Stop Looking for Native English Speakers From the Philippines

I was doing research for an article when I stumbled upon a job posting from a company in the Philippines saying they are “looking for native English speakers.” I didn’t know what to do, really—to laugh or get angry. I laughed first because of the absurdity of the job ad and got angry because prospective job applicants were out before they can even apply.

Because guess what? Filipinos are not native English speakers, at least the majority of them.

Stop Looking for Native English Speakers From the Philippines | ArvynCerezo.com

First of all, let’s settle it once and for all by defining what makes a native speaker. Cambridge Dictionary says it’s “someone who has spoken a particular language since they were a baby, rather than having learned it as a child or adult.” It’s someone who grew up learning a particular language at home, in our case it’s English. It’s their language at infancy, and the language their parents taught them. It’s the language they use when thinking and talking in everyday life (outside of work and in the Philippine setting only).

While there are Filipinos who grew up learning English as their native tongue, majority of them did not. Hence, the Philippines is not a native English-speaking country.

But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.

Multilingualism in the Philippines

The Philippines is a multilingual country, boasting over 170 languages. Speaking two or three languages is the norm. In the capital Metro Manila, Tagalog/Filipino is the first language of most of its inhabitants. But if you venture into the provinces, regional languages like Bisaya and Tagalog/Filipino may be both spoken at home. Some only speak their regional language and not the national language. In rare cases, a regional language, Tagalog/Filipino, and English are being spoken as well. Sometimes, only Tagalog/Filipino and English are the preferred languages.

As you have noticed, it’s quite complicated in the Philippines’ case. Can one have more than one native language? And if English is one of them, do they qualify as a native English speaker? This Stack Exchange forum says so, but I’ll take it with a grain of salt.

If you ask the majority, though, they say no. This absurdity can be easily dispelled when a Filipino applies for jobs or to schools where English is the primary language. Unfortunately, the Philippines is not among the list of countries which are considered native English-speaking countries. And if you want a list, here it is. Thus, Filipinos have to take an English proficiency test like IELTS or TOEFL to prove they have a good command of the language. For a Filipino who grew up with English as their primary language, it’s quite a problem proving they are indeed a native speaker.

English as a Second Language

Don’t get me wrong. Filipinos may be very good at using the English language, but they are still not considered native English speakers. In fact, majority consider English as their second language. While some can really pass like a native speaker, the reality is most of them do not.

So, stop looking for native English speakers from the Philippines unless you’re limiting your talent search to American expats or around 3%* of the Filipino population.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if one is a native speaker or not as long as they can do the job.

Best guess

Embracing My Cultural Identity

Cultural Identity

Arvyn

Kumusta ka ey? Kumusta? Hello, how are you? ¡Hola! ¿Qué tal?

The world is getting smaller thanks to the advent of modern technology. Definitely, one of its advantages is bringing different world cultures closer than ever before. Learning different languages has never been easier. Culture mixing has never been more prevalent. But, at what expense?

Throughout my teenage years, I struggled a lot with my cultural and regional identity. I didn’t know where to belong and how to belong. Growing up with a Pangasinan-speaking family, I experienced a major culture clash within me. Growing up learning and speaking Filipino at school, I became confused even more. Growing up consuming media in the English language—books, music, and movies—I became a different person altogether. Growing up in a society and a community with a strong colonial mentality wherein everything American or white is venerated, it made my situation even worse. I didn’t know how to identify myself.

Identity Crisis

Learning all these languages at a young age, I became trilingual. This however, came with some underlying effects that will scar me later in life. Back then, I was young and naïve. I didn’t know how to respond to the “bastardization” of my cultural and regional identity. I was unfortunate for not having someone to explain the cultures and histories of these languages before learning them.

Cultural identity, as defined by this paper by Nina Martin, is “the extent to which each individual person attributes certain views and beliefs to him or herself, and to the feeling of affinity this person has towards a distinct cultural group of people.” The paper also discusses how “bilingualism consequently affect a child’s cultural identity development.”

When I was in my primary and secondary years, my classmates used to ask me where I was born. I have always answered Manila to some and San Carlos to others. I was afraid to identify myself as a native Pangasinense for the fear of being frowned upon. That being a native is inferior compared to being born in urban places like imperialist Metro Manila. Some also mistook me for a “foreigner,” a dialectal term, because of my Caucasian features. What’s so unacceptable is that I didn’t let them know what I really am. Remember, this is in the early 2000’s wherein colonial mentality is strong among the provinces. During those years, I was responding in a way that I can and I know. This led me to be confused of my own cultural and regional identity. Who am I and where do I belong? What language should I speak? Am I a true-blue native? Does it even matter?

My cultural turmoil followed me even in my 20’s. Recently, when I was speaking to a friend in my native tongue, I was horrified that I have already forgotten some of the words. I was floored. I wanted to pull my hair out to puke out the words. I was experiencing what linguists call a language attrition. Wikipedia defines language attrition as “the process of losing a native, or first language.” I think that this was brought by my moving to Metro Manila after graduating from college. Because I didn’t know someone who speaks in my native tongue, I learned to survive with speaking in Filipino/Tagalog or English. I also patronized consuming media in a foreign language that is English. My situation became even worse than before. I was becoming a lost cause.

A Wake-up Call

Due to my mission to improve every aspect of myself, I started learning Spanish this year. A month passed and I started noticing something incredible. It felt a bit of a cultural awakening in me. Like a veil is being lifted. Learning a foreign language makes me appreciate more my native tongue and my culture. I was not afraid to identify myself anymore. Since then, when I’m elsewhere but Pangasinan, I often steal opportunities to speak to my family members and relatives in the native tongue. Since I’ve read in the news that Pangasinan as a language is dying, I felt committed to save and preserve it.

You wonder why I’m writing about owning my identity but I am learning a Spanish. I have always known that my family is of Spanish descent by genealogy—that we have a pint of Spanish blood running in our veins. And what a shame it would be if no one stands up to own that culture? If no one in this lifetime embraces our “otherness”? This is my way of paying homage to my roots. I am owning everything that I am made of. Besides, Spanish is part of our culture as Filipinos.

The Importance of Cultural Identity

The importance of cultural identity has never been stressed enough. Simply put, it makes one feel belonged. It makes him know his place in the world. That’s why it’s very important that we push diversity in various forms of media—books, TV series, movies, songs, etc. When a person sees or reads about a character who looks like him, he may not feel alone in the world. He will feel represented and included. There will be a sense of belongingness and security. More importantly, it will break toxic social norms that bound individuals in the society.

My upbringing, education, and experiences led me to question and embrace what I really am. Now that I am acknowledging my Hispanic influence and learning a language that colonized my ancestors, I won’t let it shroud my true identity. No matter where I go or no matter what language I speak, I will always identify myself as a Hispanic-influenced Filipino—specifically Pangasinense. I will always bring with me the native language, tradition, and customs my ancestors fought to survive. I won’t deny myself anymore.