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Numbers on Filipino, Cebuano and English

/ 12:26 AM September 10, 2016

The Philippines is so diversified in language that not one is identified by the majority of Filipino adults as the language they speak at home.

The three languages most commonly cited as what they primarily use at home are Filipino, Cebuano, and Hiligaynon. In the aggregate of the last 10 national Social Weather Surveys, from the start of 2014, Filipino is cited as the language of the home by 37.8 percent.  In this piece, I will term such persons “native Tagalog speakers” or else

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“native Tagalogs,” instead of “native Filipinos.”

Cebuano is cited as home language by 26.7 percent. It is the home language of most people in Davao, presumably including President Duterte himself. Hiligaynon is cited as home language by 9.5 percent.  So the three languages account for what three-fourths of the people use in their speech at home. I will use the terms “native Cebuano speakers” and “native Hiligaynon speakers” or “native Hiligaynon,” according to home language, not birthplace or residence.

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The Constitution stipulates Filipino as the national language of the Philippines (Art. XIV, Sec. 6). “For purposes of communication and instruction, the

official languages of the Philippines are Filipino, and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein” (Art. XIV, Sec. 7).

In practice, the language Filipino does not suffice for conducting a national survey. A standard SWS national survey involves writing questions in at least six languages: Filipino, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Iluko, Bicol, and English.  A survey needs at least five bilingual questionnaires: Filipino-English, Filipino-Cebuano, Filipino-Hiligaynon, Filipino-Iluko, and Filipino-Bicol.

Thus, the base language is Filipino, not English. The Cebuano and Hiligaynon versions are extensively used in Mindanao. Other versions like Waray, Kapampangan, Pangasinense, Tausug, Maranao, Maguindanao, etc. are done as need arises—i.e., depending on the areas in a particular sample.

Proficiency in Filipino. The last Social Weather Survey shedding light on the people’s proficiency in Filipino was on Sept. 23-Oct. 6, 2000.  It

inadvertently used the politically incorrect term “Tagalog.” SWS will repeat this survey soon,

since the data are now 16 years old, with proper terminology.

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  • The 2000 survey found 85 percent nationwide saying they could understand spoken Filipino. This capability, the key to effective public communication, varies widely: 97 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 91 percent in the National Capital Region (NCR), 78 percent in the Visayas, and 63 percent in Mindanao.
  • The 2000 survey found 85 percent nationwide saying they could read Filipino—98 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 95 percent in NCR, 82 percent in the Visayas, and 58 percent in Mindanao.
  • 79 percent said they could write in Filipino—96 percent in the Balance of Luzon,

89 percent in NCR, 70 percent in the Visayas, and 48 percent in Mindanao.

  • 79 percent said they could speak Filipino—96 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 91 percent in NCR, 61 percent in the Visayas, and 48 percent

in Mindanao.

  • Only 45 percent said they made full use of Filipino, whereas 36 percent made fair use, and 19 percent made partial/very little use, of it. The full users were 87 percent in NCR, 60 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 16 percent in the Visayas, and 9 percent in Mindanao

Proficiency in English. The last SWS survey on the people’s proficiency in English was on March 30-April 2, 2008.  It found 76 percent

nationwide saying they could understand spoken English. This capability was 86 percent in NCR, 79 percent in the Balance of Luzon, 72 percent in the Visayas, and 68 percent in Mindanao.

When tabulated against home language, on the other hand, the capability to understand English was 89 percent among the native Hiligaynon speakers, 87 percent among native Iluko speakers, 85 percent among native Tagalog speakers, and 70 percent among native Cebuano speakers.

  • The 2008 survey found 75 percent nationwide able to read English—topped by 83 percent in Mindanao, followed by 77 percent in NCR, and then 72 percent in the Balance of Luzon, and

71 percent in the Visayas.

When tabulated against home language, English readers were only 74 percent among native Tagalogs, or outdone by 83 percent among native Cebuano speakers as well as native Iluko speakers, and 82 percent among native Hiligaynon.

  • In 2008, 61 percent nationwide said they could write in English—topped by 68 percent in both NCR and Mindanao, versus 61 percent in the Visayas and 56 percent in the Balance of Luzon.

According to home language, English writers were only 63 percent among native Tagalogs, or outdone by 73 percent among native Hiligaynon, 72 percent among native Iluko speakers, and 68 percent among native Cebuano speakers.

  • In 2008, 46 percent could speak English—62 percent in NCR and 54 percent in the Visayas, versus 44 percent in Balance of Luzon, and only 33 percent in Mindanao.

According to home language, English speakers were only 57 percent among native Tagalogs, above the 39 percent of native Cebuano speakers, but below the 67 percent of native Hiligaynon and 65 percent of native Iluko speakers.

Now that, for a change, the President and so many high officials are non-Tagalogs, more proficiency in English, as well as Cebuano, would improve communication all around.

* * *

Contact mahar.mangahas@sws.org.ph.

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