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Filipino English Accent: Why do people love the Filipino accent?

When we talk about accents in Asia, the first thing that comes to our mind is the Filipino English accent. It is no doubt that this accent is one of the most admired in the world because of its clarity and comprehensibility.

Since the American regime, Filipinos have long been using English as their ultimate language for law and commerce. And apparently, this American legacy has truly become a national identity among the Filipino people.

When the Philippines became the center of English language learning in Asia, people have been asking so many questions about the quality of Philippine English and the Filipino English accent. Explicitly, many contested that it’s closely similar to the normal General American English accent. Yet despite the comparison between the two accents, with people comparing the other as superior to the other, several ESL learners have embraced the neutrality of the Filipino English accent.

-Philippine English is "legitimate"-

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Philippine English is considered a legitimate variant of the English language. In fact, there are about 40 English words in the OED that are from the Philippines. These words include Mabuhay, kilig, abaca, etc. are officially part of the English dictionary. With all this recognition, we can argue that the importance of Philippine English, more so its accent has already been recognized by English experts.

This might sound a little surprising to you, but the Filipino English accent is indeed one of its kind. Why? Simply because despite being referred to as an ‘inferior’ accent over American and British accents, several ESL learners would still prefer to learn it.

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What makes Filipino English interesting and why do ESL learners prefer it over other English accents?

Here are some reasons that prove why ESL learners love the Filipino English accent.

1. Filipino English accent is easily understood.

The Filipino English accent is truly more comprehensible compared to other English accents you’ll hear in Asia or in Europe. Although the “strange and musical” characteristic of the Filipino accent may surprise you from the start, it’ll just take you a couple of days to become used to it.

Normally, you’ll notice that some educated Filipinos you’ll meet spoke with an Americanized accent with a tingle of Spanish which, nevertheless, sounds pretty pleasant.

Unlike the British pronunciation that does not contain the rhotic “r” sound, the Filipino English pronunciation especially with words ending with the “r” sound is rhotic and easily understood. This means that you can really hear a specific vowel in every word. Generally, the Filipino English accent is a very neutral accent that helps ESL learners learn English easily. Besides the proper emphasis of the vowel and consonant sounds, Filipino English speakers always speak English at a normal speed.

Truly, the Filipino English accent is friendly and comprehensible. However, you also need to consider that Filipinos have unique colloquialisms found nowhere else. For example, instead of “turning on the light,” some of the “open the light” instead (like opening an electrical circuit). Or calling a public toilet a “comfort room” or “CR.” And their nickname for McDonald’s is “McDo.” These phrases and nicknames are uniquely Filipino and sound interesting and/or cute to foreigners.

2. The accent is relatively similar to the American English accent.

Because the Philippines has been an American colony for 48 years, it’s no doubt that the Filipino English accent sounds almost similar to the original American English accent. Comparatively though, the Filipino English accent is like an American accent with a tinge of Spanish.

One distinct characteristic you’ll hear in a Filipino English accent is that it has a melodic quality of speech. Moreover, you can also notice that Filipino English speakers have the tendency to have more fluctuations in intonation than is usual. This is apparent if you compare it with a standard American accent. These unique fluctuations create a feminizing effect on the delivery of English sentences from Filipino speakers.

In comparison, the difference between a Filipino English speaker over an American English speaker could somewhat be like the difference between a Taiwanese Mandarin and Beijing Mandarin speakers. Clearly though, Taiwanese Mandarin sounds more feminine than Beijing Mandarin. The distinctiveness of having a clipped English accent by Filipinos makes its English accent more pleasant to listen to. This alone could become one of the many reasons some ESL learners prefer learning the Filipino English accent.

Furthermore, Filipino English also follows the General American English spelling, grammar, and pronunciation, although some Filipinos may sometimes opt to pronounce some words using British pronunciation. For example, the word “chance”. Many Filipinos (as far as I know) pronounce it as /tʃɑːns/ instead of /tʃæns/. The other thing is [a], [æ], and [ʌ] are all merged to [a]. A classic example is “back” and “buck” have the same pronunciation, which means these words are homophones in Filipino English.

3. The Filipino English accent is hailed as the "Sexiest accent in Asia" and the 21st in the entire world.

Don’t be surprised, but did you know that the Filipino English accent was hailed as the sexiest accent in Asia and the 21st in the world? Yes, you hear it right, the sexiest accent.

The Filipino accent may sometimes get a bad rap, especially among Filipinos, but many actually find it sexy. The sexiest one in Asia, in fact. At least that’s according to a ranking released by travel website Big 7. The very popular online magazine ranked Filipino with the 21st sexiest accent in the world out of 50. This is based on a survey they conducted among their readers, which it says is at around 1.5 million people.

In a report, Big 7 described the Filipino accent as “gentle and soft” and “simply lovely.”

4. It’s the accent preferred by most BPO Companies from English-speaking countries.

With its high rates of literacy and English-language proficiency, the Philippines enjoyed the reputation of being the contact center capital of the world. Wherever you are in the Philippines, BPO companies from anywhere in the world are cropping out all over the country. In fact, the BPO sector is currently the second main driver of the economy, generating more than US$25 billion in annual revenue.

Why do you think this is so?

Well, one certain answer to that is the quality of Filipino English and the Filipinos excellent customer service. Furthermore, we can attest that besides the low cost of labor, the Philippines is truly the closest American accent of English in Asia.

Basically, educated Filipinos who’ve had years speaking English all the way to college learn to Americanize their accent. As a result, they master the use of linking words and contraction which makes them sound more natural. Also, that they don’t get too much of the lengthy diphthong vowel combinations like the Texans or Southerners do with their short schwa sounds between drawls and twangs.

-Home of the World's Biggest Companies-

In the Philippines, you’ll find some of the world’s biggest BPO companies like Concentrix, Wipro, Cognizant, Teleperformance, etc. The establishment of these BPO companies is truly proof that the Filipino English accent is indeed world-class!

Try talking to a Filipino friend over the phone and pretend you don’t know each other. You’ll find it very difficult to find out that you are talking to a Filipino because they sound very American. And although you might detect a slight accent, that is just normal. Why?  Because even many Americans have accents based on where they are from.

-Personal experience-

For instance, I can give an excellent example of my experience. I have two friends, one Australian and one British, who complain about call centers overseas and how they cannot communicate with people in the Philippines. Once, while speaking with someone at Citibank, I purposely put the phone on speaker so my Australian and British mates could overhear the call. At the end of the call, I asked the customer service person how the weather was in Manila. She paused and then said, “Well, it is really hot, but now it is nighttime so it is cooling down a little”. Both my friends were in awe. Their eyes just got big and wide because they just couldn’t believe I was speaking with was not an American.

There are other countries where there are call centers and the accent is strange, and it is difficult for most Americans to understand them. But the Filipinos have much less of a problem here and it is very easy to understand their English.

However, there are some people in the province who don’t have a good grasp of the English language. As a result, these people don’t speak English often which hinders them from communicating with others well. But people who live in a major city such as Cebu or Manila are typically very easy to understand. In these metropolitan areas, the accent is not an issue.

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