Philippine English is Legitimate, claims Oxford English Dictionary Editor

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – If you think Philippine English is not a legitimate variety of the English language, think again.

Dr. Danica Salazar, a lexicographer, and editor of the Oxford English Dictionary stressed the validity of Philippines English. The language expert pointed out that Philippine English is “not a slang, not wrong, not carabao English or any other derogatory word that’s been used over the years.”

During the live discussion on Philippine English on August 20, Dr. Salazar the significance of the English variant in World Englishes. The linguist pointed out that Filipino English has even added the word ‘abaca’ as early as 1884 in the Oxford English Dictionary.

“Philippine English plays an important role in the historical development of the language, which OED seeks to document.”

Contrary to what others think, Dr. Salazar cited a simple analogy that confirms why Philippine English is legitimate. In particular, she said that Philippine English is just the same as British, American, Australian, and Singaporean variants. According to her, the English variant used by Filipinos can be compared to Australian or New Zealand English, which is copied from British English.

“Philippine English, just like American or British, or Indian or Singapore English, are all part of the same story. We all have a role to play in this. Evidently, Filipino English has as much of a place in the history in the lexicon of the English language as all these other varieties.”

“What OED does is it tells the history of the English language through the development of its words, and that story is not complete if we don’t tell the part that Philippine English plays,” she said in a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Embassy in Spain.

Filipino-coined words in the Oxford English Dictionary

As of 2015, there are already 40 Filipino-coined words in the Oxford English Dictionary. Though the process of adding Filipino-derived words to OED requires months of work, Dr. Salazar reiterated that it is worth it.

For instance, the words Mabuhay, abaca, comfort room, go down, ‘estafa’, carnapper, buko are already in the OED.

“These words like ‘bongga’ or ‘kilig,’ you might find them silly but they do say something about our culture and they are worth spending hours and months researching,” she said.

Philippine English Accent

Dr. Salazar encouraged people to embrace the Philippine English Accent. During the webinar, she clarified that Filipinos have their unique way of speaking in English. According to her, there is no need for Filipinos to twist their tongues just to sound American or British.

“I’ve been living in the UK for seven years now. And nobody’s ever told me, ‘I don’t understand you.’ And I speak with a Filipino English accent,” Dr. Salazar enthused.

“The accent and the words that we use, these are a reflection of our identity, of our culture,” she explained. “And adapting languages to suit a communicative means is something that everyone does. In the same way, Americans adapted British English, Australians did the same, people in New Zealand do the same. So why can’t we do the same?”

The OED editor moved on to say that the Filipino accent is “one of the most understandable accents in the world.” Thus, the call center industry became so successful.

Philippine English Global Ranking

With 2/3 of the population fluent in the language, it is no doubt that Philippine English always tops in the global ranking. According to a study by GlobalEnglish Corporation in 2012, the Philippines beat the US and was named the “World’s Best Country” in Business English proficiency.

The primary medium of instruction in Philippine schools and universities has been English since the Americans colonized the country. As a result, this confluence marked the rise of the Philippines as an English powerhouse.

Besides, in a survey by BBC and IBM, it showed that the Filipinos have the most “accent-neutral language” in the world apparent from the number of call-centers and ESL schools cropping up all over the Philippines.

International research and surveys such as IBM show that the Philippines’ Universities are producing not less than 500,000 English speaking graduates each year, which is vital for the continuously growing BPO industry in the country.

In 2010, the Philippines gain a new title as the number 1 in BPO country in the world surpassing India.

Furthermore, the 2019 EF English Proficiency Index rated Philippine English proficiency as High ranking 20th out of 100 countries.

With its consistent global ranking at 5th place, ETS had already excluded the Philippines in TOEFL and other English examinations.

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