Indianero Jones & The Greatest of the English Crusades


( originally written 10th October 2009 ) 
Dear batchmates, schoolmates, kabayan and officemates :
 
IN A WAY PROBABLY not anticipated by its original users, the English language has filtered down into every nook and cranny of this 3rd Rock From The Sun.
 
At the Foodcourt with our Cryptic Crossword, NYTimes Crossword & Sudoku (& other assorted timewasters) we see Brazilian and Argentine amigos (Spanish vs Portuguese speakers) sharing bread but not nearly a common tongue; hear Slovenians, Croatians, Bosnians & Montenegrin, chattering about muffins, tea and the Adriatic coast (a feature all 4 nations share), but not in their respective languages; and finally, wrapped in a sickly-sweet PDA (public display of affection), isang magsyotang singkit na Tsino at Hapon, who genetically geographically and historically are closer than kissing cousins, even share more than a few cultural markers (calligraphy, religion, rosy-white makeup prized throughout history) but can’t understand each other’s dialect . . .
 
Guess how all these strange bedfellows communicate with each other?
 
It’s not just an overseas phenomenon : When we see an Ilocano, Ifugao, Ibanag and Igorot together (this is not the start of a joke ha) the usual currency of palaver is Ilokano, but only because the other ethnic groups grudgingly accept the first-among-equals status of the former.  Otherwise the common language is ang wikang Ingles.
 
And some of the best exchanges back home can be heard among Cebuanos, Ilonggos, Chabacanos and Kinaray-a’s who speed up the conversation among themselves by just speaking a common medium. We’ll give you just one guess as to what it is, and today’s clue : it’s NOT Tagalog.
 
Given the reach and completeness of the Queen’s English, which was hurled across the horizon of history with the (naval) advance of the British Empire, extended with trade and mass media via the United States of Obama and broadened beyond the broad spectrum of consciousness via the World Wide Web, it’s no big surprise that English is probably the
one voice among our Babel of tongues that can be heard, understood and responded to in every country anywhere on Earth (just like Visa or MasterCard? ).
 
The runners-up presented formidable opposition but in the end fell just a tad short : Chinese-Mandarin, although aided by the clever Pinyin system, doesn’t have the support of the Roman Alphabet for easy conversion, and Spanish, while it enjoys the benefit of the common alphabet used by the Indo-European family of languages,and widespread use across 4 continents around the globe, does not have the universality and facility of use in both speech and text that English possesses.
 
Whereas before English speakers demanded as a threshold requirement to communication the condition of non-native speakers (those who weren’t born to it) knowing and speaking  the language the way only they do, these days a kinder, gentler English ear demands only that we know the rudiments of the language and are able to express ourselves in a basic and practical fashion.
 
Witness the way Manny Pacquiao captured the hearts of US media right after the Hatton fight, when he won them over with just a few English sentences : gud ibning ibribadi, hop ibriwan had a gud time, just doing my jab guys (left or right? ) en nating personal. (YouTube search : Manny Pacquiao vs Ricky Hatton Post Fight Conference)
 
In fact, it is now a badge of reverse chic to speak the lingua franca in our charming little accent without regard to proper treatment of sibilants and plosives as well as the “proper” schwa or rounding out of various vowel sounds.
 
It has also been conceded by many in the literary world that both British & American “native” writers no longer hold the monopoly of being the best writers in English, as proven by wordsmiths like Salman Rushdie, V.I. Naipaul and Haruki Murakami.
 
Just like the hard currency of gold and commodities, the universal medium of communication has been democratized, socialized and even subsidized.  Anything short of that, and chaos reigns.
 
                   **          **          **
 
Does anyone remember the various English Campaigns all throughout our elementary years, using a combination of approaches to mold us into obedient little English speakers : one peso per word of non-English spoken; secret marshalls to check those wayward Taglish rebels (yes, everyone spying on everyone else), and stars to the perfect English champions ?
 
Well, we first bristled like indignant thoroughbreds bucking our riders. Taglish forever, we said, encouraging our Fukien brothers and sisters as well, and whoever needed to speak pure English anyway ?  Not Dr Jose Rizal, not Dolphy, NOT Erap, and certainly not Bruce Lee.
 
Gradually though, we realized the long term value of maintaining the fluidity of our English, of making believe, and finally believing, that we could speak with the best of the world when it came to English.  THIS was the true success of the English Crusades.
 
                   **          **          **
 
Long before we admitted such status to our kids, their keen perceptiveness and pure intuitive powers discerned it : we were by far the underachieving brown sheep (wag naman black) among our siblings: this was to be the intergenerational chip on their shoulders that burdened them not only before the eyes of their better-dressed cousins, but also before the stoic eyes of their grandparents, our ageless evaluators.
 
We rationalized the situation, taking advantage of their (thankfully) sharp minds and big heart : true, you may not enjoy their advantages and their sophistication.  But master the skill of articulating yourselves, preferably in English, and you can keep up with them toe-to-toe, neck-and-neck and make the best of your situation.
 
This was how we learned that of the great motivators, Pride hath no peer.  Nicole not only sought self-improvement via speaking and listening English, she also tried her hand at basic Mandarin via Meteor Garden and F4, no mean feat for someone who never attended Hogwarts or any other Chinese school. (We admit this impressed the pants off a lot of dad’s relatives )
 
Brent took the time to better himself with English not just through self-help language websites, but also pored through his Ate’s College English textbook.  We were humbled by their effort, paying off as it did these days with them holding their own against our Xavierian nephews back home and Kiwi nieces from the other side of the fence.
 
Whatever school and from whichever background they hail, it would be hard for any parent not to be proud of children like these.
 
English-wise, though, we will always be partial : Hogwarts pa rin.
 
Thanks for sharing your time and thanks for the memories.
 
Your Loyal Batchmate / Schoolmate / Kabayan / Officemate
NOel
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