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Philippine English

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Philippine English

Philippine English is the variety of English used in the Philippines by the media and the vast majority of educated Filipinos. English is taught in schools as one of the two official languages of the country, the other being Filipino, the national language and the standardized version of Tagalog. Code-switching is prevalent in informal situations. Sub-varieties of Philippine English are emerging based on the regional location and thus linguistic influences of the speakers.

Orthography and grammar

Philippine laws and court decisions, with extremely rare exceptions, are written solely in English. English is also used in higher education, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business, though the people who use it as a second language far outnumber those who speak it as a first language (see List of countries by English-speaking population). Still, for highly technical subjects such as nursing, medicine, computing and calculus, English is the preferred medium for textbooks, communication, etc. Very few would prefer highly technical books in the vernacular.[1][2] Movies in English were usually not dubbed;[3] however, in recent years, they are dubbed (almost accurately) so that the general audience (especially younger generations of viewers) can understand.

Because English is part of the curricula from primary to tertiary education, many Filipinos write and speak in fluent English, although there might be differences in diction and pronunciation.[4] Most schools in the Philippines, however, are staffed by teachers who are not native Anglophones and thus think using Austronesian instead of Germanic grammatical structures. Non-standard usage arises from their second language acquisition of English.[5]

Philippine English follows American English spelling and grammar,[6] except when it comes to punctuation as well as date notations. For example, a comma almost never precedes the final item in an enumeration (much like the AP Stylebook and other style guides used in the English-speaking world). Except for some very fluent speakers (like news anchors), even in English-language media, dates are also often read with a cardinal instead of an ordinal number (e.g. "January one" instead of "January first") even if the written form is the same.


Most of the native Malayo-Polynesian languages of the Philippines do not contain the [f] phoneme. Thus, some Filipinos substitute [p] for [f] when they pronounce English words containing [f]. Some even pronounce English words that normally do begin with [p] with an [f] through hypercorrection due to confusion over which pronunciation is required.

Like [f], the [v] sound is also virtually non-existent in most major native languages of the Philippines. Partly because modern Spanish does not distinguish between [b] and [v] (both being pronounced as [b] and, intervocalically, as [β]), some of the older generation of Filipinos would pronounce the letter [v] in all English words as [b].

Languages of indigenous minorities that had limited contact with the Spanish colonial government often retain the [v] sound. The [f] sound also occurs in some of them. Examples are the Ivatan language, Ibanag language, and languages of the Lumad tribes in Mindanao and Visayas. All of them are minor indigenous languages of the Philippines. The Ibaloi tongue in the Baguio-Benguet area of Northern Luzon also has naturally occurring [f] and [v] sounds, as in sifa (interrogative who) and divit (a traditional wrap-around skirt). The modern spelling of the name of one of the most numerous ethnic groups of the Philippines, the Manobo tribes of Mindanao, is actually the hispanized spelling of the original Manobo word Manuvu.[7]

Some of the other sounds that Philippine languages lack include [ɪ], [æ] and [ʌ]; only a few still retain [ə] (most notably Kinaray-a in Panay Island). The sound [ɪ] (/i/ in "brick") is replaced with [i] (/y/ in "happy") so the pronunciation of the words "bit" and "beat [bit]", "hit" and "heat [hit]", and "fill" and "feel [fil]" would be the same, respectively.

Words such as "back" [bæk] and "buck" [bʌk], "cat" [kæt] and "cut" [cʌt], and "pass" [pæs] and "pus" [pʌs] respectively would also have the same pronunciation since [a] (/a/ in Filipino word "alin"), [æ], and [ʌ] are not distinguished and all would be pronounced as [a].

With the exemption of [ə] sound in word endings "ble", "fle", and "ple" which are replaced with [o] (/o/ in Filipino word "uso"), [ə] in "cle", "dle", "gle", "tle" is either replaced with [e] (/e/ in "egg") which is more commonly used or [o]. Google [ˈɡuɡ(ə)l] would be read as [ˈɡuɡel] and handle [ˈhænd(ə)l] would be [ˈhandel]. Also depending on the spelling as Filipinos read based on how the word is spelled, "travel" [ˈtræv(ə)l] would be [ˈtrabel], "computer" [kəmˈpjutər] as [komˈpjuter], and circle [ˈsərkəl] read as [ˈsirkel] or [ˈsirkol].

A phenomenon among the older generation of Filipinos is their pronunciation of all the English words starting with s + consonant such as star, spade, stampede, slide, stigma, statue, sky, stable, strict, and stew. These words are pronounced by some of them as "istar/estar", "istampede/estampede", "istigma/estigma", "istatue/estatue", "istable/estable", "istrict/estrict" and "istew/estew" because these older people were exposed to the Spanish language and were used to the Spanish system wherein there are no words starting with s + consonant, but instead es + consonant. Thus, estrella (star), estampida (stampede), estigma (stigma), estatua (statue), estable (stable), estricto (strict) and estofado (stew).

Another issue is suprasegmentals. In pronunciation, emphasis often tends to be put on the wrong syllable of a word (such as emphasizing the second syllable of "category" and "ceremony" instead of the first) or on the wrong word in a sentence as compared to North American English or British English. This issue is likely rooted in the aforementioned Spanish (Castilian) influence and often occurs with English words with Latin (and indirectly Spanish) roots. However, this is not the case for many fluent Anglophone speakers, who learn to pronounce and emphasize the proper stress correctly, mostly with help and guidance from their teachers or tutors.


As mentioned above, the schwa is featured in some Philippine languages.


Among mother-tongue speakers, the phonology of Philippine English almost completely resembles that of the North American variant (thus, Philippine English is a rhotic accent), while the speech of those who are not native speakers is influenced to varying degrees by indigenous Philippine languages. Since many English phonemes (such as [f] and [v]) are not found in most Philippine languages, pronunciation approximations are extremely common.

Some examples of non-native pronunciation include:

  • Awry = [ˈari]
  • Filipino = [piliˈpino]
  • Victor = [bikˈtor]
  • Family = [ˈpɐmili] or [ˈpamili]
  • Varnish = [ˈbarnis]
  • Fun = [ˈpɐn] or [ˈpan]
  • Vehicle = [ˈbɛhikel] or [ˈbɛhikol]
  • Lover = [ˈlɐber]
  • Find = [ˈpɐjnd]
  • Official = [oˈpisʲɐl]
  • Very = [ˈbɛri] or [ˈbejri]
  • Guidon = [ɡiˈdon]
  • Hamburger = [ˈhɐmburdzʲɛr]
  • High-tech = [ˈhajtɛts]
  • Hubcap = [ˈhabkab]
  • Margarine = [mɐrɡɐˈrin]
  • Seattle = [ˈsʲatel]
  • Shako = [sʲaˈko]
  • Daniel/Danielle = [ˈdeɪnjel] or [ˈdanjel]
  • -lege/-ledge (in college, knowledge) = [ˈleidʒ] rhymes with age
  • Rachel/Rachelle = [ˈreiʃel]
  • Special (some speakers) = [ˈɛspeɪʃal] or [ˈspeɪʃal] rhymes with spatial
  • Twenty (many speakers) = [ˈtweɪnti]

The above list applies mainly to monolingual Filipino-language-speakers; a number of other indigenous languages, mentioned previously, employ phonemes such as [f], [v], and [z]. This form of mispronunciation, caused by the limited sound inventories of most Philippine languages compared to English (which has more than 40 phonemes), is generally frowned upon by Anglophone Filipinos, in particular, and businesses dealing with international clients.

Industries based on English

The abundant supply of English speakers and competitive labor costs have enabled the Philippines to become a choice destination for foreign companies wishing to establish call centers and other outsourcing operations.[8][9][10][11] English proficiency sustains a major call center industry, and as of 2005, America Online (AOL) has 1,000 people in what used to be the US Air Force's Clark Air Base in Angeles City answering ninety percent of their global e-mail inquiries. Citibank does its global ATM programming in the country, and Procter & Gamble has over 400 employees in Makati, a central Manila neighborhood, doing back office work for their Asian operations including finance, accounting, Human Resources and payments processing. See Call center industry in the Philippines

An influx of foreign students, principally from South Korea, has also led to growth in the number of English language learning centers,[12] especially in Metro Manila, Baguio City and Metro Cebu.

Vocabulary and usage

Some words and phrases and their respective definitions or uses are peculiar to Philippine English. Some examples are:

Certain phrases uncommon outside of the Filipino community often crop up in Philippine English:

  • ".. will be the one ...", and "... will be the one who will ..." instead of "... will ..." - e.g., "I will be the one who will go ...", rather than "I will go ...".[27]
  • "To open/kill/close an appliance/device" instead of "to turn on/off an appliance/device". The reason for this is because the Filipino words "buksan" (to open), "patayin" (to kill) and "isara" (to close), in the manner used in the sentence, have no direct translation to the English word "to turn on/off".

The usage of these kinds of phrases is generally discouraged by most English tutors and teachers today .

See also


  1. ^ Author David Crystal remarks that English is used in technical contexts for intelligibility, and  
  2. ^ Espinosa, Doray (1997). "English in the Philippines". Global Issues in Language Education (Language Institute of Japan) (26): 9. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  3. ^ Rowthorn, Chris; Bloom, Greg (2006). Philippines. Lonely Planet Country Guide (9th ed.). Lonely Planet.  
  4. ^ Isabel Pefianco Martin (April 12, 2008). "Fearing English in the Philippines". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  5. ^ As of 1995, only about 27,000 of over 68 million Filipinos spoke English as their Mother tongue, Andrew Gonzalez. "The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines". Journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development ( 19 (5&6): 492.   (Table 1)
  6. ^ Gonzalez, A. (2009) The Transplantation of American English in Philippine Soil, in A Companion to the History of the English Language (eds H. Momma and M. Matto), Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi:10.1002/9781444302851.ch31
  7. ^
  8. ^ Mellisa Sabuero (April 22, 2003). "Call it a boom: Philippine call centers". Asia Times, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  9. ^ Carl Marc Ramota (2004). "Economic Woes Drive Bright Graduates to Call Centers". Bulatlat, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  10. ^ Diana G Mendoza (October 1, 2010). "Philippines: Call Centre Boom Breeds New Culture – and Risky Behaviour". Global Geopolitics & Political Economy, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  11. ^ Carlos H. Conde (August 13, 2007). "English getting lost in translation in Philippines". The New York Times, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  12. ^ Jonathan M. Hicap (September 13, 2009). "Koreans Flock to the Philippines to Learn English". Korea Times, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  13. ^ "aggrupation". MSN Encarta Dictionary, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  14. ^ "A Historical Review of Armalite" (Edition of 4 January 2010). ArmaLite, Inc. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  15. ^ Lingao, Ed (2003). "Arming the Enemy". Public Eye: the Investigative Reporting Magazine (Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism) IX (3). Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  16. ^ Overseas Pinoy Cooking.Net website accessed on 6 November 2010
  17. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Roger B. Rueda. "Philippine English (I)". The News Today :: Online Iloilo News and Panay News. Retrieved March 17, 2011. 
  18. ^ [1]
  19. ^ "Glossary of Army Slang". American Speech (Duke University Press) 16 (3): 163–169. October 1941.  
  20. ^ a b c "Philippine English". MSN Encarta Dictionary, Retrieved March 13, 2011. 
  21. ^ Jeannette Andrade (August 28, 2007). "Hazing eyed in death of graduating UP student". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-09-03  . Doris Dumlao (August 17, 2008). "Mutual funds for P1,000 a month". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-09-03  . Michael Lim Ubac (April 24, 2008). "Suspected smugglers, Customs, LTO officials charged". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-09-03 . . (the construction "a certain ..." occurs several times in each of these examples.)
  22. ^ Gimmick definition English Wiktionary.
  23. ^ a b Borlongan, Ariane Macalinga (2007). "Innovations in Standard Philippine English". Current Research on English and Applied Linguistics: A De La Salle University Special Issue (De La Salle University , 
  24. ^ V.I.S. de Veyra's poem "Requiem Para Kay Ophie"
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Examples: . "So if they see policemen about to conduct a security survey, they should ask me first because I will be the one who will know about it. They will have to talk to me,", "Security survey for Lapu banks suggested". Philippine daily Inquirer, citing Cebu Daily News. March 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-09-03 ; . "If I will be the one who will talk and explain, that will be self-serving,", Anselmo Roque (January 18, 2007). "Ecija school faculty bares university exec’s mess". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-09-03 ; . "Whoever wins on the issue of secret balloting will be the one who will win the speakership,", Norman Bordadora (July 22, 2007). "Arroyo can deliver SONA sans Speaker—Salonga". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Retrieved 2008-09-03 .

Further reading

  • Acar, A. "Models, Norms and Goals for English as an International Language Pedagogy and Task Based Language Teaching and Learning.", The Asian EFL Journal, Volume 8. Issue 3, Article 9, (2006).
  • Manarpaac, Danilo. "When I was a child I spoke as a child": Reflecting on the Limits of a Nationalist Language Policy. In: Christian Mair. The politics of English as a world language: new horizons in postcolonial cultural studies. Rodopi; 2003 [cited 18 February 2011]. ISBN 978-90-420-0876-2. p. 479–492.
  • Lerner, Ted. Hey, Joe, a slice of the city - an American in Manila. Book of Dreams: Verlag, Germany. 1999.

External links

  • The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines, by Andrew Gonzalez, FSC, with sections on Philippine English
  • Philippine English, by Tom McArthur.
  • Reinstatement of English as a medium of instruction by the Department of Education
  • English proficiency in Cebu
  • American or Philippine English? (video)
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