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AURORA E. BATNAG

       Language planning calls for consultations with the various sectors affected by language policies. For effective implementation, policies should be acceptable to those concerned, otherwise, such policies might only remain in paper.

       Based on this premise, the NCCA National Committee on Language and Translation (NCLT) undertook a series of language consultations from 1995 to 1997. These consultations were held in five cities and one municipality representing different regions on the following dates:

Cebu City, August 17-18, 1995
Davao City, Nov. 8-9, 1995
Bacolod City, July 22-23, 1996
Tuguegarao, Cagayan Valley, Oct. 1, 1996
Puerto Princesa City, Nov. 18-19, 1996
Zamboanga City, Feb. 4-5, 1997

       The series of consultations aimed to: (1) assess the level of language awareness and information in the regions, (2) gauge the attitudes and opinions in the regions regarding the national language and their native tongues, (3) identify the problems encountered in the implementation of language policies, particularly the bilingual education policy and Executive Order No. 335, enjoining all government agencies to use the national language, Filipino, in all official transactions and communications, (4) list down words from the regional languages that can help enrich and further develop the national language, and (5) seek answers to the following questions: (a) is the national language acceptable to the regions? (b) are the following implemented in the regions – the bilingual education policy and EO 335? (c) if not, for what reasons? (d) what are the possible solutions?

       The consultations were attended by various sectors: teachers, students, parents, local government officials, mass media practitioners and non-government organizations.

The following are the findings:

Level of language awareness and information in the regions – there is widespread misinformation and misunderstanding of the bilingual education policy. After more than 20 years of implementation of the bilingual education policy, it seems that many, especially school administrators, still do not fully comprehend the spirit of the bilingual education policy. Some schools half-heartedly implement such policy. Many fear that such policy is aimed at the total replacement of English by Filipino. Such fear results in the negative attitude toward Filipino in the cities of Cebu and Bacolod. In these places, those who attended the consultation denounced what they called “imperialist Manila” for ramming down their throats policies that hurt their native pride. However, such negative attitude toward Filipino was encountered only in these two cities, not in Davao, Tuguegarao, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga. It should be noted that Cebu and Bacolod are old rich cities, whereas the others are “melting pots,” where residents are settlers from various parts of the country, speaking various major and minor languages.

Attitudes and opinions regarding the national language and their native tongues – Davao, Tuguegarao, Puerto Princesa and Zamboanga have a positive attitude toward Filipino, which serves as lingua franca among residents who speak different native tongues. Cebu and Bacolod, on the other hand, may have exhibited a negative attitude toward Filipino, but it should be made clear that they do not want English or their native languages as the national language; they just do not want to equate language with nationalism.

 

Problems encountered in the implementation of language policies – Foremost is the lack of accurate information regarding the language policies. On the use of Filipino in government communications, participants in the consultations admitted their lack of competence in the use of written Filipino, lack of references and manuals in writing in Filipino. As medium of instruction, the teachers admitted that they still needed some more training in writing in Filipino and in pronouncing words. They also complained that school administrators still refused to fully implement the bilingual education policy.

Listing of words in regional languages to enrich Filipino – The consultations tried to make the participants aware that the regional languages can further enrich Filipino. The were asked to list down words naming their flora and fauna, customs, etc. for which there are no Tagalog/Filipino equivalents. A good example is bugi (fish roe).

Answers to the following:

Is the national language acceptable in the regions – Except for the cities of Cebu and Bacolod, the answer is yes.

Are the following implemented – bilingual education policy and EO 335 – for the bilingual education policy, yes, except in Cebu because of a restraining order; there are many problems in the implementation of EO 335, like lack of references and manuals, lack of competence, etc.

If not implemented, for what reasons – lack of incentives, lack of vocabulary, lack of information

Any possible solutions – the participants suggested the following: holding seminar-workshops on the use of Filipino as medium of instruction and as medium of official communication; a system of monitoring and follow-up; original writing and translation of important documents from English to Filipino; research on indigenous names of things so as to preserve their local names for the next generation to maintain awareness of their native cultures; a dictionary with accompanying pronunciation that will help those from the regions to pronounce words correctly; and massive information campaign to instill language awareness and inculcate pride in the regional languages and in Filipino.

About the Author:
Aurora E. Batnag obtained her Ph. D. in Linguistics at the Philippine Normal University. She heads the Linguistic Division of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino and also serves as secretary of NCCA’s Committee on Language & Translation.