I wrote this after reading an article by Michael Tan of the Inquirer about the quality and status of English language as used today by Filipinos.

I am presently working in Africa in a multinational outfit. In my house, i have an Indian couple and Sri Lankan housemates. English is our medium of communication.

The Indians have good command of English, while the Sri Lankan has difficulty with tenses and grammar. (They knows…)

In the other flats, we have Ivorian, Ghanaian and Romanians.

The Ivorians, being French-speakers, have difficulty with English, specially with words starting with “th” which they pronounce as “v”. Most affected are words like “this, that, they, the“. They have difficulty with grammar also since their english vocabulary is minimal and so they have to inject french words – and i just have to understand the context of the entire phrase to get the meaning.

The Ghanaians, being British-ruled once, have good command of English. But they speak with the slang (nothin’, thinkin’)

The Romanians are like the french-speaking class. They have problems with gender in grammar. So they interchange “He” and “She” and sometimes stick to “She” even when referring to a male person. Grammar construction is also mangled as they try to translate literally to English.

The Nigerians, being also British-ruled, have developed a ‘pidgin’ or broken English, which goes like this:  “make i go with you” to mean ‘i will go with you.‘, “he don go now.” to mean ‘he went already‘, “you don do am?” to mean “have you done it?“. However, the university educated have good command of english and are very articulate and eloquent. They love to lavish their statements with hyperbole and passive statements are preferred as being more polite.

Nigerians asked me how come Filipinos speak a different English? I told them we follow American pronounciation. In this case, we pronounce “r” as it is, while Nigerians pronounce it as ‘ah’. Thus, “mastah” for master, “sah” for sir, “expaht” for expert.  I am sometimes being kidded by my Nigerian boss by saying in jest “yes sirr”..

I attended one gathering of Pinoys in Lagos. We all spoke Tagalog or Pilipino. But some spoke their regional language (like Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Cebuano/Bisaya).  Many times i heard Pinoys (who have stayed more that 5 years in Nigeria) conversed with Nigerians and i noticed their difficulty in ‘proper’ English grammar. I mean, their english are stuttering and akin to that of ‘telegraphic’ english, punctuated by long ‘ahhh’ and ‘okey?’. Another pinoy friend also struggle with his english and ends his statement with “Isn’t it?“, even if he meant “aren’t they?“. Aside: On sudden downpour, my favorite phrase would be : “It’s raining, aren’t they?”.

Maybe, the reason why some OFWs loses their English proficiency is due to the nature of their work. If there are more than 3 pinoys in a company, most likely they will always talk in pilipino. Also, technical pinoys don’t have to converse in proper english since they speak and be understood in the technical jargon.

And then maybe, an OFW has difficulty in verbal and written english because his previous work experience in the Philippines do not require constant use of English.

Maybe, it is high time for the government to include an elective Foreign Language subject (aside from English) starting in High School to improve the competency of the Filipino worldwide. The elective subject may consider French, German, Spanish, Mandarin, Bahasa and Japanese as options.

For now, it is up to a Filipino how to retain his English skills. Internet offers a way, through blogging or letter writing. or just by reading articles.

Mabuhay and Pinoy!

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