Saturday, May 24, 2008

To Speak or Just Mumble

More than 300 million people in the world speak English and the rest, it sometimes seems, try to. - Bill Bryson

My kid and I are flipping a picture book in the living room, I ask Bea, “Where’s the bug?” My 3 year old immediately points to a picture of an insect. “That’s a beetle, this is a bug”, I said, pointing at another picture. “Bag Daddy” my daughter exclaimed. I grinned and said “Sorry, BEAAAG”.

My kid learned her diction from Pixar and Disney. I got mine from an old maid English teacher whose favorite expressions are “giti” and “tiwis” (visayan terms for the female genital). It’s a tongue twister for Filipinos. We have difficulties pronouncing “A” as in “apple” instead of “epol” or “carrot” instead of “kerot”. To compound this, we can’t distinguish “P” from “F” and “B” from “V”. We say “pipty”, “flease”, “DBD” and “vallpen”.

While it’s amusing, I’d prefer to hear pinoys speak this way rather than sound like a call center agent. They’re trained to talk in proper diction with an American twang. Yet speak in “pre-programmed” sentences, polite but artificial. At least with the former, I can proudly say “That’s Juan dela Cruz” speaking.

This vicious mangling of English is not the sole expertise of Filipinos. South Asians are notorious for contorting the language as well. They speak as if they’re trying to withhold words, curving their tongues to block syllable from coming out of their lips. Of course we all know about the Chinese “flied lice” and Arabic speaking people have the same problem as we do. Since there is no phonetic equivalent of the letter “P” in the Arabic alphabet, they pronounce it as “B”. You often hear them say “baber”, “bebsi” and the famous “no barking” joke. It means you can neither park nor leave your dog in the car.

But at the end of the day, as long as we could understand each other, regardless how we say it, ebrybody’s haffy.


  1. We really have a hard time softening our diction,we Filipinos always empasizes r and g in our speech ,while chinese and Japanese pronounces r as l,Japanese and Korean p is same as b,( Pusan now Busan). lesson 101,In softening our pronounciation as a rule P,t,k,b,d,g if found at the end of the word it is not pronounced,(In British English r is included)ex. Walking should be pronounced as walkin, start as star'etc.Also words with nt like internet should be pronounced as "in'ernet",international as in'ernational. last year,In Singapore a Filipina domestic helper was slapped on her face by her employee, her employee ask her for a card,she pronounced it ca' using British accent,the Filipina brought a Cat he he he.We dont need to talk like American or British but I guess it pays,when we softened our diction.

  2. ooops; Filipino always emphasizes dapat nakalimutan ko iyong h...he he he...

  3. Since "schedule" is pronounced as "shedule", is "school" pronounced as "shool"? he he he.

  4. Dito sa office namin kuya F-P Syndrome po ang tawag sa ganyan.Parang sakit na daw kasi sa karamihan na may diprensya sa pag-pronounce :)

  5. Filipinos are the least guilty of mangling the English language, I think, at least not as bad as compared to the Japanese and Chinese (remember all those silly-sounding inspirational phrases printed on chinese products in divisoria?)

    Seriously, if English should become an international language, neither the British nor American standard may be considered correct. Even within those countries pronunciation varies from territory-to-territory/state-to-state.

  6. Jon,your right,but many pinoys are actually obsessed in imitating american accent A.K.A Hollywood twang.In Philippines we treat foreigners,Kings and queens and the American, gods,(maybe thats the reason why)..he he he...

  7. wildflower, since we have a multi-national environment, other nationalities doesn’t seems to mind our diction (either that or they are just being polite). Pero conscious ako pag dating dyan. What is funny is kapwa pinoy ang mahilig mag point-out on our mistake.

    Jon, I once saw an interview of a Thai scientist in Discovery. She was talking in English and I can understand her pero may sub-title but also in English. I guess our English sounds gibberish to the producers of Discovery.

    BTW, thanks for visiting.

  8. I agree on almost everything na sinabi mo.. Except what you've said about call center agents. Let me enlightened you my dear. Hindi po lahat ng call center agents ay scripted ang verbiage. Marami nman pong ang greetings ang goodbyes lang scripted.. Say for example yung mga nasa travel account, yung may mga complicated na issues na tumatagal ng 1 to 2 hours ang call.. Do you really believe na tatagal ng ganun ang scripted na usapan?.. Mejo ok na sana.. Pero mejo maging sensitive din nman tayo sa feelings ng ibang tao.

    1. But in general, it is scripted and fake because it's "canned" and the "accent". Bottom line, it's not a misconception, there's just a few exception.