Communication Problems in the Philippines Essay
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English has been one of the main languages used here in the Philippines for a long time now, since the American Regime. Although Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Biko and Waray are the main local languages, while Filipino is the indigenous national language, English remains an important official language (Platt, Weber, Lian 20). It is mainly used in education and “reigns supreme in the econo-technical area (Platt, Weber, Lian 21).” This is the reason why we Filipinos are very familiar with the language.
But we also have our own problems with it due to that fact that everyone learns the language at a different rate and environment. Thus, we mainly have mistakes when speaking it.
This study strives to recognize the common problems we encounter when speaking in English or hearing someone else speak in English, the different attitudes towards the variety of the said language, our consciousness of the language errors we make, and what we do to improve our education of the language.
A. Statement of the Problem
The researcher aims to identify the common problems of Filipinos with the English language, and what actions the people involved can take to correct these faults.
B. Significance of the Study
It is well known that many Filipinos are fluent in English. But unfortunately, our knowledge in English is depreciating, due to different ways of acquiring the language. As a result, our English, even though it is still widespread, is not of a high quality than it used to be. Majority of fluent English speakers come from the upper to middle classes, but still not all of them learn it the right way. The lower classes on the other hand, very seldom encounter English. Because of these varying acquisitions of the language, language problems arise, affecting essential everyday conversations in school, business, etc.
C. Scope and Delimitation
The study focuses on the youth from an age bracket of 16-21 years old, preferably college students studying within the vicinity of Metro Manila. Aside from giving out survey questionnaires, the researcher has made participative observations of her friends. Language attitudes and problems have been researched to set the pace of the study.
A. Review of Related Literature
i. A Summary of Common Language Problems
We Filipinos often come across diverse versions of English. These distinctions may be considered as the downside of our versions of English. Hence we deem these as a communication problem that has to be solved somehow. In the book, The New Englishes, Platt, Weber and Lian summarize the trends new varieties of English may have:
The typical Filipino displays a certain accent when speaking in English, which tells us something about the person. An accent may indicate the speaker’s social class, what region he or she came from, or what country he or she came from (Platt, Weber, Lian 30). Here are the common tendencies regarding accent:
(1) a tendency to shorten vowel sounds;
(2) a lack of distinction between long and short vowel sounds;
(3) a tendency to replace central vowels by either front or back vowels;
(4) a tendency to shorten diphthongs and to leave out the second sound element in a diphthong;(37)
(5) replacement of the fricatives [ ] and  by other sounds, usually [d] and [t] on their own or followed by sight friction;
(6) a tendency to make no distinction between certain voiced and voiceless consonants;
(7) a tendency to reduce the aspiration of consonants at the beginning of words;
(8) a tendency not to release consonants at the end of words. (43)
In all language varieties, speakers vary considerably in their pronunciation. But not only are these differences confined to their being in different groups, but to the individual himself. Thus, we sometimes have difficulty understanding each other whenever we encounter pronunciations of words that are unlike the standardized way.
Problems with nouns are very common. They may be very simple to understand and learn but still, a lot of people are having a hard time following English grammar rules. The following are tendencies concerning nouns:
(1) a tendency not to mark nouns for plural;
(2) a tendency to use a specific/non-specific system for nouns rather than a definite/indefinite system, or to use the two systems side by side;
(3) a tendency to change the form of quantifiers;
(4) a tendency not to make a distinction between the third person pronouns he and she;
(5) a tendency to change the word order within the noun phrase. (65)
c. Actions, states and perceptions
In relation to the use of tenses, the authors went over the following tendencies:
(1) a tendency not to mark the verb for third person singular in its present tense form;
(2) a tendency not to mark verbs for the past tense. This tendency is stronger when verbs are used non-punctually;
(3) a tendency to use an aspect system rather than a tense system or to use both systems side by side;
(4) a tendency to extend the use of be + verb + ing constructions to stative verbs;
(5) the formation of different phrasal and prepositional verb constructions.
d. New ways of stating ideas
A language’s progress involves creation new words or new meanings for
existing words (Platt, Weber, Lian 87). The certain tendencies that the authors enumerated are as follows:
(1) a tendency to imply rather than explicitly state subject and object pronouns which can be understood from the context;
(2) a tendency to use pronoun copying;
(3) a tendency to use adverbs such as ‘already,’ ‘only,’ ‘even’ in sentence final positions;
(4) a tendency not to invert in WH-questions and YES/NO questions;
(5) a tendency to use invariant question tags. (130-31)
These common English language problems can often be noticed here in the Philippines. But another language problem or variation that we have is the use of “Taglish,” a mixture of our local official language and English. This is frequently used during informal conversations but getting accustomed to this style is becoming common, which may cause complications in certain situations.
ii. Attitude Towards the English Language
The main attitude towards English here in the Philippines is that fluent speakers of it are considered elite or at least well educated. Mastery of the English language is important because it is generally “required for access to better jobs and opportunities (Goodman and Graddol 200).” But it is rarely equally available, thus social inequality arises. “Language is one of the primary defining qualities of man, both individual and collectively. It surrounds us, molding our ways of thinking and feeling, from the infant’s cry to the obituary notice.
People deprived of language in some way, be they deaf, dumb, illiterate, or inarticulate, are essentially handicapped (Hughes 1).” The dominant groups of citizens in a society whose patterns of language are marketed, usually advance in the social race (Ryan and Giles 1). Thus learning the language is believed as a very important part of our education due to the idea of globalization.
The youth today is submissive to the English language’s degeneration here in the Philippines.
All around us, speakers of the English language can be observed. The youth, as much as possible, tries to avoid using the language unless they are required to do so in school functions. The ones who use the language frequently are influenced into not using it to adapt to the common environment that they are in.
C. Definition of Terms
The following is a list of terms that will be used in this study:
Attitude – A way of regarding life and events.
English – The main language that is spoken in Britain, the USA, and other countries.
Language – A communication system to express thoughts and emotions by symbols, sounds, etc.
Mistake – An error identified through the standard set of rules of the English language.
Problem – Anything that is difficult to deal with or understand.
Variety – Different forms.
Youth – A group of individuals within the age group of 16-21 years old.
The researcher wanted to find out if the youth today is submissive to the English language’s degeneration here in the Philippines. In line with this, the researcher conducted a sample survey of thirty people, wherein questions about the respondents’ backgrounds of and attitudes toward the English language were inquired about. The results were then brought together, tabulated, and analyzed.
The researcher also observed her friends, who had different social backgrounds, as to how they perceive English as an effective communication tool. These observations were taken down and thus, have influenced one way or another, the outcome of the study.
A. Research Design
This study focused on the use of the Descriptive Method of research. The descriptive method is a general procedure employed in studies that have their chief purpose of description of phenomena. The description and survey of the youth’s consciousness of English communication problems were therefore the primary task of this study.
B. Sample Questionnaire
I am conducting a research entitled, “English Communication Problems in the Philippines and the Consciousness of Today’s Youth” as a partial requirement for the course, English 100.
It is in this connection that I seek your assistance in answering the following questions as completely and honestly as possible. Your answers will be kept strictly confidential and its use will only be intended for this particular study.
From the researcher’s experiences hanging out with friends her age, she was able to examine her friends’ actions and reactions when their mistakes were corrected. If the people were really close to each other, grammar errors are often taken notice of and corrected in the process. But if the friends are not as close, or have a shallow relationship, they tend to overlook each other’s mistakes. The researcher herself was hesitant to correct her org-mates whenever she encountered common grammar and pronunciation mistakes, for they might be embarrassed. But when speaking with a friend of more than five years, the two help each other out to improve their English. Other people, when informally asked if they tried to correct others’ mistakes, say that it depends on their relationship with the person/s involved.
Next, they were asked how often they used English and in what environments do they use it.
D. Statistical Analysis
1. Educational Background Government-funded Schools Private Schools
2. Frequency of use of English 1 2 3 4
10% 57% 27% 7%
3. Environments where they are most obliged to speak English At home In school At the mall With friends In English classes
10% 33% 3% 17% 37%
4. Respondents’ awareness of their mistakes Yes Most of the time Sometimes No
23% 10% 30% 37
5. Frequency of mistakes 1 2 3 4
3% 33% 50% 13%
6. Do the people around them correct them? Yes Most of the time Sometimes No
13% 17% 47% 23%
7. Personal reaction to the correction Embarrassed Insulted Accept it Ignore it
67% 7% 23% 3%
8. Awareness of other people’s mistakes 1 2 3 4
10% 10% 33% 47%
9. Do they correct other people? Yes Most of the time Sometimes No
10% 27% 50% 13%
10. The people’s reaction to the correction Embarrassed Insulted Accept it Ignore it
63% 3% 33% 0%
11. Actions taken to improve their English
33% use it as much as possible
7% take classes in English
3% read grammar books
23% read literary books
The respondents were asked about their educational background, whether they came from public or private schools, because the trend today is that private schools offer better education, especially in English due to the fact that they have bigger budgets, and thus, better teachers. Also, the students who go to private schools are usually from the middle to upper classes. These social groups are often more exposed to the English language, because of their family’s good education background. In the sample survey, more than half of the respondents answered that they came from private schools. This gives rise to the assumption that most of the respondents have a satisfactory learning of the English language.
57% answered “2” for frequency of use on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the highest. 37% said they normally use English only in English classes. This shows that English is not mainly used anymore, unless people are obliged to do so.
30% of the respondents said that they are sometimes aware of their mistakes and 37% answered “3” for frequency of mistakes on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the highest. When asked if they were corrected, 47% answered “sometimes” and 67% were embarrassed when the corrections were made. People are hesitant in correcting other people mainly because they are afraid that they may embarrass the people involved.
Then they were asked how often were they aware of other people’s mistakes. A majority of 47% answered “4” on a scale of 1 to 4, 4 being the highest. But a majority of 50% answered “sometimes” to the question of whether they correct others or not. Even if people rarely correct each other, they still listen for mistakes. Their only objective here is to see if others make mistakes, but not to improve others’ English.
They only use the information they get to label the person or to somehow just describe and create an impression of the person. The reason for this is shown by the next question about other people’s reactions. 63% were embarrassed and only 33% accept their mistakes. People give more importance to the feelings of others, rather than helping others enhance their knowledge of the English language.
Finally, the respondents were asked about what actions do they take to improve their English. 33% said that they use it as much as possible, but another 33% said that they do nothing about it. This shows how passive the youth to day is when it comes to English development. They take it for granted and leave everything else to the school that they go to, refusing to expand their learning environment.
Young people today are submissive to the deterioration of the quality of the English language here in the Philippines. They depend on educational institutions to fix the problem, and are passive when constructive criticisms are raised.
This problem mainly starts at home. If Filipinos don’t use it at home, they don’t use it in school either, unless the teachers tell them to do so. And when the teachers are not fully proficient, all else fails. Thus, as people grow older, the chance for improvement becomes smaller, and the kind of English that they have known all their lives is what they take to the professional world.
English should be used as early as possible because it is very important especially in career building. Most jobs today require applicants to be fluent in English. Globalization is really the root of this need for English, which some people say, is a bad thing. But no one can fight globalization, so we Filipinos might as well compete in it. We have an advantage, having been colonized by English speakers who taught us the language, making it a permanent part of our educational system. But the deterioration of our fluency in English should be solved immediately so that the long-term effects of it won’t be as significant.
Through constant use of the language, better educational programs, and increased awareness and activity in improving one’s own English, our nation’s future with the language may just live on.
Goodman, Sharon and David Graddol, ed. Redesigning English. London and New York: Routledge, 1996.
Hughes, Geoffrey. Words in Time: A Social History of the English Vocabulary. Oxford, UK and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell Ltd., 1988.
Keany, Bryan and Bill Lucas. Looking at Language. Great Britain: Press Syndicate of the University of Cambridge, 1994.
Platt, John, Heidi Weber and Ho Mian Lian. The New Englishes. London, Boston, Melbourne and Henley: Routledge and Kegan Paul plc, 1984.
Ryan, Ellen Bouchard and Howard Giles. Attitudes Towards Language Variation. London: Edward Arnold Publishers Ltd., 1982.