Thursday, March 25, 2010

“Hinggil sa Wika” considers the problems of current academic trends when dealing with language. I do agree that purity of language and the study of it without consideration for its dynamic nature is a flawed and incomplete way of looking at language.

That language evolves is inevitable no matter what steps you take. If you look at older variations of language, you’ll find that it is very much different from what we have now. You do not have to go as far as Old English to realize this. The Tagalog of three generations ago is an entirely different thing to what we practice now.

It is hard to imagine that even a place like France, which has an institution specifically for the governing of its language, is free of this fact. At best, all they can do is maintain an artificial standard while changes are made around them.

To be fair however, I do understand why an artificial standard must be kept. Like I’ve mentioned, the way a generation speaks tends to change. To allow a language to go on at random risks wedging an incredibly huge gap between living people of different generations. One must always remember that language is above all about communication.

The obsession for a national identity has always struck me as fascinating. We have an official list of national objects and the simple use of the word Filipino in a cookie product is enough for our politicians to lodge protests. Of course this obsession extends to language. Our national language is Filipino, a language that supposedly uses Tagalog as its base. It is perhaps telling however that not everyone knows this fact and considers the language as simply Tagalog. The artificial attempt of imposing Filipino has failed and I agree that no such attempt at imposing a national language will work. All that we can do is let the language run its course.

On the other hand, I cannot help but feel way of how the author feels that a national language would naturally come from the struggles against capitalism, feudalism and imperialism. Although it is true that language can be used to keep knowledge from people, as well as help in imperialistic agendas, language is still a tool and nothing else. My biggest concern against activism has always been the way it sets itself up in such a way that it always has an enemy to hate with incredible and almost unguided passion. Although I understand their passion and more important what they are fighting for, I cannot help but feel that there is a better way than throwing insults and plastic bags full of paint is the best way to progress.

If language is used to deny knowledge, then it is a failure of the system and not of the language in question. To isolate yourself in one “nationalistic” (and I choose this word deliberately rather than national) language is to limit your growth to the confines of that circle. Translations are possible but the more languages you know, the less you are limited by such factors. As for any imperialistic agendas, although it is true that culture is sold through language, it is always a personal choice to buy into it. Even those who are not like me who choose to speak and think in English often buy into culture with what little English they know. You can choose to think of it as a leash but at the same time it is also possible to think of it as a means of expanding your options and knowledge—attaining freedom by learning not just English but other languages as well. To fear language because you suspect the motives of those who speak it is to choose to be willfully ignorant.

In the end language is a tool. A powerful tool, yes, but a tool all the same. All it does it allow for communications. The ideas belong to the individuals and agendas—slogans, music and turn of phrase are all tools. It is the people, the ideas and the choices we make that are important.

-Mark Derpo

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