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Review of  Filipino English and Taglish

Reviewer: Emanuel A. da Silva
Book Title: Filipino English and Taglish
Book Author: Roger M. Thompson
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): English
Book Announcement: 15.1611

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Date: Thu, 20 May 2004 11:38:01 -0400
From: Emanuel A da Silva <>
Subject: Filipino English and Taglish

AUTHOR: Thompson, Roger M.
TITLE: Filipino English and Taglish
SUBTITLE: Language switching from multiple perspectives
SERIES: Varieties of English around the World G31
PUBLISHER: John Benjamins
YEAR: 2003

Emanuel A. da Silva, French Department, University of Toronto (Canada)

The present study is part of the 'Varieties of English Around
the World' series published by John Benjamins. The author,
Professor Roger Thompson of the University of Florida,
lists his research and teaching interests as: Language
Contact/Language Planning (English as a World Language) and
Teaching English as a Second Language (from his website

In the Philippines, the English language competes with
Tagalog and Taglish (a mixture of English and Tagalog)
resulting in language switching. The purpose of this book is
to investigate the dynamics of this language switching from
various perspectives in order to find clues as to the future of
English in the Philippines.

Taking the point of view of an English speaker arriving in
Manila, the author raises three questions (p.4):
- Why are Filipinos so attached to English?
- If they like English so much, why do they sometimes speak
English, sometimes Tagalog, and sometimes mix the two?
- Why does the mass media switch between English and Tagalog?
These are the research questions which underlie the entire book.

Filipino English and Taglish consists of 15
chapters divided into 3 parts. Chapter 1 provides an
introduction to language switching, establishes the situation in
the Philippines and presents the rationale behind the study. The
author reviews previous work on English/Taglish in the
Philippines, like Bautista's (1996) sociolinguistic reader
devoted to the language situation in the Philippines. However,
apart from this and a few other works Thompson finds that
''there has been little attention paid to the linguistics of
Taglish and the social dynamics that underlie this language
switching'' (p.4)

Part A addresses the first research question of why Filipinos
are so attached to English by reviewing one hundred years of
Philippine language planning which first promoted English as a
replacement for Spanish, then Tagalog as a replacement or
supplement for English. This scholarly research is
supplemented by the author's own observations from his
travels throughout the country leading workshops with
high school and university English teachers on how to
relate language teaching to ways that English is used outside
the classroom. Thompson adopts Moag's (1982a) taxonomy of
''English-using'' societies, especially English as a Second
Language (ESL) and English as a Foreign Language (EFL). A
question throughout the book is whether to classify the
Philippines as an ESL or EFL nation. Another concept inspired
by Moag (1982b) is the model for the ''life cycle'' of English in
the world context: transportation, expansion, nativization or
institutionalization and restriction. The chapters in this section
investigate the social and political forces that have propelled
English through its life cycle in the Philippines from 1898 to

Chapter 2 looks at the arrival of the English language and its
use as a tool for social engineering during the American period
of 1898 to 1935. During this time the language was
indigenized and claimed by the Filipinos as one of their own.
Chapter 3 outlines the ''golden age'' of English from 1936 and
1973 after the Philippines first became a commonwealth and
then an independent country. During this period Tagalog began
its rise as a rival to English.
Chapter 4 analyses the rise of Taglish, a mixture of English
and Tagalog, and its acceptance as the language of the
educated classes with the institution of bilingual education in
the period from 1974 to 1998. As English currently undergoes
restriction in public domains, the elite complain of the decline
in English proficiency in the younger generations.
Chapter 5 considers the Spanish overlay in Taglish that is
often overlooked or even dismissed by scholars, but readily
apparent to English speaking visitors who also know Spanish.

In Part B the author addresses the second research question
by examining the social support for English outside the
classroom as reported by the English teachers from Metro
Manila and the Visayas who participated in his teacher training
workshops, as well as those in remote provinces. (Metro
Manila, or the National Capital Region, is an amalgamation of
8 cities where Tagalog is the language most spoken; the urban
settings of the Visayas, a non-Tagalog speaking area, have
traditionally resisted the spread of Tagalog). In line with
Ferguson (1959) and Fishman (1967), Thompson focuses on
societal bilingualism or diglossia and conducts an analysis of
various social domains in order to answer the question of why
Filipinos can be heard switching between English and Tagalog.
For English to maintain itself as a second rather than a foreign
language, Thompson argues that there must be informal ways
to learn and practice the language outside the classroom. The
chapters in this section underscore the important role played by
the media in promoting English and Tagalog.

Chapter 6 analyses the data from a questionnaire used as part
of a language awareness activity with the English teachers who
participated in the author's workshops and reports on how they
interact with English and Tagalog in the media.
Chapter 7 examines when these same English teachers
reported using English and Tagalog in interpersonal
relations at work, in public places, and at church.
As a counterbalance to this usage data from urban settings,
Chapter 8 looks at the penetration of English and Tagalog into
remote areas of the Philippines: the mountainous and somewhat
isolated northern Luzon and in the large island of Mindanao in
the south.

To find the answer to the third research question of why the
media uses Taglish, Part C investigates the language of
television and newspapers from various sociolinguistic and
sociocultural perspectives in order to identify the important
role of the media in modeling language usage to the masses
and providing informal means to develop language
proficiency. The chapters in this section show that competing
ideologies, not just linguistics, underlie language switching.

Chapter 9 outlines the linguistics of English-Tagalog
language switching based on Muysken's (2000) typology of
code-mixing. The data comes from the play-by-play
commentary of two sports commentators at a basketball game.
Evidence that Taglish represents a new style of English
resulting from a convergence of English and Tagalog is
provided: the Tagalog focus system is being adapted for use in
English as well as the use of Tagalog tags, rejoinders, adverbial
clitics and the locative marker ''sa''.
Chapter 10 looks at the role that commercials play as
informal language teachers in promoting the acquisition of
English outside the classroom. According to Thompson, the
commercials are structured in such a way as to help language
learners build their communicative competence with its
associated grammatical, discourse and pragmatic components.
They use language learning strategies, review grammar and
''teach'' that English is appropriate at home and in public, but
that Taglish is expected in extended discourse.
Chapter 11 continues the look at television commercials by
examining the social messages signaled by English as it is used
to promote various products: English is seen as enriching,
empowering and ennobling Filipinos.
Chapter 12 presents 5 case studies which examine the role
Taglish plays for successful Filipinos. Four of the case studies
come from a business magazine show and the fifth is a
courtside interview with a basketball player and his coach. In
each case the principles of Accommodation Theory (Giles,
Coupland and Coupland 1991) are applied and reveal the
values governing language choice.
Chapter 13 analyses the ''backlash'' against English apparent
in the language switching in two Tagalog sitcoms, a comedy
sketch show and a televised Tagalog movie which reveal the
role that language switching plays in the language of social
resistance. Thompson refers to a ''cultural war'' (p.230) being
fought between English and Filipino programming, with each
language depicting the other in the least favourable light
possible. He finds that the rich believe in the power of English,
while the masses do not. Thus instead of ennobling the
majority of Filipinos (as the commercials suggest), English may
be seen as degrading them.
Chapter 14 looks at Philippine newspapers and how the use
of Taglish differs in English and Tagalog newspapers. Most
English language ''broadsheets'' (newspapers) are geared
towards the business and professional classes. Although the
members of these classes commonly speak Taglish it is almost
absent from the papers. It is used to quote ''common'' Filipinos
to show their ''lack of education'' and is also used sparingly in
showbiz gossip columns (p.254). The Tagalog tabloids, on the
other hand, use Taglish and subtly imply that English is the
language of violence, sex and drugs.
Chapter 15 is an ''afterword'' that takes a brief look at
political events and ''language revolutions'' after the author
returned to the US (1998) and how they relate to the life cycle
of English in the Philippines at the turn of the twenty-first
century. Thompson shows how the spectacular rise and the
precipitous fall of President Joseph Estrada (a high school
educated former movie star who ended the use of English in
schools and in the government) reveal a cultural battle inherent
in the development of Taglish. The author observes that
English is useful only for those hoping to work overseas or in
the Philippines' highest paying jobs, for everything else Taglish
suffices. In terms of the ESL/EFL debate, Thompson argues
that in Metro Manila English is a second language, whereas
among the educated in urban Visayas it is losing its status as a
second language. In the rural areas English is a foreign
language. The book closes with Thompson's prediction that
''once an intellectual version'' of Filipino is accepted in
scientific, technical and professional contexts, English will
disappear from the Philippines (except among an elite few),
much like French did in 14th-century England.

Filipino English and Taglish successfully
accomplishes that which its subtitle sets out to do: examine
''language switching from multiple perspectives.'' This
multidimensional approach, which is crucial when
investigating the many complex layers of language switching,
is one of the merits of this book. The rich data and
methodology include comparisons between urban and rural
settings and analyses of historical texts, language-use
questionnaires, various television programs and newspapers
which incorporate sociocultural, sociolinguistic and linguistic

The book is written with great clarity and Thompson's writing
style is not overly formal or technical which allows the reader
to follow along easily. The development is orderly and logical,
with each chapter and subsection clearly outlined in the table
of contents. Since this is not a textbook, no audience is targeted
specifically, but I think it would be appropriate for the general
public or those at an undergraduate or early graduate level.
Given that the language situation in the Philippines does not
garner much attention it is a relatively unknown field to most
and this book serves as a very comprehensive introduction.

One of the risks of writing in less formal prose, however, is
that the omission of words and other careless mistakes that may be
acceptable in speaking may infiltrate the writing. Sadly, this is
the case here. There are several unacceptable spelling and
omission errors which do not make the read as enjoyable, for
''Within thirty-five years English have been imported to the
Philippines, had replaced Spanish in...'' (p.26)
''After competing this analysis I asked...'' (p.230)

When investigating the language ideologies that influence
language choice in a given context, one must also be aware of one's
own ideologies and any influence it may have. The author's drive to
preserve and promote English in the Philippines is not only what
inspired the research he conducted, but also the workshops he led.
Further research into the question of Taglish may benefit from
a more impartial, yet equally critical observation of the language
practices of Filipinos. I would argue that the focus should
expand to include verbal interactions among the youth, the leaders
of language change.

Bautista, Maria Lourdes S. (1996) Readings in Philippine
Sociolinguistics. 2nd ed. Manila: De La Salle University.

Ferguson, Charles A. (1959) ''Diglossia.'' Word 15:325-350.

Fishman, Joshua A. (1967) ''Bilingualism with and without
diglossia; diglossia with and without bilingualism.'' Journal of
Social Issues 23:29-38.

Giles, Howard, Justine Coupland and Nikolas Coupland, eds.
(1991) Contexts of Accommodation. Developments in Applied
Sociolinguistics. Cambridge: Cambridge University.

Moag, Rodney F. (1982a) ''English as a foreign, second,
native, and basal language.''In Pride, ed., pp.11-50.

Moag, Rodney F. (1982b) ''The life cycle of non-native
Englishes: a case study.'' In Kachru, ed. 1982:270-88.

Muysken, Pieter. (2000) Bilingual Speech: A Typology of
Code-Mixing. Cambridge: Cambridge University
Emanuel A. da Silva is a first year PhD student in the French
Department at the University of Toronto (Canada). His
research interests include ethnolinguistics or sociolinguistic
ethnography and the extralinguistic factors governing language