Are We Stupid or What?

by Zeneida Amador
Manila Bulletin 28 February 2000

IN a recent survey, Vietnamese students signified their strong desire to learn English as a second language over any other. Korea has been teaching English starting at primary school level. And in Japan the prime minister recently proposed that English be their second language; and though the Japanese students are not that adept at learning English they insist on learning it.

These are smart countries. They know, for very practical purposes, that English is now the language of trade and diplomacy. And the second most spoken language, by the way, is Spanish. A lot of Filipinos used to speak Spanish in this country and after that English was widely spoken. Not so anymore. We have lost our competitive edge in Asia. For that we have to thank either fake nationalists or simpletons who kept saying that we should speak only Tagalog because it is the only way to honor flag and country and it would prove that we do not have a colonial mentality.

Well, it is precisely the people who insist on Tagalog alone that have a colonial mentality. They can't shake that feeling of "I have to show the world I'm independent if I have to cut my nose to spite my face."

Are we stupid or what? Why can't we think of using English as a tool to get ahead, to fend for ourselves, to compete in markets where English is the linguistic currency of exchange? The rich will only send their children abroad. Those who can afford less but more than others will just send their children to schools which still care about teaching English. And so the edge, the advantage will go once more to the "haves'' and the differences between them and the "have nots'' will widen some more. Is this what we want? I repeat are we stupid or what?

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