't used it for years."

Yesterday whilst browsing the BBC website…I found an article about a website called Rate my teacher. There were two things that horrified me about this website...the first was the ability, with nothing to substantiate the comments, to place negative comments about a teacher in a very public arena. The second thing, which actually made me quite agitated for a fair part of the day, was the appalling level of written English being used in the comments from the students. Here is one page as an example...

In this age of SMS obviously writing a complete word as opposed to the abbreviated version is just too much like hard work, obviously using capital letters for proper nouns is also too much like hard work..and as for bothering to check if the spelling and punctuation are correct– don’t even think about it! (It is official..I'm beginning to sound like my parents!!!)

I think it is appalling that the level of written English has fallen so low, in the country that is supposed to pride itself on being the home of the English language.

Whilst on the subject of languages,Manolo’s column yesterday was Practical Languages.

I am unaware of the educational history of the Philippines, except for Manolo’s comment about how he was at UP when the transition from teaching in English to teaching in Filipino occurred (and whilst watching the movie Jose Rizal the other day I noticed that at university the medium of instruction was Spanish). So at this stage I’ll refer back to Hong Kong, before the handover the language of instruction for the majority of government schools was English, after the handover that changed to Cantonese, with very mixed results. It is interesting to note these two comments though...

From Manolo’s column:
I was in the University of the Philippines when the transition from teaching in English to teaching in Filipino took place, during the presidency of Jose Abueva. For people like myself, it was difficult. But I still tell everyone with whom I discuss the language question that a most remarkable transformation took place. There was a remarkable increase not only in recitation but also in class participation.
If people are in school to learn, then the language that enables real learning to take place is best. One of my electives was French—taught in Filipino by an enlightened professor who made the class fun. The Spanish classes, in contrast, were taught in an antiquated manner—in English—and I don’t think anyone benefited from the experience.

From the NCELA article

Study 1 was a study of 56 secondary schools, and was conducted by the Education Department of Hong Kong. Researchers reported that students in English-medium-instruction (EMI) schools were more passive than those in Chinese-medium schools, typically limiting their verbal responses to short phrases and even single words. In contrast, in the Chinese-medium schools observed, students were active and occasionally creative in class discussions.

Study 2 was conducted by Amy Tsui, professor and head of Curriculum Studies, University of Hong Kong. Professor Tsui surveyed 189 Chinese-medium schools and reported that, after one year of teaching in the mother tongue, 80% of the principals and 70% of the teachers believed that mother-tongue teaching facilitated higher-level learning for students.

Study 3 was conducted by the Caritas Community Center-Kowloon and investigated Form 1 (grade 7) students in twelve secondary schools in Kowloon City, Hong Kong. About fifty percent of the Chinese-medium students felt that their English had improved after one year, while only 25% of the English-medium students felt the same way. A report in the Singtao Electronic Daily (July 7, 1999) provided additional information about this study: those in Chinese-medium instruction said they understood English as well as those in English-medium instruction, and the former understood more in other subjects

I do have a point...and I will get to it...!!! Every country’s educational system has a double edged sword to deal with. The first edge being to ensure that the population is well versed in their own language and to preserve the national language and in other subjects (other than language) they should be educated in the medium in which they feel most comfortable, the second edge being to ensure that the population is well enough versed in the lingua franca to ensure that the country does not fall behind its competitors in the business world. It is an unfortunate fact of life that at present the English language really is the lingua franca of the business world and as such every member of a country’s population should be given the opportunity to learn English or at least another language that will help them in the future...be it French, Mandarin or Russian...

I know from experience that Britain fails miserably in a) preserving its national languages – Welsh and Gaelic spring to mind and b) in teaching foreign languages – my brother and I both went to ‘good’ schools (my brother’s is one of the top 10 in the UK), and after 8 years of language instruction neither of us spoke a foreign language fluently.

I would like to add, in case I’m called on this, that my grasp of foreign languages (like many Brits) is appalling, this is mainly because I am in reality bone idle and learn only what I need to...for the record the languages I have vaguely mastered and the level to which they are mastered is as follows:

French – spoken – vaguely acceptable (to give you a rough idea – I once had to spend an interesting hour translating a German documentary on ‘how to make a porn movie’ into French! Don’t ask how or why….just accept!!), accent really lets me down!; reading – almost fluent, written – appalling!
German – spoken – I get by, just don’t talk to me about anything too taxing!, reading – appalling, written – even worse than appalling!
Bahasa Indonesian – spoken – I get by, reading – I get by, written – never really needed to
Arabic – spoken – ok for what I needed, and I can say 'Yanni' very convincingly!(my 6 months of classes helped!), reading and writing...not a word!
Cantonese – spoken – very little, but I understand about 60% of what I hear, reading and writing – out of the thousands of characters available...about 50!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. I grew up in Canada, where on entering school you have a choice of English or French as the medium for instruction. My parents opted for French. (A decision I'm sure they regretted on the occasions when their kids conspired in French right in front of them!) We all grew up bilingual, but what's more, we all grew up with an appreciation of how language can be a very useful tool. Since then, my brother has picked up Spanish, I studied Mandarin and my sister grabs whatever language is spoken where she's living at the moment.

For us it's purely about communication and I think that's what gets out of the mix in so many places. People get caught up in pride and forget, as you point out, that the medium that accomplished the goal is what's important.

While travelling in Europe, I've been struck by how many people I encounter can't speak a word of English. Considering half the songs on their own radio stations are in English and a good number of their TV shows and films were originally in English, I can't help wonder why they don't learn it.

2:52 pm  
Blogger Skippy-san said...

Manolo is totally wrong. First of all from what I have heard Tagalog is a lazy language which incorporates of lot of English words anyway.

Second. English will become the world language of business-one of the advantages Filipinos have over others is that they generally can speak it better than others. They would be better off teaching their classes in English. They can get their Tagalog at home.

Otherwise they can just relax and watch more of their population get shipped off to do work that others won't do.

8:02 pm  
Blogger rmacapobre said...

First of all from what I have heard Tagalog is a lazy language which incorporates of lot of English words anyway

which language has not borrowed from another? borrowing words is not unique to filipino. how else does a language evolve or grow.

i believe it is best for the students to learn in their native tongue first because its the language that is used at the home. they will be able to pick up lessons.

this is also proven by studies (i only heard of it on the radio/tv) that students who were taught using their native dialects fared better than those who were immediately taught in english. these are public schools in the far out boondocks (filipino word borrowed by english) as compared to public school in the city.

1:25 pm  

Post a Comment

<< Home