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Inglisero/Inglisera: The Linguistic Edge of being Filipino

Inglisero/Inglisera: The Linguistic Edge of being Filipino


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Published by: elise on Jul 29, 2008
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The linguistic edge of being a Filipino By Elise Velasco

The communicative competence of Filipinos (in spoken English), belonging as they do to a predominantly bilingual society, is influenced more by their acquired knowledge rather than what they have learned through formal language instruction. The Acquisition-Learning Hypothesis is the first of five hypotheses comprising Krashen’s Monitor Model (1981, 1982). Krashen identifies two systems that process knowledge available to the language learner: the acquired system and the learned system. In the former knowledge goes through a subconscious process known as “acquisition”. Acquisition occurs during the course of using language for communication with the learner “picking up” the language from the environment. The acquisition process can thus be described as natural and incidental with the learner developing knowledge about the target language without being aware of it and without conscious effort on his part. The learning process on the other hand, involves conscious understanding of explicit information. Learnt knowledge is gained through formal language instruction, a careful and purposeful study of linguistic elements such as the grammatical rules and principles of a particular target language. Krashen’s model takes what is described as the “non-interface position” which sees learnt knowledge as separate and which cannot be converted into acquired knowledge. According to Krashen the two systems also perform separate functions with utterances being initiated by the acquired system and the learned system activated only when learners are conscious about producing correct output. Learnt knowledge therefore serves as simply a monitor of what the learner has acquired enabling him to correct or edit his output when time and circumstances allow. This monitoring process is called the Monitor Theory, the second hypothesis that falls under the Monitor Model. Krashen believes acquisition is the more important process because acquired knowledge is readily available for use in normal conversation whereas learnt knowledge is more useful for more deliberate language activities such as writing. The Monitor Model is the extreme nonconversion model in which the two sides do not overlap, it is also known as the “dual competence” model. The validity of this theory can be seen in the case of Japanese learners of English. Japanese students undergo several years of English language instruction learning explicit language information, doing grammar exercises and oral drills during their middle school years yet are still unable to speak and understand the language despite having completed the required years of learning it. They know all the rules and structures but have great difficulty retrieving and utilizing these in conversation. Perhaps one of the main reasons for this is the exclusive use of Nihongo (and its formal equivalent) in all aspects of Japanese life. Much, if not all of the knowledge that the average Japanese has of the English language is learned and despite the preponderance of English loanwords, there is very little opportunity to acquire the language in natural communication situations. The Japanese learner is an example of what Krashen calls “P”, an advanced learner who consciously knows the grammar rules yet cannot use them in free speech. Krashen argues that such cases cannot be accounted for by an interface position. The Filipino on the other hand, has the advantage of belonging to a bilingual society where English can be easily acquired. The two systems described by Krashen is simultaneously developed as a Filipino child learns the formal rules in school and acquires it through conversation at home and other social environments outside. This is illustrated in the research compiled by Dr. Lourdes Bautista for the International Corpus of English in 2004. The participants were

required to engage in conversation for a substantial amount of time using only the English language. This writer participated along with two friends, a woman who was raised in the city of Bacolod where the native dialect is “Ilonggo”, and another who, like the writer, was born and raised in Manila where “Tagalog” is spoken. In listening to the taped conversation it was very clear that the Ilongga had a higher degree of fluency than the two Manilans. She spoke with great ease except for some grammatical errors which are acceptable in spoken English. In contrast, the Manilans, produced more processed output by the structure of the sentences, the speed at which they spoke, and the tendency to self-correct. As one of the participants, I was keenly aware of how I was monitoring my every utterance. I can say that I gave precedence to form over function during the exercise as I consciously drew heavily from my learnt knowledge of English. The same may be said about my other companion from Manila. Our Ilongga friend however, spoke with more spontaneity giving her the edge in language performance over us Manilans, but we proved to be more linguistically competent judging by the lesser number of grammatical errors we committed as evidenced by the transcripts. With the obvious absence of language anxiety, one could surmise that our Ilongga friend grew up in a typical middle-class Visayan family that speaks both English and Ilonggo at home. There is much in her knowledge of the language that was apparently acquired, perhaps speaking a hybrid of her native dialect and English even as a young child. This is in stark contrast to the participants from Manila who became English and “Taglish” speakers only when they realized that doing so afforded social acceptability. As a writer I am keenly aware of the dichotomy of the two kinds of knowledge. Writing is an activity that makes this clearly evident. When engaged in formal writing activities, I tend to draw more upon my learnt knowledge being conscious of the more cognitive quality of English required in written work. My Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency (CALP) is better developed than my Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills as can be observed in my sometimes labored attempts at English conversation. On the other hand, I have no difficulty whatsoever in producing written work in English whether formal or informal. I can confidently say that I have achieved a remarkable degree of linguistic competence mainly because the medium of writing gives me the time to retrieve the kind of language information a writing task requires. It is important to point out however, that writers read because of the love of reading and not to consciously learn about language. When writers expand their vocabulary and learn about structures, they do so unconsciously. In this case, the knowledge they get from reading can be classified as acquired albeit a kind of linguistic information that is not the same as those that are typically “picked up” from the environment. The language knowledge of writers thus becomes paradoxical in nature. This perhaps explains why they can be so-so speakers of a second language such as English but very powerful users of same in the medium of writing.

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