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World View

north of Indonesia, the Philippines is slightly

larger than Arizona. The countrys islands are
divided into three major groups: Luzon (the
Understanding Filipino largest and one of the northernmost islands,
where Manila is located), the Visayas, or cen-
Families: A Foundation for tral islands, and Mindanao (a large southern
island). The Philippines has been heavily influ-
enced by colonization by Spain and the United
Effective Service Delivery States. Because Spain ruled the Philippines
for 400 years, Filipino language and culture
greatly reflect Spanish influence. After Spain
was defeated in the Philippine revolution near
Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin the close of the 19th century, the United States
annexed the Philippines. After the Filipinos
California State University, Fresno further fought for their independence, the
United States granted this independence on
July 4, 1946, but because of the American
dominion for almost 50 years, the Philippines
continues to reflect American as well as Span-
ish influences.

major current goal of the American Ethnically, the Philippines is the most
Speech-Language-Hearing Association diverse country in Asia (Chan, 1992). Filipinos
(ASHA) is to increase its members generally descend from the Malay, Spanish,
sensitivity to and competence in serving Negrito (indigenous group), Indian, Chinese,
individuals from a variety of linguistic and and Indonesian groups. Approximately 80% of
cultural backgrounds (Quinn, Goldstein, & the population lives in rural areas, and 45% of
Pea, 1996; Roseberry-McKibbin, 1995). A the population is directly involved in agricul-
multicultural group that has become increas- tural jobs. Hundreds of thousands of Filipinos
ingly large in the United States is the Filipino have emigrated to the United States during the
population. In 1990, there were 1.4 million last several decades, motivated in large part by
Filipinos living in the United States, with 50% the opportunities to pursue better jobs and
of them living in California and 61% of them education for themselves and their children
living in the Pacific West. Filipinos are the (Garza & Scott, 1996). In addition, poverty, a
second largest Asian group in this country and lack of job opportunities, and an unstable
the largest Asian immigrant group to the United political climate have motivated the popularly
States (Chan, 1992). The Filipino population in known brain drain, where many well-
the United States will reach 2 million by the educated Filipino professionals have emigrated
year 2000, yet very little information about this to the United States in search of a better life.
population is available in the field of communi- For the same reasons, unskilled rural laborers
cation disorders (Garza & Scott, 1996). have come to the United States as well (Chan,
Because speech-language pathologists will be 1992). Speech-language pathologists need to
serving increasing numbers of Filipino clients, recognize that there are profound differences
this article was written to (a) share information between urban and rural Filipinos in areas such
about the Philippines, (b) discuss cultural as amount of education, English proficiency,
practices that have an impact on our service health practices, and acceptance of Western
delivery to Filipinos, and (c) discuss linguistic medicine and speech-language services.
considerations that speech-language patholo- Filipinos bring many strengths to the United
gists need to be familiar with in order to best States, including English fluency and economic
serve Filipino clients. The information con- stability. The Philippines is considered the only
tained in this article was synthesized from my country in Asia that is predominantly English-
experience living in the Philippines from age 6 speaking (Chan, 1992). Most Filipinos are
to age 17, from clinical experience, from fluent in English because it is taught in the
interviews with Filipinos, and from sources schools, and it is estimated that 90% of
cited in the reference list. Filipino-American students are designated as
Fluent English Proficient (Cheng, Nakasato, &
Wallace, 1995). Seventy-one percent of
Background and History Filipinos in the United States have become U.S.
The Philippines is a 1,000-mile long archi- citizensthe highest rate of any immigrant
pelago containing more than 7,200 widely group. In household income, Filipino Ameri-
scattered islands. Situated south of Taiwan and cans are second only to Japanese Americans.

American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 1058-0360/97/0603-0005 American Speech-Language-Hearing

Association 5
Filipino Americans average household income Hiya, or shame, involves a loss of face with
is $44,000 a year, and their poverty rate, at 6%, the accompanying feelings of embarassment,
is one of the lowest in the United States. inferiority, and alienation. If a Filipino does not
Approximately 40% of Filipino Americans respect his or her elders, does not reciprocate
over 25 years of age have a college degree, and favors, or engages in other inappropriate
they are unique among Asian Americans in behaviors, he or she is said to be walang hiya
having a greater number of female than male (no face or without shame) (Wurfel, 1988).
high school and college graduates. A person who is walang hiya is frequently
Filipinos have a strong work ethic and a ostracized by others. Hiya is closely related to
widely recognized propensity for diligence, amor propio, or a high degree of sensitivity that
ambition, and high aspirations. However, causes one to have easily wounded pride. It is
speech-language pathologists should be aware devastating to be publicly criticized or humili-
that some Filipino professionals may feel ated. Loss of face is one of the worst things that
frustrated and disheartened because their can happen to a Filipino. Due to families sense
previous education and employment experi- of amor propio, professionals should not
ences are not recognized in the United States. venture into frank and open discussions of
These professionals may not be able to get jobs problem areas too soon (Chan, 1992). Many
that were commensurate with what they had in Filipinos consider it rude for professionals to
the Philippines. This downward occupational start directly talking about business; I have
mobility can lead to depression, frustration, and found it helpful to build rapport by sharing a
loss of self-esteem (Chan, 1992). For example, few personal and professionally appropriate
one Filipino lawyer was working as a custodian details about myself and by displaying a stance
because he was unable to get a job as an of interest in and concern for the entire family.
attorney in the United States. Speech-language I have also found it helpful to begin any
pathologists who work with adult clients need meeting with praise for the childs (or adult
to be sensitive to these disappointing realities. clients) good traits and to give compliments to
the family. (However, speech-language
Cultural Beliefs and Practices pathologists must remember that although
Filipinos love compliments, cultural style
General Beliefs and Values indicates that the person being complimented
Among Filipinos, the group (as opposed to should downgrade what is being complimented
the individual) is very important; Filipinos and then return the compliment). Older Filipino
often enlist the opinions of others because clients (e.g., stroke patients) who are accus-
group consensus is crucial. Pakikisama, or tomed to building relationships before trust is
maintaining good feelings and getting along established, may need the clinician to spend
with others, is a dominant cultural theme; time gaining rapport before initiating treatment
smooth interpersonal relationships are valued (Apolinario, personal communication, 1997).
above all else. Filipinos sense of justice, Professionals are expected to be directive
fairness, and concern for others is manifested in and authoritarian and to give specific advice.
the concept of pakikipagkapwa-tao. Interper- They are also expected to be friendly, warm,
sonal relationships are seen as the primary sensitive, and open to emotional closeness with
source of happiness and security (Chan, 1992). the family. Filipinos have great respect for
Because of this, Filipinos will usually be authority figures and often give them gifts. This
indirect, hide their anger, and avoid confronta- ensures reciprocity; Filipinos consider authori-
tions. Open emotional expression is considered ties to be subject to influence. If families bring
rude and uncultured (Cheng, 1991). Profession- gifts, the gifts should be accepted gratefully
als may assume that because Filipinos say (depending on the ethics of the situation) but
yes that they understand and agree, but they never opened in front of the gift-giver (Chan,
may actually disagree or even be angry; 1992).
pakikisama dictates that they smile and be Filipino families are extremely hospitable;
courteous. Professionals must not take smiles Filipinos are known internationally for their
and agreement at face value. Generally, when a hospitality to visitors. If speech-language
Filipino is angry, he or she will not say pathologists conduct home visits, food will
anything but will withdraw from the other party probably be served, perhaps in great quantity. If
for a period of time such as several weeks. If speech-language pathologists are comfortable,
the offended person wants to reestablish a they should do their best to eat at least some-
relationship with the other party, the offended thing so the families will not be offended or
person will very gradually begin associating hurt. If the speech-language pathologist does
with the other person again (Yadiangco, refuse food, he or she should have a good
personal communication, 1995). reason (e.g., food allergies). Speech-language

6 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 No. 3 August 1997

pathologists who conduct home visits should live with their children. The grandparents have
also remember that the hosts, if complimented on the most power and authority in the family.
an item, may try to give the item to the speech- Because of the ancient Malay tradition of
language pathologist (Ramos & Goulet, 1981). equality between the sexes, there is a bilateral
Time in the Philippines is very elastic. For extended kinship system (Chan, 1992). Often
example, if a function is scheduled to begin at several generations will live under the same
7:00 p.m., it may actually start at 8:30 or 9:00. roof. The father and mother share authority and
Some clients may be late for appointments responsibilities; Filipino women have more
because of the relaxed attitude toward time; status than women in many countries of the
professionals may need to emphasize the need world (Chan, 1992; de Guzman & Reforma,
for punctuality. The pace of life in the Philip- 1988). Mothers often control the finances and
pines is slow, and the value of punctuality frequently work outside the home. Thus, when
among Filipino Americans will often vary Filipino families emigrate to the United States,
according to how long they have lived in the they have less of an adjustment than other
United States. Many Filipino Americans, Asians when the wife works outside the home.
especially those in mainstream jobs, generally Divorce is illegal in the Philippines.
recognize punctuality as an important U.S. Utang ng loob, or lifelong debt of grati-
cultural value. tude, is central to Filipino family life (Wurfel,
The embedded cultural concepts of bahala 1988). Individuals are expected to sacrifice for
na (leave it to God) and ganyan lamang ang the good of the family. For example, older
buhay (life is like that) are often interpreted siblings will typically spend much of their
by Americans as passivity or fatalism. Ameri- salaries for the education and support of
can clinicians need to be careful not to judge younger siblings. In terms of child care, older
Filipinos as passive and lacking in initiative in children (especially girls) are usually the
situations where actions must be taken to assist caretakers of younger children. Because
an individual with a communication disorder. families are very closely knit and thus make
Bahala na and ganyan lamang ang buhay may decisions collectively, speech-language
cause some Filipinos to appear as though they pathologists must work with the entire family,
are unwilling to take action and be proactive, not just the individual. When working with
when in fact these beliefs enable Filipinos to Filipino families, professionals must be aware
survive great difficulties, tolerate hardship, and of the specific roles that family members play.
accept change gracefully (Chan, 1992). For example, professionals should always be
careful to greet and say goodbye to older
people, who are treated with respect. Speech-
Religion language pathologists should not publicly
Approximately 8590% of the Philippine disagree with elders. In addition, clinicians
population is Catholic, although Islam is working with older Filipinos (e.g., those who
predominant on the island of Mindanao. have acquired neurological disabilities) need to
Muslims (called Moros) on Mindanao still have be extremely careful to be courteous and
hostile relations with the Catholic majority of diplomatic when giving instructions.
the Philippines, and fighting on Mindanao is It is also important to recognize that in the
quite common. Some Filipinos, especially the Philippines children are expected and greatly
tribespeople of Mindanao and Luzon, practice desired; there is no special preference for
animism, or belief in and involvement with the males. Many Filipinos feel sorry for couples
spirit world. Animists may appeal to the spirits who have only one child (Ramos & Goulet,
of the sky, field, home, or garden for favor 1981). Most mothers dont take their babies out
(Hinkelman, 1996). of the house until 34 weeks of age. Infants and
toddlers are coddled, catered to, and held by
family and friends; multiple caretakers are
Family Life common. During infancy and early childhood,
The concept of tayo-tayo, or my family children are highly indulged. The emphasis on
first, reflects the utmost importance of the physical closeness and dependency is further
family unit. Among Filipinos, the family is the manifested by customs such as breastfeeding
source of identity, support, and focus of ones children until as old as 2 years of age and
primary duty. Personal rather than institutional allowing them to sleep with parents or siblings.
relationships guide the behavior of many A young child is never alone and may be
Filipinos, causing them at times to override the several years old before he or she remains
rules of society in favor of their kin. The family unsupervised (Chan, 1992). Caretakers of
system is hierarchical; authority is based on babies and children watch them closely; the
age. Elders are highly respected and usually environment is considered hostile and thus

Roseberry-McKibbin 7
children should be protected from it, not authoritarian. Students are very respectful, stay
allowed to explore it (Ramos & Goulet, 1981). quietly in their seats, and generally do not
Speech-language pathologists who conduct question teachers. Classroom discussions are
early intervention should understand that very rare, and students are rewarded more
recommendations for childrens exploration of frequently for being respectful and polite than
the environment and increased independence for demonstrating intellectual growth (Wurfel,
may run counter to the beliefs of some Filipino 1988). Corporal punishment is acceptable in
families. most Filipino schools. In my third and fourth
Some American clinicians have told me that grade classrooms, the teachers carried and used
they perceive young Filipino children as large sticks to hit children whose behavior did
immature. Because of the differences in not conform to expectations. Schoolchildren are
Filipino and American expectations in childrens expected to look down when speaking to an
independence, American speech-language adult. (I once inherited a fourth-grade
pathologists might view young children, Filipino student onto my caseload in the
especially preschoolers, as being too depen- schools; an IEP goal in the area of pragmatics
dent, clingy, and immature. This is often was to increase the students eye contact!)
cultural; it is important to realize that in the Children laugh when they are embarassed,
Philippines, independence for children is which could mislead U.S. professionals to think
emphasized later than it is in American culture. that Filipino children do not take reprimands
This has implications for early intervention. seriously (Roseberry-McKibbin, 1995).
Whereas American speech-language patholo-
gists place a high value on early intervention,
many Filipino parents view this as intrusive. Health and Disabilities
They frequently believe that young children Poverty and overcrowdedness are rampant in
will outgrow any problems seen, and may be the Philippines, with an estimated 70% of
very reluctant to avail themselves and their Filipinos living below the poverty line. In Metro
children of early intervention services. Manila, the 11th largest city in the world, the
urban density in 1994 was 56,141 people per
square mile (Hinkelman, 1996). Although actual
Education starvation is not common, many Filipinos
Filipinos place an extremely high value on experience malnutrition and subsequent health
education. Families will make many sacrifices problems. Overpopulation is a major issue, which
to educate their children. Education is a status is challenging to address because most Catholic
symbol, a promise of a better future, and is Filipinos do not practice birth control. Many rural
viewed as a means of advancement for the families are large, having between 9 and 12
entire family. A major motivation for many children. A United Nations Population poll
Filipino families to emigrate to the United showed that in 1950 there were 21 million people
States is to pursue better educational opportuni- living in the Philippines. By 1995, that figure had
ties for their children (Cheng, 1991). In the tripled. The United Nations projects an increase
Philippines, the literacy rate is 90%; 10 years of to 105.1 million people by the year 2025
public education are available to most of the (Hinkelman, 1996).
people. However, in some rural areas, student Health care in the Philippines is scarce. In
school attendance is not enforced. In addition, 1990, there was one medical doctor for every
more recent Filipino immigrants have come 8,120 people (Hinkelman, 1996). If family
from a deteriorating economy with disrupted members become sick, especially in rural areas,
schooling, and some recent arrivals are not as they may seek faith healing or alternative forms
literate as their earlier counterparts. Thus, of natural healing. Many tribal Filipinos believe
American professionals may work with many in aswang or witches that can cause misfortune
well-educated and literate Filipino students as such as ill health. Persons from rural areas may
well as those at-risk Filipino students whose be accustomed to friendly and available folk
literacy skills are quite low (Cheng et al., 1995). healers and may expect this same attitude from
In many Philippine schools, supplies are U.S. physicians. If these expectations are not
quite limited. In my classrooms, textbooks were met, families may change doctors or avoid
very scarce. We spent many hours copying Western health care facilities. Speech-language
information from the chalkboard. Hard work pathologists may need to help these families
and rote memory are emphasized, so many modify their expectations so that their medical
Filipino students may need practice in critical needs can be met. Urbanized Filipinos rely on
thinking, question-asking, problem-solving, and Western medical care. Some Filipinos combine
exploration (Cheng & Ima, 1990). In third traditional and modern approaches to healing
grade and beyond, classrooms are extremely (Chan, 1992).

8 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 No. 3 August 1997

Among Filipinos, severe disabilities often collaborate with personnel in these facilities to
carry great stigma. Families may be reluctant to provide links between the family and the
let others know about their childs disability community. In addition, clinicians might work
because of the shame and disgrace brought to collaboratively with local Filipino churches and
the family as a whole. The family is concerned other Filipino organizations that provide
about a loss of face. For example, in rural areas support for families who have members (adults
where my family lived, children with severe or children) with disabilities.
cleft palates did not attend school at all. When an older Filipino adult becomes
Siblings might have difficulty finding marriage disabled (e.g. due to a stroke or head injury),
partners because they have a hereditary taint. clinicians must be aware that many Filipino
Children who have profound emotional families expect to care for this person in their
disturbance or disabilites (e.g. autism, epilepsy) homes. In the Philippines, there are few skilled
might be seen as possessed by evil spirits. If nursing facilities. This concept is practically
a child is born with a disability, this may nonexistent. Older persons, whether they have
represent Gods punishment for the sins of the disabilities or not, generally live with their
parents or their ancestors. Because disabilities children throughout their lives. Thus, clinicians
carry such a stigma, it may be hard to help should be aware that if an older Filipino adult
families to accept that their child has a disabil- has a stroke, for example, the family might be
ity (Chan, 1992). Clinicians need to be kind, quite averse to placing the patient in a skilled
tactful, supportive, and gentle. nursing facility; in the view of the family, it is
Belief in bahala na might lead families to their job to care for an older person who has
accept a childs disability as Gods will or as lived a long life and thus deserves to be
fate. Families must be sensitively helped to respected and served. Similarly, older Filipino
actively seek options for treatment or rehabili- patients may expect their adult children to care
tation. Families usually are the primary for them in their old age. J.A., a Filipino
caretakers of disabled children. Older siblings engineer, recently told me that his mother-in-
are expected to continue to give primary care to law lived with him and his family for 14 years.
a disabled family member, and all are expected J.A. added that although American men
to make personal sacrifices. It can be difficult wouldnt put up with this, it is not unusual
for Filipino families to accept outside support for Filipino American families to have older
and assistance provided by speech-language parents living in the home for many years. If
pathologists and agencies, because the family is adult Filipino children (especially those who
expected to meet all of the disabled persons have been born and raised in the United States)
needs (Chan, 1992). Chan (p. 291) states that: do not want to provide this type of long-term
In seeking direct services or assistance for a care, their parents may experience anger and
child with a disability, the family may disappointment. In some cases, clinicians may
typically utilize intermediaries or their parties need to help families resolve intergenerational
(who are often extended family members) to conflicts arising from the differing expectations
make initial contact with appropriate providers of various family members.
or agencies. This practice serves to convey
respect for the providers who are viewed as
authority figures and, as such, are not directly
Linguistic Considerations
approached to request assistance. It also Communication Styles
enables a family to filter information and learn
more about the personal/professional qualities When clinicians are serving speakers of
of the provider(s) through the perspectives of a English as a second language, it is important to
trusted go-between. Early interventionists consider communication styles as well as
should be receptive to this practice and avoid specific linguistic structural differences (Brice
rigid insistence on initial direct contact with the & Montgomery, 1996). Specific stylistic
identified child and his or her family members, aspects of communication among Filipinos
to the exclusion of designated intermediaries. include employing, in interactions, a formality
Restrictive agency policies and relevant client/ that conveys respect for status and position.
family confidentiality issues must be examined Use of titles is considered very important. For
in this light.
example, a physician might continue to be
Because there is a long-standing Filipino known as Dr. Viterbo even to his long-time
tradition of small-group and family orientation, patients and friends (Chan, 1992). American
there are increasing numbers of Filipino care speech-language pathologists should be
providers who have established community- especially careful to use titles with adult
based residential facilities or small group Filipino clients; the American practice of using
homes that serve clients with disabilities (Chan, first names may be offensive to some Filipinos,
1992). Clinicians should attempt to locate and especially older ones. In addition, Filipinos

Roseberry-McKibbin 9
may be very uncomfortable calling speech- norm. For example, it is common for Filipinos
language pathologists (authority figures) by to ask if you are married and if you have any
their first names. Speech-language pathologists children. I was recently asked by a Filipino
should be receptive to being called by a title if gentleman if I had any children. When I said
this will help Filipino clients to be more no, he asked why not. Filipinos frequently ask
comfortable. others ages because knowledge of someones
Because Filipinos wish to save face and age helps the speaker place the other person in
avoid hiya, they may say yes when they the appropriate spot on the social hierarchy
mean no; they may be indirect and appear to (Cheng & Ima, 1990). Some Filipinos may
be skirting the issue. Filipinos are very make remarks about a persons body weight;
reluctant to openly disagree with others and for married women, being 2030 pounds
may use silence to communicate dissatisfaction overweight is a sign of having a successful
or even anger. This can be frustrating and husband. Being thin is viewed negatively, as
confusing to American speech-language this indicates that life is not treating a person
pathologists, who expect interactions with well (Ramos & Goulet, 1981). Open discus-
clients to be open and honest. Speech-language sions about money are common. It is consid-
pathologists might give recommendations to a ered appropriate, for example, to ask others
family who agrees to carry them out; later, they what their annual salaries are or how much
find to their chagrin that the family never their possessions cost. Professionals should be
intended to follow the recommendations. It is prepared for some Filipinos to ask personal
important to be sensitive, diplomatic, and questionsfor example, the professionals
honest with Filipino families, and to encourage age, income, price of clothingand to make
them to express how they truly feel about remarks that seem very personal (e.g. Youre
situations. Clinicians should try not to openly so skinnyyou need to eat more). These
display anger toward Filipino clients, for the questions and remarks are intended as signs of
clients may feel so alienated, angry, and interest, not intrusiveness. In the Philippines, a
ashamed that they might never come back for common greeting is Where are you going?
further interactions or services. Although this may seem intrusive to Ameri-
Several weeks ago I was involved (through cans, the answer expected is over there.
the public schools) in a situation with a American clinicians must balance their
Filipino family where their 8-year old daugh- ingrained cultural mor of privacy with their
ter, M., was assessed for severe and persistent desire to establish rapport with Filipino clients.
hypernasality secondary to velar immobility.
After 3 years of treatment, Ms intelligibility
gains were minimal. I recommended that M. be Linguistic Characteristics
thoroughly assessed by medical personnel to and Patterns
ascertain whether she might benefit from a There are 87 mutually unintelligible
pharyngeal flap. I recommended dismissal languages in the Philippines; these all stem
from treatment, until medical assessment and from the Malayo-Polynesian group (Cheng et
intervention occurred, because M. had pla- al., 1995). The eight most common languages
teaued in her intelligibility gains. The father are listed in Figure 1. Tagalog/Pilipino is the
was very angry, and indicated in writing that
he disagreed with my recommendation for FIGURE 1. Major languages of the Philippines
dismissal from treatment. I did not argue with
him, but instead thoroughly and tactfully
Pangasinan 2.3
explained the rationale for my recommenda-
tion. I assured him that I would send him and Pampango 3.4
his wife a copy of my report for them to take to Samar/Leyte 4.6
Ms doctor. I encouraged him to call me at any Bicol 7
time if he had further questions. As he left, he
Hiligaynon/Ilongo 10
gave me a small smile. Although I felt some
frustration with not being able to persuade the Other 11.1
father to take immediate action on behalf of his Ilocano 13.4
daughter, I knew it was important not to argue Tagalog 23.8
and alienate him entirely. No angry words
Cebuano 24.4
were exchanged, and I hope that eventually he
will contact me so that I might be of further 0 10 20 30
assistance in helping M. obtain the medical Percentage of the Population
care she needs. Speaking the Language
In the Philippines, personal questions are the

10 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 No. 3 August 1997

major language of the Philippines, and one Phonological Characteristics of
frequently finds the terms Tagalog and Pilipino Filipino Languages: A Contrastive
used interchangeably. This is common practice Analysis With English
among Filipinos (Apolinario, personal commu- As was previously stated, Pilipino, the
nication, 1997). (For purposes of consistency in national language, is based on Tagalog but
this article, I have used the term Pilipino.) In borrows from other languages. Pilipino has 27
1959, the Philippine government determined phonemes: 5 vowels, 6 diphthongs, and 16
that the national language should be officially consonants. Sounds not commonly found in
recognized as Pilipino in the schools. Pilipino is standard American English are the tap/trill /r/,
described as: (Bowen, 1965) the glottal stop, and the consonant clusters
Tagalog enriched with officially recognized /nj/ and /lj/ (Cheng et al., 1995, p. 85). Many
borrowings (from other Philippine languages words in Pilipino are polysyllabic, for ex-
and from Spanish, English, and Chinese), ample: katakataka (thats incredible!) and
coinages, and revived words, which have had maligayangbati (original happiness). Stress in
varying degrees of success in popular usage.
Pilipino roots is usually on either of the last
Standardized grammar rules and spellings along
with officially adopted lexical items have been two syllables, and vowels in stressed syllables
promulgated from time to time for Pilipino, are lengthened (e.g., as:wa [spouse]; salit:
which do not necessarily affect Tagalog. (p. v) [speak]; mab:hay [welcome]) (Ramos &
Cena, 1990).
Many smaller dialects also exist in the Although Asians from Vietnamese, Chi-
Philippines. Persons from different barrios or nese, and Laotian language backgrounds often
towns on the same island may be unintelligible have difficulty with English polysyllabic
to one another. Many Filipinos are trilingual: words because their original languages contain
they speak Pilipino, English, and the dialect of primarily monosyllabic words, Filipinos are
their town. For example, in the town of accustomed to using many polysyllabic words,
Odiongan where our family lived, my sisters but may need assistance in producing English
and I spoke Odionganon (and pidgin English) polysyllabic words with the correct syllable
in the neighborhood with our friends and stress. Thus, clinicians who work with Filipino
learned Pilipino and English formally in clients desiring American accent training must
school. Church services were conducted in pay careful attention to their clients produc-
Hiligaynon. The enormous linguistic diversity tion of English polysyllabic words.
among Filipinos makes interpretation and The pronunciation of Pilipino is heavily
translation situations challengingspeech- influenced by Spanish. The Pilipino alphabet
language pathologists must make sure the has 20 letters. There are 15 consonants: b, d, g,
interpreter or translator speaks the particular k, l, m, n, ng, p, r, s, t, w, y. The vowels are a,
dialect of any student being tested. Speech- e, i, o, u (Cheng et al., 1995). Table 1 shows
language pathologists must also ascertain the common substitution patterns for consonants
students actual proficiency in that dialect. and vowels that exist in English but not in
Speech-language pathologists cannot assume Pilipino (Cheng, 1991, p. 64). Speakers of
that all Filipino students are truly proficient in
the dialect or language of their parents. TABLE 1. Common substitution patterns for
To illustrate, a recent survey of Filipino- consonants and vowels that exist in English but
American families who have emigrated to the not in Pilipino.
United States in the last 20 years showed that
only 54% of parents desired for their children Consonant/
to be proficient in both English and Pilipino Vowel Common Substitution Pattern
(Garza & Scott, 1996). It was found that in the /v/ b/v (balentine/valentine)
homes of the survey respondents, there were /z/ s/z (sip/zip)
significant language differences among
/zh/ d/zh (meder/measure)
generations: parents and grandparents spoke
/th/ d/th (dis/this)
Pilipino to one another and their friends, but
spoke both Pilipino and English to their /th/ t/th (tin/thin)
children. The children were most likely to /dj/ dz/dj (dzoke/joke)
respond in English. Thus, speech-language /f/ p/f (pall/fall)
pathologists need to be aware that there may be /sh/ s/sh (so/show)
differences in the Pilipino proficiency of /ch/ ts/ch (tsair/chair)
Filipino American students born in the United /I/ i/I ( beet/bit)
States as contrasted with the Pilipino profi- /ae/ a/ae (bought/bat)
ciency of students who emigrate to the United /a/ o/a (Poll/Paul)
States at later ages.

Roseberry-McKibbin 11
Pilipino deaspirate the initial voiceless stops instance, the root bili has different meanings,
/p, t, k/; they may also deaspirate these sounds which change depending on which affix is
in English, making them sound to many used: (Cheng, 1991, p. 64)
speakers of standard American English like palabili (adjective) fond of buying
voiced stops (Ramos & Cena, 1990). Filipinos makabili (verb) to be able to buy
also dentalize the tip-alveolars /t, d, n/. leumbili (verb) to buy
Pilipino distinguishes more vowel sounds bilihin (noun) items to buy/are for sale
than do other Filipino dialects or languages, so magbili (verb) to sell
native Pilipino speakers from the island of
Luzon might find it easier to distinguish the A Pilipino verb usually contains a base or root
minimal pair bit-bet than a speaker of and one or more affixes. The base provides the
Cebuano from the island of Cebu (Chan, meaning of the verb, and the affixes show the
1992). The Pilipino language uses onomato- relation of the topic to the verb and also the
poeia; for example, the Pilipino word pagaspas character of the action (Ramos & Bautista,
means the sound produced when a strong 1986). Through affixation, most roots in Pilipino
breeze passes by the leaves of trees. may become verbs: (Cheng, 1991, p. 65)
payag (adjective) willing
pumayag (verb) to agree
Linguistic Characteristics of Filipino
dasal (noun) prayer
Languages: A Contrastive Analysis With
magdasal (verb) to pray
English and Clinical Implications
Speech-language pathologists must take The importance of affixes in Pilipino verbs
morphosyntactic rules of Filipino languages is also illustrated by the fact that Pilipino has
into account in order to understand possible three aspects of verbs: completed (for action
transfer of these rules into English production. started and terminated), contemplated (for
This is especially critical when a speech- action not yet started), and incompleted (for
language pathologist is attempting to distin- action still in progress or action started but not
guish a language difference from a disorder in a yet completed) (Ramos, 1985, p. 201; Ramos &
Filipino student in the schools. Clinicians who Cena, 1990, pp. 4751). Affixes indicate each
conduct American accent training with adult aspect. For example:
Filipino clients should also be aware of Com- Contem- Incom-
possible linguistic transfer from Pilipino to Root pleted plated pleted
dala (to bring) nagdala magdadala nagdadala
For example, the bound morpheme -s
alis (go away) nag-alis mag-aalis nag-aalis
indicates plurality for most English nouns. In
galit (to be angry) nagalit magagalit nagagalit
Filipino languages, however, the plural is
laro (to play) naglaro maglalaro naglalaro
indicated by the word onga placed before the
nominal or before another word like a number. Because of the differences in Pilipino and
For example, onga bata means children; English verb systems, it is common for Filipino
dalawang bata means two child. Reduplica- speakers of English to make errors in verb
tion is commonly used to show linguistic tenses. For example, a Filipino may say I am
features such as intensity and plurality: (Cheng, to be going to the store. A Filipino friend of
1991, p. 65) mine, whose English is quite fluent, recently
dalawa two told me that 99% [of the people] in Luzon
daladalawa by twos speaks Tagalog. Clinicians may need to
dadadalawa only two address these verb differences in treatment.
In terms of pronouns, Filipino languages do
Because of these differences, Filipinos learning not indicate gender as does English: (Cheng,
English may have trouble correctly and 1991, p. 66)
consistently using regular and irregular plural kaniya his/hers
forms in English (Cheng, 1993). For example, a siya he/she
Filipino might say I have two notebook in my niy him/her
Filipino languages have a complex system Many Pilipino speakers, in English, may make
of affixes. Most words consist of roots, which gender errors, referring to a woman as he, or
are verbal, substantive, and adjectival in telling a man that she looks handsome.
meaning, and affixes, which show focus, American clinicians may need to help Filipino
respect, and mode (Cheng, 1991, p. 64). A clients consistently use correct gender forms in
words specific meaning is determined by the English, and conduct treatment activities
combination of its root and affix or affixes. For emphasizing accurate use of pronouns.

12 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 No. 3 August 1997

The typical simple sentence in Pilipino has a may inconsistently omit articles in English
subject and predicate; the normal order of these (e.g., I have dress on). Clinicians should be
elements is predicate + subject (the reverse of aware of this and may need to address it in
English). In terms of grammatical relations, the treatment.
subject relation plays a particularly important In Pilipino, there is no affirmative tag
role in Pilipino grammar. According to Kroeger, question as there is in English. If there is a
(1993, p. 3): negative statement in Pilipino, it is usually
followed by the tag question ano as in the
The grammatical subject does not have a unique
structural position. In other words, grammatical following examples (Ramos & Cena, 1990, pp.
subjecthood cannot be defined in terms of a 8586):
specified position in surface phrase structure. Negative Statement Tag Question
This is an important result, since many
approaches to syntax (notably the Government- Hindi Pilipino si Art, ano?
Binding framework) assume that grammatical (Art isnt a Filipino) (is he?)
relations are defined in terms of surface phrase
structure configurations. Hindi siya pumunta, ano?
(He didnt go) (did he?)
The following examples illustrate this point.
Noun subjects are divided into two general Clinicians may need to address the tendency of
classes: personal names marked by si, and all some Filipino speakers to have difficulties with
other nouns marked by ang. For example, English tag questions. In my experience, some
typical Pilipino simple sentences would be: speakers will simply omit the tag question
(Ramos & Cena, 1990, p. 25; Santa Maria, entirely and produce utterances such as He
personal communication, 1997) didnt go? or Art isnt a Filipino?
Tumakbo si John.
(ran) (personal name (John) Conclusion
subject marker)
This article has discussed characteristics of
John ran.
Filipino culture and language that can influence
Maganda si Sue. service delivery to children and adults. Filipi-
(pretty) (personal name (Sue) nos bring many strengths to American culture.
subject marker) Their diligence, fluent English skills, strong
Sue is pretty. educational values, and ability to achieve
harmonious relationships with others are
Nasa kusina ang relo. strengths that make Filipinos a valuable
(in the kitchen is) (other subject marker) (clock). addition to our country. By understanding basic
The clock is in the kitchen. facts about Filipino culture and language,
Nakakita ako ang pusa. speech-language pathologists can successfully
(saw I) (other subject marker) (cat). serve the growing Filipino population in our
I saw the cat. nation.

Because of these rules, speech-language pa-

thologists may expect to see some Filipino speak- Acknowledgments
ers reversing the order of words even in simple I wish to acknowledge the work of Dr. Li-Rong
sentences; placement of the sentence subject in Lilly Cheng, whose research I have extensively
English may be particularly challenging. cited. I thank my father, Floyd Roseberry, and my
In addition, because of the differences in sister, Crystal Roseberry, for their contributions to
this article. I am grateful for the assistance of Leilani
noun markers and the lack of articles accompa-
Santa Maria, a Filipino student at California State
nying nouns in some cases, some Filipinos may University, Fresno. I appreciate the help of Simalee
experience difficulties with English articles a, Smith-Stubblefield of University of the Pacific with
an, and the. For example, the sentence The the graphics. The editorial assistance of Dr. Marc
sky is blue today would literally be translated Fey and two anonymous reviewers is gratefully
as Asul ang kulay ng langit ngayon (Blue acknowledged. Most of all, I am deeply indebted to
color sky today). The sentence The dog ate the treasured Filipino friends and clients I have
its food would literally be translated as known over the years.
Kinain ng aso ang kanyang pagkain (Ate
dog its food) (Santa Maria, personal commu- References
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14 American Journal of Speech-Language Pathology Vol. 6 No. 3 August 1997

Understanding Filipino Families: A Foundation for Effective Service Delivery

Celeste Roseberry-McKibbin
Am J Speech Lang Pathol 1997;6;5-14

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