Old Tagalog versus New 

Old Tagalog, ancient Tagalog, deep Tagalog, all these for words and expressions this generation finds "weird", "uncool", or simply "Greek". In the Philippines, there are more students in public schools than in private schools. But if students in private schools are the target users of English to Tagalog translation, an orientation is at hand. Students in private schools speak more English than the average public school student.

 Most teenagers studying in well-funded institutions use accessible stream players to watch their favorite Hollywood sci-fi films, American or British television series, interactive Japanese anime, and the most recent game. Recently, "Korea-novelas" dubbed in Tagalog have become popular, but this TV fare has a niche audience.

Curiously, when studying Filipino, most students request their tutors or mentors to translate into English. For example, in learning about "Panghalip" a student sometimes learns more easily if told that this means "Pronoun."  

Private tutors make the mentoring student friendly when they give in and translate lessons into English whenever necessary. While they can resort to this informal back translation in teaching concepts, they will find it difficult to translate vocabulary or concepts, say, from Tagalog literature. 

In their subject "Filipino", students are routinely assigned to read and do exercises using books such as Florante at Laura and Ibong Adarna. These two are Tagalog epic poems written at the time of the Spanish occupation. As they are both poetry, the words become even more challenging. Teens meet their teacher's assignments with grudging compliance, after all, outside the classroom they speak a kind of "techno-cono" Taglish.

Of course, the rich, old Tagalog in these epics needs to be appreciated, but parents and tutors have probably forgotten Florante at Laura, and their only clue about Ibong Adarna is the old local movie starring the late Filipino comedy king, Dolphy.

A way to make kids appreciate old Tagalog

In the five stanzas here from Florante at Laura, a fourteen year old identifies at least ten words which he does not understand. He frowns as he reads and becomes completely detached and bored.  But with an informal translation into Filipino and a tip in appreciating the music of Filipino poetry, his eyes can be opened, and he will have more fun with his subject.

In translating literature for children and teens belonging to the upper middle class, translators may not always use old Tagalog words, for example, not "upang" but "para" (for); not "subali't" but "pero" (but); not "maaari" but "puwede" (can); not "lilisan" but "aalis" (to leave); not "pinid" but "sara" (close). This does not mean that the "old Tagalog" cannot be used at all, but rather, it must be used discriminately. 

When the target user is identified, translators must seek to use the language that will cater to that specific user. Simply doing the language transfer with an indifferent attitude towards the limitations of the target user will defeat the purpose of translation.