10 March 2009

Filipino English

Here's an interesting quote from American T. Inglis Moore, writing in 1930:

"The Filipino has to learn not only to write with English but to write against it. He has to write English without becoming an Englishman or American. This difficult task is necessary not because Filipino English is better than English, but because a Filipino literature must remain Filipino if it intends to be literature."

Filipino-American novelist Eric Gamalinda quotes this passage in his blog, as well as a similar statement in 1954 by Philippine National Artist Nick Joaquin:

"There are many young writers, and they are doing something to the English language: it is no longer simple English; not the English of America or England, but their English."

Writers have been using second languages for a long time, but literary critics are slow to realize that the use by a writer of a second language has major implications on how a literary text can and should be read.

1 comment:

  1. Taglish. Spanglish. Indianglish. Chinglish. All "adapted" English for Filipinos, Spaniards, Indians, Chinese -- et alia.

    Now, a Frenchman (irony of ironies), Jean-Paul Nerriere, is working hard to systematize and codify another "English" which he has introduced as "English-lite" for users of "limited English." He calls this global dialect of the global village, "Globish" (Global English).

    Last Saturday, Lynda Hurst of the Toronto Star (quoted him in a feature article on Language as saying: "Anglophones no longer own English...It's now owned by people in Singapore, Ulan Bator, Montevideo, Beijing, and elsewhere." She hastened to add that he came out with a ready disclaimer, "Globish is strictly utilitarian, not a cultural triumph for English."

    Nerriere, she said, considers this type of English as evolving, "one used by people as a means to an end, rather than a second language."

    (For more of Globish, read Parlez Vous Globish? lhurst@thestar.ca)

    In 2004 Nerriere published "Don't Speak English, Parlez Globish" and a year later, "Discover Globish" which have been translated from the original French into Korean, Italian, Spanish, but not yet English.

    The Frenchman, nevertheless, thinks that Globish is not a language, but simply a tool to communicate in the global village (business, tourism, text, email, etc.), and "it will never have a literature, nor does it aim to."

    Whew! For the nonce, we will not worry yet about a global language which laid-back literary critics could not make heads or tails about. When that time comes (thanks to the preponderance of Information Technology --- cellphones, IPODs, laptops, email, text etcetera..., -- a new linguistic discipline systematizing "call centre English, text-messaging English, cellphone gibberish, rap lingo, and the like would rise from the ashes of belle lettres like the Great Leveler who has come to slay the monster of Babel.

    It may be sooner or later. Literary denizens of the world, UNITE! Keep a part-time outside of literature or academic pursuit. Who will need objective correlatives, similes, metaphors, conceits, then?

    Ah, but did not the postwar, post modern literary world survive the onslaughts of Ginsberg, e.e.cummings, or even James Joyce "Ulysses" or "Finnegan's Wake". Has anybody finished reading these and remained sane? Will anyone continue to want to read poetry like this:

    "Anyone lived in a pretty how town/(with up so floating many bells down)/spring summer autumn winter/he sang his didn't he danced his did."

    That's "Globish" even before Nerriere "discovered" it. That's called the "power" of the humble day-to-day words.

    Well, there's always the positive tiding of the Filipino writing in utilitarian English (as opposed to elegant English) and concentrate on "content". Will the literary critic thrive then?--ALBERT B. CASUGA