Murdering the Queen’s Language, redux

THE OTHER DAY while having my usual caffeine fix at Starbucks I overheard at a nearby table two young ladies, obviously college students, having a spirited conversation speaking Tagalog with the most atrocious Ilonggo accent. One can only conclude they’re trying to be cool or hip when obviously they’re not, far from it.

Tagalog is for losers who are severely challenged in the mastery of proper English, and I do mean the Queen’s English, not the mutilated version staple to most disc jockeys on FM stations.

As a defence mechanism and trying to be clever, these losers’ favorite line is, “English is just a language and not a gauge or standard for one’s intelligence.”

Nothing could be further from the truth. Mastery of proper English needs a considerable amount of intelligence and discipline.

To be able to speak, write and comprehend proper English one needs to study it, and studying means you must be able to read and write. And to be able to just read and comprehend a fair amount of intelligence is required, more so writing in proper English.

So yes, mastery of proper English is a gauge of one’s intelligence.

To be able to speak Tagalog does not really require some intelligence; just watch Eat Bulaga for about a week and by Sunday you will be able to speak Tagalog like a natural born tambay in Cubao.

There’s only one language that will get you through almost anywhere in the world and it’s not Chinese although it’s spoken by most people in the planet. And if you know this language almost always from Timbuktu to Zamboanga there will be someone to give you directions to the nearest bus stop or the nearest internet cafe.

So what is this magical language that opens doors almost anywhere in this planet?

Let me build up your curiosity. In the Philippines it’s everywhere from street signs to jeepneys, even stores have their names in this language.

Almost all newspapers in the Philippines are written in this language and it’s also the medium of instruction in our schools. Why, Pinoys even curse in this language.

This language created a growth industry in two countries because of the mastery of its natives in this language, India and the Philippines – with the Philippines now taking the lead role in that industry.

I’ll give you a clue; that industry is the BPO Industry, in common terms the Call Center Industry.

Yeah baby, you got it righ. The language is English and it’s been taken for granted here that most Pinoys forgot we have a mastery of it, having been exposed to English from birth to death.

Didn’t you ever wonder why anywhere you go in “I Am Iloilo City” chances are you’ll bump into a Korean student and they’re not here for La Paz batchoy or the Esplanade but to study English in a city where English is everywhere.

The thing is most Pinoys are shy when it comes to speaking English because they’re afraid they may not sound American enough, and that’s where the problem is. Of course we can never speak like Americans simply because we’re not.

The funny thing there is that American English is not even the proper English. The proper one is the language of their colonizers, the English spoken in the United Kingdom or England, in short the Queen’s language. Hello! Your clue there is that it’s called English from England and not America.

And now back to Pinoys trying to sound like Americans. In their futile attempt to do so they murder the Queen’s language, mostly using phrases or terms they don’t even know the meaning or proper usage. They just use them because they sound cute and clever not knowing that not using them properly only makes them sound stupid.

And here are some of the common phrases used:

Good for you” – This is actually derogatory. It’s not a compliment. If someone tells you his accomplishments, don’t say this because it’s an insult.

I’m sure you are” – Another insult. If someone tells you this after telling him your accomplishments, he is actually insulting you, not praising you.

Lovely man” or just “lovely” – This is not saying you’re gay or literally lovely in the feminine way, but you are looking good or you’re a good man. If the person just says lovely, then he means it’s good.

Flashes of brilliance” – My personal favourite. I actually coined this phrase, it’s an insult not a compliment. When someone tells you that you have “flashes of brilliance” and used in its proper context, it means you’re dull most of the time and suddenly you came out with a short flash of brilliance.

When I was then Director of Animal Kingdom Foundation, I attended the Trustees Meeting of our funding agency, the International Wildlife Coalition in London, England and one of our Trustees came up to me and said “Luis, your English is impeccable but you have this accent I cannot place.”

I told him its pure unadulterated Ilonggo accent. So there. (


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