I have often wondered why many Filipinos would get all defensive when their attention is called with regards to mistakes in using the English language, however subtly they are corrected. While it is quite understandable to get all riled up when one gets to be embarrassed in public by “grammar nazis” who probably have no better sense of doing it than any time, any place, and in any manner, there is so much value in learning where we can improve ourselves in speaking and writing English. Filipinos have had the reputation of being among the best non-native speakers of English but maintaining that requires effort. In my opinion, Filipinos stand to benefit more in pursuing English Language Proficiency while being proficient as well in speaking the native language.
It is a fact that Mandarin Chinese tops the list of the Most Widely Spoken Languages in the World based on the number of users at almost 2 billion speakers. Spanish comes in second while English trails in third. So why not pursue learning Chinese or Spanish instead of English? While knowing these languages have their specific advantages, their use is more concentrated on a specific area or ethnicity, as compared to English language users. Thus, if we go to a place whose native language is not Chinese, Spanish, or English, the probability of encountering someone who has at least a working knowledge of just one of these three is higher in English.
English is the most widely used language in global communication.
This is not necessarily a conscious choice though since English has evolved into the default language when we try to overcome language barriers. We usually communicate with foreign associates in the English language unless we happen to know their language. We do not do that because of any personal preference but simply because it is the most widely used in global communication.
English is the most common language used in business.
The wide use of the English language is also commonly observed in the business world. The English language has attained a considerable degree of universality that has made it acceptable for use in most companies particularly those maintaining global presence. Again, in the absence of knowledge and skill in any other foreign language, knowing English is expected to make communication easier between people based in different countries.
English Language Proficiency provides better employment opportunities.
There is probably no better example of this than what is happening in the Philippines. Better employment opportunities are available to those who have an excellent command of the English language. The work environment is getting more and more competitive and people who are able to communicate well in the English language will always have an advantage, all other things being equal.
When we talk about Filipinos and English Language Proficiency, it is inevitable to get extreme reactions. Some would agree that proficiency in the English language is an advantage while some would be in the opinion that it isn’t necessary. Depending on specific circumstances, everyone is bound to be right.
What I am driving at here is that English language proficiency is something that can be used to help us achieve our goals. Not everyone will be fortunate enough to set his or her own rules in life. Most of us will have to face continuous assessment of our skills and capabilities from employers, clients,and other people we deal with everyday.
Whether we like it or not, we are constantly being judged especially in the way we communicate. Have you noticed how most English-speaking Filipinos are perceived to be more confident, capable, and qualified? While this is not always true, the keyword here is perception which is usually responsible for first impression.
I am referring here to Filipinos who are able to use their knowledge of the English language timely and appropriately. Failure to do so would present the risk of being seen as someone who merely likes to call attention to himself or herself, thinking that he or she belongs to some imagined higher level than the rest of us. After all, knowledge, skill, and talent should not be flaunted. They are to be used as tools to help us succeed.
Pursuing the objective of attaining English language proficiency has got nothing to do with loving our country less nor with attaining a certain status most would like to attach to English speaking Filipinos. It is about adapting to the needs of the times where competitiveness is a reality. The need is not only to learn English but to learn and use it well.