Sunday, June 27, 2004

Book Review: Intermediate Ilokano by Precy Espiritu

Twenty years ago, the University of Hawai'i Press published Let's Speak Ilokano. It was authored by Precy Espiritu, then a Ph.D. student studying applied linguistics at UCLA. At almost 300 pages, this book does a rather decent job in teaching the basics of the Ilokano language, so I recommend her book highly.

For the past year, I've been impatiently anticipating the arrival of Intermediate Ilokano; the sequel of the book published in 1984. In finally received it a couple of weeks ago and have been reading it ever since. What can I say? Dr. Espiritu has really outdone herself.

The book is much larger; there are over 400 pages and it's about an inch wider than its predecessor. Not to mention that there's also an eye-catching cover. Espiritu has employed illustrator Junix Jimenez to breathe life into the book with his delightful illustrations depicting life in the Ilocos Region.

As for the content of the book itself, Espiritu discards the use of dialogs in favor of short stories. Each of the stories has a morale illustrating Philippine or Ilokano values. They are further explained in the cultural notes section at the end of each of the twelve lessons. There are also activities based on the new vocabulary and grammatical concepts introduced in the short stories. What I like is that the grammatical concepts are easily accessible via their own table of contents, right after the main table of contents in the beginning of the book.

Although there are many activities geared toward Ilokano learners in a classroom setting (Ilokano is taught as a class at the post-secondary level in Hawai'i, something not done in the Philippines!), a person learning via self-study can still benefit from the exercises.

There are some minor things which concerns me somewhat. In written Ilokano, pronouns are usually attached to the preceding work to make one new word. For example, in Tagalog there is the phrase nag-aral ako 'I studied'. The Ilokano equivalent would not be written as nagadal ak but nagadalak.

Perhaps it's this way since the pronouns ko 'my' & mo 'your' are reduced to k and m if the preceding words ends in a vowel. For example asawa ko 'my spouse' and libro mo 'your book' become asawak and librom. You gotta admit that asawa k and libro m look pretty darn silly.

[Addendum: July 25, 2004]: Carl Rubino chimed in saying that another reason for this is that ak is pronounced as part of the word; [] rather than Tagalog's [nag.?a.ral.?a.ko].

This can make things rather confusing for an Ilokano learner since it's sometimes difficult identifying a pronoun in a word. Espiritu is evidently aware of this and to combat this she italicizes the pronouns.

The following is from the first two paragraphs of the first story in the book on page 2:

Maysa nga aldaw, inayaban ti maysa a baket dagiti lima a kaarrubana, ket sinaludsodna, "Sinno ti mayat nga agdalus iti lugartayo?"

"Ay, dispensarem, Ina. Saan a siak, ta adu ti trabahok," kinuna ti umuna a simmungbat.

One day, an old lady called her five neighbors, and she asked, "Who wants to clean up our place?"

"Oh, (you) forgive me, Ma'am. I can't, because my work is many," said the first one who answered.

I wonder, though, if it has a place in a book for intermediate learners. It would have been definitely useful in Espiritu's first book. I also wish she would have included diacritic markers indicating stress like she did in the first one, too. However, they are marked in the glossary section but in bold. Even something of greater use would have been an audio CD to practice aural comprehension.

But like I said, these are minor and do not in any manner affect the quality of this book. All in all this is a great book in building up proficiency in Ilokano. All the grammatical concepts are explained in a straightforward manner with accompanying examples. Though, I admit that perhaps the calls for cultural discussions are somewhat unnecessary.

Serious learners of Ilokano should not be without Espiritu's two books as well as Dr. Carl Rubino's masterpiece, his indispensable Ilocano Dictionary and Grammar which is also available from the University of Hawai'i Press. My review for Dr. Rubino's book is on that Amazon.Com page, too.

Now, if only other Philippine languages had quality learning materials such as those I mentioned above.

External link: Dr. Precy Espiritu's Home Page

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for publishing a review of "Intermediate Ilokano." I'm looking into buying a copy for myself after some day I purchase "Let's Speak Ilokano" and master the material presented there. I wish there were quality resources like these for Cebuano!