EACH August, parents buy Filipiniana costumes or fish these out of clothes drawers for their school-age children to wear in the annual celebration of the Filipino language.
Shouldn’t that be languages, though? In a memo issued last March 20, the Department of Education asked schools to celebrate Buwan ng Wika this year by examining the role of language in change; the need to appreciate indigenous languages; the use of Filipino in research; and the importance of translation.
As in the previous years, however, the celebration is mainly in Filipino, although 19 languages are already used in schools under the mother tongue-based multilingual education program. And at least 187 languages are known to exist in the Philippines.
Here’s a quick look at the language landscape:
1) In 2006, the Lower House approved House Bill 4701, of which Rep. Eduardo Gullas was principal author. Gullas said then that “targeting the learning of two languages (English and Filipino) is too much for learners, especially in the lower grades” and that insisting on the use of Pilipino (“which is actually Tagalog”) in teaching has kept learners from mastering English.
2) Cebu City Rep. Raul del Mar, a co-author of the bill, said that the youngest learners had to be taught English, “the language of research, science and technology, areas which global business and employment are very much into” because language proficiency is best taught during the formative years.
3) Under the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education program, the Department of Education uses 19 languages (see list) as medium of instruction, as well as a subject area, from Kindergarten to Grade 3, except for English and Filipino subjects.
4) The 19 languages taught in schools until Grade 3 are: Akianon, Bahasa Sug, Bikol, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Iloko, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanaoan, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Sinugbuanong Binisaya, Sinurigaonon, Tagalog, Waray, Yakan, Ybanag. (SunStar Cebu)