Culture

Should Spanish and Baybayin Be Taught in Schools?

Just as the Philippines was gearing up to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the arrival of Christianity last week, reddit user AngelofDeath2020 ran an informal opinion poll in r/Philippines asking its members if they agree in teaching Spanish and Baybayin in high school and senior high school.

As expected, majority of Filipino “redditors” of the said community answered “no, I don’t agree,” and their explanations below the post shed some light on the current status of Spanish and Baybayin.

According to user willingtoread17, it’s “counterproductive. That’s why electives exist.” Currently, Spanish is offered as an elective in select schools in the Philippines. Baybayin script, on the other hand, has never been formally taught as an elective.

“There isn’t an economic incentive to learn Baybayin,” said user spiritofburgos who found Spanish more useful than Baybayin. According to them, the incentives are limited to aesthetics and cultural and historical significance. “Granted that those incentives extend to tourism … the advantages of learning English, Mandarin and Spanish is simply far greater,” they added.

“If it’s something I can take by choice, then I’d be happy to … As a core subject with mandatory requirements? It would be impractical imo and would certainly make HS harder than it already is with the unnecessary workload,” said another “redditor” itsthirtythr33. This has also been echoed by another member of the said community, who declined the use of their comment in this story. According to them, Baybayin and Spanish would just be an additional burden for the students.

Meanwhile, user Bellanyx shared a personal experience and said that we should first improve our English proficiency. “When I was in high school, I used to teach grade school kids English. The kids were … decent at best and completely clueless at worst … For a country that prides itself on being bilingual (or mostly English speaking, idk), we’re … not really that good at English at all … I understand the sentiment behind wanting to learn Baybayin, but it’s ultimately impractical.

“For now, rather than thinking of branching out and ‘making connections’ with our ‘Latino brothers,’ I think we should focus on improving our communications with English-speaking countries by teaching kids to be conversationally fluent in English …” they said.

For user Dynasty888 who love Spain and Spanish, they disagree in the revival of the said language and its supposed addition to the curriculum. Instead, they want the government to focus on English.

“It’s much better to reinclude Spanish rather than Japanese and French in college curriculum but the thing is, reviving a language will take a very long time before an entire generation will be able to be conversational in that language. Another factor is the public’s interest. How many Filipinos are actually interested to revive Spanish? If the interest is low, then the government will just waste money.

“‘Hispanistas’ would love to use the argument about our Hispanic identity to push for the revival of Spanish, saying that Spanish should be the lingua franca to equally represent all ethnolingustic groups as Filipino (Tagalog) is an imperialistic language

“Let’s be practical, I prefer the government to improve English language education in the country as we’re slowly slipping in proficiency index. I’m not anti-Hispanic, I love Spain, her language, history and culture, but there are things that aren’t practical to revive. There are things that we should just appreciate as part of our history,” they said.

Another user commented not to “waste energy on your nostalgia-driven ideologies.”

Though opinion polls on social media are not as reliable as formal polls, they still give us insights on what a certain demographic might think. The lack of enthusiasm of some Filipinos for an extensive and widespread Spanish education could be a hurdle for the “Hispanismo” movement.

On the other hand, the poll author defended the teaching of Spanish:

“I mean, it would not only benefit the BPO industry of trilingual speakers (English, Spanish and our mother tongue) but we [would] also gain a special place in the ASEAN region as both speakers of two of the largest languages in the world …

“We could reconnect with our long lost Latino brothers … I mean, not only we do share cuisine, even religion, but also we share a heritage with the LATAM region. Yes, we are in the ASEAN region, but we couldn’t just disregard 333 years of colonization out of hatred of the Spanish ‘conquistadores’ and the ‘frayles,’ could we? Throw it all out just because the Americans told us just that?” they said.

Following the disappointing results of the first poll, they made a follow-up — making it clear this time around that the supposed teaching of Spanish and Baybayin is optional — that surprisingly garnered positive results from the said community.

“I thought that idea was good. That reviving Spanish here in the Philippines would in fact earn as a special identity, both speaking two of the world’s greatest languages and finding more literary and artistic inspiration. As far as I know, we are Hollywood-centric, and to some extent, Korean-centric perhaps. Tapping into the Hispanic sphere would give us another chance to express our arts, literature and cinema (which is currently dying…) …

“Have you ever wondered what the next generation would want to know? If we insist on our current belief that Spanish is dead in the Philippines, so we disregard also the future generations’ curiosity? We didn’t give them an option whether or not they want this language, know more about it and perhaps learn from it?” they concluded.


Editor’s note: Quotes in Filipino were translated into English to conform to the publication’s style guide.


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Arvyn Cerézo
Arvyn Cerézo is the editor of La Jornada Filipina, an English- and Spanish-language news magazine in the Philippines. His work has appeared in South China Morning Post, Publishers Weekly, AudioFile Magazine, PhilSTAR Life and Book Riot. You can find him on arvyncerezo.com.

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