Speaking Our Native Tongue on the Web

| June 17, 2010 | Leave a Comment

When WordPress Philippines first launched, I left a comment saying we should try to write in our native language. We it owe it to all our heroes who died fighting for our right to be free. Language is one of the most important signs of sovereignty. And besides, if you’ll look at the sixth box of links at the footer, all those foreign WordPress sites are written in their own language!

It appears blog provider giant Blogger has translated its service to “Filipino” and this has got me thinking. Google owns Blogger. Google also provides localized versions for several other services for us Pinoys. Several other sites do, too. But what does a “local” version mean, really? Is it the Filipino language? Or is it Tagalog?

Filipino o Tagalog? Ano ba talaga, kuya?

Google Language Tools: When you select Filipino as the language of your choice in viewing Google Search, the abbreviation in the link is “tl”, which clearly stands for Tagalog.

Google Directory: When you click on the Filipino language under World Languages, it is actually linked to Tagalog.

Wikipedia: There is no Filipino language version of Wikipedia, only Tagalog, Bikolano, Cebuano, Chavacano, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Waray.

All of this is pretty ironic considering the page on the topic Filipino says:

Note: “Philippino” and “Philipino” are misspellings of this word and are not considered part of standard usage. Pilipino is used to describe the people of the Philippines. The term “Filipino” is commonly used when you are talking or writing in English or other foreign language. “Filipino” is the Philippines’ national, official and constitutional language (While the Filipino language is largely based on Tagalog, pure Tagalog has slight differences to Filipino).

This is the accepted definition of Filipino, as well as Filipino versus Tagalog, right? Then why do these websites—which are multi-million dollar companies no less—assume that in order to be a little more user-friendly to its Filipino visitors, it should create a custom language version in Tagalog instead of Filipino? What gives them the right to do so? As Filipinos, should we accept their bad judgment on something that affects no one else but ourselves?

Philippine-based wiki competitor WikiPilipinas has acknowledged this and created a Filipino language version of its wiki. But then there seems to be no Tagalog counterpart along with other provincial languages. So did they drop the Tagalog because it’s essentially Filipino anyway?

Ano ang problema?

I know I’m getting into a huge debate here, one that might never ever be resolved so long as our country remains an archipelago, so long as we have strong affinities for provincial languages, even foreign ones. After all, we are a nation of provinces and a nation of balikbayans. Our national language has never been that strong especially in the midst of the languages we’ve had to deal with.

But I am not asking you to be a little more patriotic (especially in the spirit of the EDSA Revolution, whose anniversary we commemorate on Monday) by choosing to write in our own language. I just want to underline what we may be overlooking:

On the web, is it correct to say that a Filipino speaks only Tagalog? Are these two terms interchangeable?

Should we be content that websites like Google consider Tagalog as the language of choice for Filipinos?

Should we be content that other Philippine languages from Cebuano to Waray are represented on some websites, but not the lesser known but equally Pinoy ones?

The Web is as liberating as speaking in one own’s tongue. Blogging, for example, lets you do exactly that. How lucky are we to find a new medium by which we can express ourselves as Filipinos? Other times, however, our identity as a people gets eroded just because a website assumes and restricts, despite the best of intentions. We accept it because we know technology still hasn’t found a way to seamlessly translate any language into another. Or is it because it just doesn’t matter anymore?

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1 Comment

  1. John Harrison Said,

    Kumosta? I am an american married to a filipina woman. I agree with a lot that you are saying. Philipinos that I know,and I know a lot,always seem to speak english very well. Philipino languages deserve to be feature on more upscale websites,not just pinoy sites. Salamat!

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