Taglish, A Perspective

Taglish is when Tagalog dominates and Engalog, when English dominates.
Manila Tagalog

Most Manilenos rarely speak pure Tagalog in Manila.One, because, Manila is a convergence of cultures, and two, because the new media forms, gaming culture, MTV, etc. introduce new words that young people inevitably adapt and assimilate in their written and oral expressions.

For quick communication, Taglish may be the easiest and fastest mode of expression. People read billboards, brand labels and packaging literature - in English - as part of their everyday experience. A lot of information from the internet makes everybody tune in to English. Codes on the streets and in public places aren't Tagalog at all: "U-Turn, PedXing, Exit, Open, Channel, Mall, Text, Clerk, Credit Card." Translators can invent equivalents to words such as computer, internet, and email but it will take time before their inventions register in the culture, if they register at all. Retention, borrowing and transliteration are ways to blend in a global environment.

Everyday Code Switching

In their everyday conversation, Tagalogs easily switch to Taglish, or sometimes, to pure English. But in writing and translation, certain rules apply, and careless code switching result in "bastardization" of both languages. As in other languages, there are levels of usage. Many will probably frown at purists, but at least, most of them rein the use of the language to maintain a certain tone and style.

If there is King's English, Standard English, Colloquial English and Slang, in Tagalog, there is also Formal, Informal, Conversational, Street Tagalog, and Tagalog of the sub-cultures, such as "gay or showbiz lingo," "cono," etc. These maintain their distinct idiomatic expressions. Idiomatic here means the most natural use of the language within a culture or sub-culture.

Mr. Almario notes that propagators of Taglish have the following against the use of proper Tagalog and Filipino:

  • They think lowly of the language or does not appreciate the true nature of the language.
  • They say that knowledge transferred via the English language will never be understood unless told in modernized (read: English-ized?) Filipino.
  • They believe that only English brings about new knowledge.
  • They highly suspect knowledge and insight expressed in Filipino.

All of the above simply discriminate against the use of the Filipino language. The national artist further argues that coddling Taglish is:

A manifestation of the colonial mind among the elite and educated in Filipino society. Coddlers use it as guise to undermine efforts at cultivating and spreading one national language based on the native tongue.

Definitely, the language in the slums and in many middle class households lean more towards Filipino. Taglish is used only in as far as this has already become part of the general vocabulary.

Curiously, non-native speakers of Tagalog or Filipino from other Philippine regions have stock knowledge of "deeper" Tagalog because they learned Filipino from textbooks. These books used the classic literatures of the Tagalog region such as Florante at Laura and Ibong Adarna.They use and appreciate what they have been taught.

A discrimination against Filipino. Some elitists often say that Filipino or Tagalog is hard to pronounce and relatively longer, and that they end up misunderstood if they use it. Their premise seems to be that English vocabulary is always monosyllabic, easy to read and pronounce. Print media and the academic institutions are often guilty of a subtle endorsement of this view. Eventually, the greater population who are repeatedly told that they need English in order to survive, and are unable to cope, feels diminished.

An answer to an argument that Filipino or Tagalog is inadequate. Admittedly in translation, finding exact equivalents is a problem, but this is true of all languages all over the world. Even English will lack exact equivalents for some German terms where it branched from.

However, all cultures will have a cultural equivalent even for the most difficult vocabulary.For example, Filipino or Tagalog will have "masakit ang tiyan" for all types of disorder in the abdomen. Diagnosis will name the pain, and in translation, the medical term may be used (sometimes inside a parenthesis after the Tagalog nearest idiomatic equivalent). Spelling of the medical term is better retained because there is no point in transliterating.

Exact equivalents do exist yet proponents of Taglish won't use them. One example cited by Almario is the word "Disability" which is “kapansanan” in Tagalog (exact equivalent), and not “depekto” (defect). Defect is "pinsala," (exact equivalent), which is not applicable at all times in medical context. If "disability" will be translated "depekto" - (transliteration of defect), then it is wrong. In other words, if the propagator of Taglish doesn't know the exact equivalents, he concludes that our language vocabulary is not comprehensive. He frowns at the exact equivalents out of sheer discrimination against what he calls "pure and deep" Tagalog or Filipino.

Taglish Translation
  • Taglish is highly suspect in Translation. Clients must say if they prefer the translation to be in Taglish. Supposedly, target users are used to it and would not understand Tagalog or Filipino in pure form.

    In a Taglish translation translators have the option to retain the English spellings or to transliterate, but they should be consistent. Sometimes transliteration adversely affects the target user's fluency in English. Spelling is often a first casualty.

    Filipinos spell a word as they pronounce it, and once a transliteration registers, it will be difficult to reverse the effect. In a parallel example, constantly texting "hous" for "house" makes a cashier automatically encode "hous" in an official receipt. Of course the cashier has to be told that this is the wrong spelling.

  • An indiscriminate use of Taglish is a sign of laziness. Automatically shifting to English or simply retaining English without exhausting the Filipino or Tagalog equivalents tell something about the translator's professional ethic.

    Translators can't be apathetic about culture and cultural registers. We propagate a certain language standard as we carefully use Tagalog and other Filipino languages. In a sense, we have a mandate to guard against a complete deterioration of our native tongue. Otherwise, we will be instrumental in worsening this nation's cultural dementia.

  • A Taglish translation is still in English. This makes a translator ask, "Why translate at all?" The more serious casualty is the Filipino culture itself. Since it highly favors English it fails to project our unique culture, and this is how a language begins a slow painful death.

Virgilio Almario, National Artist for Literature, published numerous books and articles about the Filipino language. In some of these publications he wrote that the use of Taglish is a deterrent to a more effective way of teaching either the Filipino or the English language.

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