Sunday, 29 May 2016
What brand of English do we speak?
Written by Administrator    Thursday, 22 November 2007 03:06    PDF Print E-mail

By Morr Pungayan (columnist, Baguio Midland Courier)*

I came across with this very interesting and educational column which is something we, Filipinos, urgently need to consider as an eye-opener on how we exactly view OUR English.

WITH THE SUDDEN rise of Call Centers in the City and elsewhere, many young people of this generation are scrambling to get hold of that “English” – that which the ones “already there” (claim to already have and thus) require the applicants to demo, before said applicants pass Base # 1!

ITìZBN THREE YEARS since I’ve been meeting people saying these – and the like: some coming for advice; some, looking for a silver-platter-type of instruction (or “transfer”) of that said “English”.

AND WHEN YOU ask them what those “already-there” require them to have presto(!)? They’ll answer you: American accent (with emphatic accent on the word “accent”).

NOW, WHEN YOU smile and tell them, it is “not that easy” to acquire such an “accent”, you can see the frustration all over their faces!’

BUT EVEN MORE frustrations (!) if you tell them, only native-born American – of any ethnos or national – can readily produce the elusive “accent”!

BUT MUCH MUCH more frustrated if you tell them” the term American “accent” is a Filipino “invention”; in New York alone, there are four – even five – different such “accents”; one is the Bronx.

“SO BEST THING you do” (you may advise them) is to try to speak the “best American accent” you can project, and once you pass and become one of them as “already there”, aloha(!) you too, are speaking the “ideal, American accent!" And wow! Can you picture the immensity of their surprise? Or, frustration?

* * * * * * * * * *

BUT LET US approach the issue using some data at hand; lest, we too become “elusive”.

FIRSTLY AND BASICALLY, the type of “English” we are trained to study, learn and later on apply in actual life is “not pure American” English; it is rather a “mix-mix” of four: the so-called American English, Standard British English, Spanish, and “Philippinized” English. For simplicity, let us use the abbreviations” AE, SBE, Span., and PhE, respectively.

SECONDLY, IT IS IMPORTANT that we accept the truth-germane of the above before we can proceed to venture deeply into the issue.

THRIDLY, IT MAY be easiest to support our above contentions by citing typical morpho-phonological instances rather than dwell on the supra-segmental features of: cadence, juncture, tone, pitch, and the like.

* * * * * * * * * *

WE, FILIPINOS, SAY rotonda (fr. Spanish rotunda, roundhouse; or rotundo, round) when we are referring to the American English (AE) “traffic circle” or the standard British English (SBE) “roundabout”; we say aparador (also Span.) for AE “closet” and SBE “cupboard”; we say viand for the side-dish of rice, when this word is already considered “Archaic” in SBE, though it formerly meant “any article of food”, and (now it is) non-existent in AE; we call that green fruit avocado which is called “crocodile pear” in SBE, and “alligator pear” in AE; and so on.

COMING NEARER TO our “distinct” nuances of English, we say ready made for SBE “off the peg” and AE “ready to ear”; attorney, for SBE “solicitor/barrister” and AE “lawyer” (though in official references also “attorney” as in “District Attorney”); increase for SBE “rise” and AE “hike”; drunkard, for SBE “alcoholic” and AE “lush”; the police, for SBE “bobby” and AE “policemen/cops”; others.

WE CLAIM WE speak American English in the Philippines but if given the choice between “the former” or “the latter” what would the young person of today choose as the one he uses more often: “no place” or “nowhere”? “any place” or “anywhere”? “some place or “somewhere”. “The former” ones are AE, “the latter” ones are SBE. In like manner, don’t we Filipinos say the SBE infinitives “to fail/to flop” rather than its American equivalent “to bomb”? “to murder/to assassinate” rather than the AE “to bump off”?

IN THE THREE words necessary, secretary, and laboratory, the penultimate syllable is not articulated in SBE but is fully-articulated with tertiary stress in AE; so, as a Filipino speaker of English, do you articulate it “British way” or “American way” –whether aware of it or not? Why don’t you try producing the sounds yourself and decide which-is-which for you?

AGAIN IN THREE words: inquiry, research and excess, SBE has later stresses while American English does the stressing on the first syllable! Try these too and find out for yourself which stress pattern you are actually using.

BESIDES AND FINALLY, each one of us – i. e. each individual speaker – who uses any language e. g. English, produces an idiolect: the basic and supra-segmentals of which are the holistic sum of his training, environment, personality and so on, thus to speak AE or SBE – like the “native” – is “rare” rather than “normative”?

* * * * * * * * * *

IN 1986, there was a BBC World broadcaster describing on screen the speakers, leaders, etc., on Philippine soil using “… the beautiful Philippine (English) accent . . .” referring to the English-brand of those they met personally on field, as well as those they heard speak on TV channels during the Edsa I Resolution.

SO YOU SEE? That statement alone typifies an indication saying there is an observed, distinct Philippine “English” – if not “accent” – and, by logical implicatum, denies the presence of American English “accent” among speakers of English in the Philippines (!), except for a privileged and “gifted” few.

MEANWHILE FILIPINO USERS of “English” are fast coming up with their “own versions” of formerly AE or SBE terms and expressions the likes of: MJ from SBE “Marijuana” (n. b. they don’t use the AE “grass” or “weed”); addict from SBE “drug addict” (n. b. they don’t use the AE “junkie”); dirty/sometimes unclean from SBE “dirty” (n. b. they don’t use the AE “crummy”); or binder from the SBE “ring binder” (n. b. they don’t use the AE “looseleaf notebook” nor the “purer” SBE ring book); and many others.

NO WONDER MANY native speakers of English, name it: British, American, Australian, New Zealander, South African, etc. are tickled when a Filipino answers “we speak American (Accent) English!” when asked the question: “What brand of English do you speak in the Philippines?”

SO DON’T YOU think we have our own English? Are we not entitled – as users of the same – to name it by our own choice? Let’s start calling it “Philippine English”, huh? We can use the abbreviation PhE?


Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
You must be logged in to post a comment. Please register if you do not have an account yet.