As an Asian and Filipino living as a foreign student in Sweden, i get asked quite often why my english is so good. This always surprises me because I’d like to believe that Filipinos are well known all over the world to be pretty good english speakers. While admittedly they are not very good in their grammars and most of them speak in broken english, still, i believe that it is fairly good compared to our asian neighbors. In the Philippines, if you are a foreigner, you can talk to anyone you meet in the streets to ask for directions, where the loo is, or simply have a conversation about the weather and they can convey their message and answers pretty well in english as well.
Personally, I know I speak fairly good english because I have been trained that way all my life. My mother and my family spoke to me in english when i was very little and my mom would even tell me to “please speak in english because i cannot understand you” when I would try to speak to her in Filipino. Of course it backfired on her sometimes when i get naughty and she would get really mad and try to apprehend and curse at me in filipino, i would simply reply “Nanay (mommy), please speak in english because I cannot understand you.” that would either egg her to be more mad at me or laugh uncontrollably, forgetting her anger. My kindergarten and formative years were spent in an American-run school where we were required to speak english all the time and we’d get punished or demerits if we speak in Filipino even during break times. The school was an exclusively english speaking zone and the teachers do not tolerate any foreign language to be spoken in there. Even the parents were instructed to speak to their children in english when at home. When i was about nine or ten years old, i moved to Hong Kong for a while and even then I had a british tutor. When I moved back to the Philippines, I went to english speaking schools as well. that was important to my parents.
With my education, add the fact that i loved to read even at an early age and there was always an abundance of english books for me to read, provided by a mother and aunts who encouraged reading, even when the reading materials are a little bit age-inappropriate, and you get a child who is very proficient with the english language.
But I’d like to believe that my case is not an exception to the rule. The filipino people are fairly proficient in the english language because we have been trained that way. The Philippines was colonized by the Americans for 50 years, and they brought along their school system with them. Education in the Philippines have been highly patterned after the American system and we were taught english from then on. This is why even the Filipinos with the most basic of education can express themselves fairly well in english. Add that to the fact that ever since the american colonization 90% of the filipinos have been angling to be Americans, we’re practically the brown Americans of Asia! With that you basically get a population of fairly good english speakers!
And i have always been proud of the fact that most filipinos are proficient with the english language. especially when some foreign director goes to the Philippines and just film a reality show or a documentary practically anyone from the streets can be interviewed and they can express themselves in english unlike most of our neighboring country. We are also one of the best sources of call centers and BPOs simply because filipinos are fairly sufficient with the language.
And with this, I urge you to come to the Philippines, experience the Filipino Hospitality that we’re most famous for, and converse with a local in English, while i stay stuck here trying to beat deadlines after deadlines. Enjoy!
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