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Saturday, February 16, 2008

Languages do matter!

By Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Posted date: February 16, 2008

A basic weakness in Philippine education is that many pupils do not understand what their teacher is saying. Why? Because the language in school is one they can hardly speak or understand.

In a recent forum, I urged Congress to abandon moves to install English as the sole medium of instruction especially in the primary grades. Instead, a law should be passed mandating the primary use of the learner’s first language (L1, or mother tongue) from pre-school to Grade 6, or at least up to Grade 4. Filipino and English can be taught as separate subjects. This change should provide learners -- whose L1 is neither English nor Filipino -- enough time to develop their cognitive and linguistic skills in their mother tongue. In the process, a solid foundation can be built for learning subjects taught in English and Filipino. These two languages can then become primary media in the secondary level.

What happens to L1 in high school? It can be used as auxiliary medium or as a separate subject. Auxiliary medium is any language other than the prescribed idiom that can enrich and facilitate understanding of the content and academic language of the subject areas.

This facilitates using supplementary science and mathematics materials in the local or national language. The idea here is to extend the use of L1 as far as possible.

For multilingual-based education to work, I can think of four conditions that must be met (although there may be more). One, there has to be good curricula, one that is cognitively demanding. Two, we will need good teachers who are competent in the required languages, content and methods. Three, there must be good teaching materials (i.e., error-free). Four, community support and empowerment must be present.

In a World Bank funded study, Dutcher and Tucker reviewed the international experience on the use of the first and second languages in education. They found out that:

Children need at least 12 years to learn their L1.

Older children and adolescents are better learners of an L2 than younger children.

Developing the child’s cognitive skills through L1 is more effective than more exposure to L2.

Will increasing the time for English improve our English? The Thomas and Colliers 1997 longitudinal study suggests otherwise. They found out that after 11 years, US children whose L1 is not English and who received an all-English education learned the least amount of English. They also had the lowest scores in standardized academic tests.

On the other hand, students taught in their L1 for six years scored more than the average English native speaker in the tests. In the Philippines, the Lubuagan experiment by the Department of Education and the Summer Institute of Linguistics-Philippines belies the claim that using L1 as medium will adversely affect academic performance in English and Mathematics.

How about costs? Contrary to popular belief, L1-based education may actually cost less than one based in L2, that is, if we include wasted expenses due to dropouts, repeaters and failures. The added costs, studies show, are higher in L2 than in L1 schools. A Guatemalan study, for instance, showed that it is costlier to produce a grade level passer (in Grades 1 to 6) in a Spanish medium school ($6,013) than in a Mayan school ($4,496).

Do we need to give up our ethnic languages in order to build “one nation, one language”? No. The right to one’s own language is an inherent human right. Quoting Unesco, languages are essential to the identity of individuals, groups, and nations and to their peaceful co-existence. Imagine the self-respect that a speaker or a community gains when their language is acknowledged in school and in government!

The Philippines ranks 10th in the world in linguistic diversity, with over150 languages. Most Filipinos can speak three or four languages, including a regional language. In addition, they speak the national language for inter-ethnic communication. For international communication, they rely mainly on English, which like Filipino is a second language to them.

Knowing more than one language is also the norm for the world’s citizens. Over 6,000 languages are packed into the world’s 200 nation-states. This means that most nations, if not all, have more than one language.

It is time to foster respect for all languages, especially endangered languages, and to promote and protect them.

Unesco has declared 2008 as the International Year of Languages. The yearlong celebration in the Philippines is being planned and coordinated by the International Year of Languages Committee-Philippines, which is led by the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino [Commission on Filipino Language] and the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines. Let us celebrate our linguistic diversity with the peoples of the world. “Wika Mo. Wikang Filipino. Wika ng Mundo. Mahalaga!” [Your Language. Filipino language. Language of the World. All are important!”]

Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco is the acting chair of the Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino, a board member of the Linguistic Society of the Philippines and a faculty member of the University of the Philippines Department of Linguistics. Anyone interested in joining the IYL Committee can visit its websites at http://iylphilippines.wordpress.com or http://iyl.komfil.gov.ph. [Source: PDI, Commentary]

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A Tao 道 Sign

Le poèt de Pangasinan

Santiago B. Villafania, a bilingual Filipino poet who writes in English and in his native language of Pangasinan, is the author of poetry collections Bonsaic Verses (2012), Pinabli and Other Poems (2012), Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles (2007), and Balikas na Caboloan (Voices from Caboloan, 2005) published by the National Commission for the Culture and the Arts (NCCA) under its UBOD New Authors Series. He has been published in several countries and translated into several languages. Villafania is one of the 11 Outstanding Pangasinan conferred with the 2010 ASNA Award for the Arts and Culture (literature) during the first Agew na Pangasinan and also the 430th Foundation Day of the province on April 2010. He is a member of Philippine PEN writes a regular weekly column for the Sunday Punch.

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A collection of ghazals in Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


A collection of haiku, senryu, tanka, haiga, and other poems in English and Pangasinan language. Order now at Amazon.com


“Santiago Villafania is a searcher with a seemingly insatiable curiosity and endurance. His quest has brought him to explore world poetry from points East and West. He is no stranger to sophisticated verse forms such the Sapphic strophe nor to the diverse permutations of the Japanese haiku. But he is not a formalist, he has daringly explored Asian and Western cultures in a very personal way and writes his mind with a daring, invigorating, aesthetically pleasing ease. In his poetry Villafania displays not only a breadth, but it feels very much like a breath of fresh air.” – Ute Margaret Saine, poet, critic, translator, past president of PEN Orange County and the former editor of the California Poetry Quarterly

“Villafania’s emergence as a poet is a fine moment to celebrate. Another voice from the regions augurs a richer body of writing that Filipinos can hold up as a mirror of our native culture.” – Bienvenido Lumbera, National Artist for Literature

The Beloved Idiom | A Reading of Villafania’s ‘Pinabli & other poems’ by Dennis Andrew S. Aguinaldo


LCCN.: 2010338612

Order your copy now at CreateSpace or Amazon.com :)

"The publication of Malagilion: Sonnets tan Villanelles by Santiago B. Villafania should be a source of rejoicing for readers of regional literatures. This second book by Pangasinan's leading poet today is impressive in both form and substance. Villafania has created 300 sonnets and 50 villanelles in his own language that attempt to reflect the primacy of native culture and return the poet to the central stage of social life."A Boost to Pangasinan Literature from Breaking Signs by Cirilo F. Bautista (Philippine Panorama, 16 Dec. 2007, pp.25-26)

"Villafania is not only a visionary poet, he is a linguistic philosopher who codifies the origin of language and culture, dissects the myths and the common beliefs of the people against the urban legends, juxtaposes the literary tradition against the modern influences by dialectically infusing them in his poetic revelation of truth."Poetic Revelation in Language and Culture by Danny C. Sillada (Manila Bulletin, 12 May 2008, pp. F1-F2)

Photos: Book Launching at the Pearl Manila Hotel, 5 Feb. 2008


"Santiago Villafania's Balikas ed Caboloan certainly has reinvigorated the anlong tradition of Pangasinan that for a long period of time suffered silence from the hands of writers more attuned to English writing. Characteristically anacbanua, Villafania's poetry echoes his predecessors and presages a promising era for young writers in Pangasinan." – Dr. Marot Nelmida-Flores

Thesis: Bilay ed Caboloan - Reconfiguration of Space using a New Historicist Lens by Ayesah Tecson

from Pangasinan 'Anlong': Oral tradition into the 21st century published in Manila Times / Sunday Magazine, March 13 & 20, 2011.

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Translations of Sonnet To A Pilgrim Soul in different languages.

Translations of Erolalia in German, Arabic, Italian, Spanish, Bulgarian, and Hindi language. And here is the 1st version of the poem published in The Sunday Times (Manila Times, 11.23.2003).

Six of my poems translated into Arabic by Prof. Abdul-Settar Abdul-Latif (English Dept., College of Education, University of Basrah, Iraq) and have been published in TEXT - the Cultural Monthly Journal, Issue No.13

Swansong of the sea with translations in Italian, Arabic, Hindi, and Spanish.

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