“Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.”

When activists and progressive writers started to seriously and consistently write in Tagalog-Pilipino in the late 1960s and early 1970s, they were quickly confronted with the issue of how to spell Spanish or English words rendered in Tagalog. For example, should it be sitwasyon, situwasiyon, or situweysyon? Rebolusyon or ribulusiyon? Even how to spell native Tagalog words often became problematic: Lalake or lalaki? Babae or babai? Ibaksak or ibagsak?

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

As a rule-of-thumb solution, many of us adopted the rule, “Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.” How you say it is how you spell it. The premise was that there was only one correct way of pronouncing words in Tagalog-Pilipino. Thus, if we were faithful in spelling a written word the way it is spoken, then the assumption was that we should quickly agree on standard spelling.

But anyone who’s been around the Tagalog provinces or with friends from those provinces will easily realize that there are quite a number of dialect and accent variations in how words are pronounced.  Following the bigkas-baybay rule, we should accept “Isuksok mo ang sanrok sa ringring” of Eastern Rizal and “Eka ko e tama, pero eka niya e mali” of Nueva Ecija as normative for written Tagalog. We often see roughly painted notices (“Bawal omehi ditu”) on walls, and make fun of them as examples of low literacy among street-educated Filipinos. But how do we know, really? Maybe those who wrote them are as educated as we are, but are merely following the bigkas-baybay rule. Continue reading ““Kung ano ang bigkas, siyang baybay.””

So I speak weird English. So what?

IRAIA thoughts
IRAIA thoughts

Some years back I attended a lecture on world English. The lecturer gave a very interesting presentation, with many insights that woke up a monster inside me from its long slumber. The presentation was about a study by Evelyn Nien-ming Ch’ien, when she was Assistant Professor of English at the University of Hartford.

The lecturer (whose name I still need to retrieve from my archives) quoted extensively from Ms. Ch’ien’s monumental 352-page work, which celebrated world English by tagging it as weird English. Explained simply, weird English is non-native English, which typically drops many of the arcane and complex rules of English grammar so that its non-native speakers can comfortably express their own cultures. Continue reading “So I speak weird English. So what?”

Wika Notes 01b

Tagalog lessons
I dedicate this series to my increasing number of foreign friends who want to learn, are starting to learn, or have acquired some fluency in, Tagalog. It’s also for my fellow Filipinos who want to refresh and deepen their knowledge of the language. Click here for Part 1

Guideline 4. Modern Tagalog recognizes several loan consonants—Ch, Sh, F, J, Ñ, V, X, and Z—although they are often convertible into double consonants and so are not absolutely needed, except in proper names such as names of people and places.

Continue reading “Wika Notes 01b”