I grew up speaking Cebuano (or commonly known as Bisaya). Everytime people, mostly Tagalog-speaking, comment on someone’s “off” accent in English as “Bisaya kasi”, it really turns me off. Most of the time, I don’t say anything because I find it exhausting to argue. Sometimes I want to retaliate by saying, “I’ve heard a lot of Non-Cebuano people say em arrr teee with a rolled R when they say MRT. Or they say wan tertiii, again rolling the R, when they want to say one thirty. Also they say sirkel when they want to say circle.” I could get as stereotypical as they are and inform them that the best English speakers I have met in the Philippines are Cebuanos and Ifugaos. But I keep my mouth shut because again I am not as aggressive as I really want or ought to be. Plus, how better off am I if I judge people by the way they pronounce things?
However, I do wish that teachers would especially make the effort to be critical about what they say in class because they have the power to influence children. If anything, they should encourage children to be more articulate in ANY language they are comfortable with. And how I wish we were all comfortable in our language no matter what it is. During one of our field work in college, one of our Matigsalug interviewee shared that some Matigsalug children sometimes did not want to speak their language in school because the Visayan children would make fun of them. This time, it’s the Bisaya who think they are better off in a so-called hierarchy of languages/ethnicity. To even think that there should be a hierarchy of ethnicity is limited, too linear and actually HORRIBLE but this is what society perpetuates. I write more comfortably in English than Bisaya but I speak more comfortably in Bisaya than in any other language. It’s never black and white. It’s complicated but it’s also exciting. That’s the beauty of diversity.
Note: This post was brought on by a news clip from Al Jazeera about languages that are used less and less.