06 August 2009
Month of the Filipino language
The Philippines devotes one month (August) every year to honor its national language, which legally is Filipino. There is much debate about what exactly Filipino is or even whether it should be the sole national language, because there are three major languages (Cebuano, Ilocano, and Tagalog) among the 171 distinct languages spoken in the islands, each one with loyalists expectedly claiming that their language is superior to the other two. Filipino, which is the language spoken in the major urban centers (Cebu, Davao, Manila), was identified by the 1987 Constitution as the country's official and national language, but it lacks the voluminous scholarship and long history that the three languages have. As far as this blog is concerned, what is interesting is the third week of the Buwan ng Wika (Month of the Filipino Language). The week (8-15 August) is devoted to “Filipino Language: Instrument toward Effective Communication and for Teaching Language and Literature." The Philippine government now actively promotes the use of Filipino for teaching literature. The need for multilingual literary competence has become even more pronounced. A higher-level student, using Filipino as medium of learning, reading a work originally in Greek (I use Greek, because Oedipus Rex is a favorite of university teachers), translated into English and subsequently into Tagalog, cannot fully understand, let alone appreciate, the literariness of a canonical text, without knowing how exactly the languages interact with each other. Although multilingual literary criticism may seem to be of interest only to critics and writers, it has implications for the education of children and young adults as well.