Sunday, October 15, 2006

Language Barrier, a microdocumentary on Cebuano

During these past few years, I've been dreaming of having my own TV show on PBS in the distance future, after having established myself in the field of linguistics. The show I have in mind would be about languages of the world but in a Rick Steves-esque kind of format - just basically bringing awareness of the different kinds of languages. I even have a "The Languages of Bicol" section already planned out in my head - I'd demonstrate how words for a particular object differ whenever I cross a river in Bicolandia. Or I could cover the revival of say, Occitan, in France, the horrid state of the Ryukyuan languages in Japan, the sole living native speakers of various languages, the life of a translator/interpreter, etc. The possibilities are just endless!

Whether or not the show would garner a substantial audience is another matter altogether, but a guy can dream, can't he?

But I digress.

I did, however, find a video that's along the lines of what I want to do. While in the land of viral videos that is YouTube, I discovered a video titled Language Barrier, produced in Cebu City & Lapu-Lapu City by IAFT film student Ian Allen Lim. It is a "microdocumentary" (I think I just invented this word) which gives a sociolinguistic perspective by interviewing three native Cebuanos: writer/poet Michael U. Obenieta, UP student Roxy Jane Kaka, and media law professor Alfredo Buenaventura.

Each of these three have differing attitudes concerning their native language vis-à-vis Tagalog. Mr. Obenieta and Ms. Kaka seem to have diplomatic attitudes toward people speaking Tagalog in Cebu but at the same address the way that Cebuanos and their language have been mistreated. Atty. Buenaventura, on the other hand, passionately argues that Tagalogs should learn Cebuano when they come to Cebu if he has to speak Tagalog while in Manila.

Despite these different opinions, there seems to be a common thread among the three of them. They have their own rich language with its long-standing history and they are damn proud of it. It's also a matter of fairness. Until the late 20th century, there were more native Cebuano speakers than native Tagalog ones. Despite that, it was Tagalog that went on to be national and official language of the country and the only language to be officially taught in schools. Even today the mass media is by and large in Tagalog and English, though Cebuano seems to making ground, albeit slowly.

The point is that it puts a more meaningful background of how Cebuanos feel about the marginalization of their language in the face of Tagalog domination. It's very easy for Tagalogs to discard Cebuanos' feelings and quickly labeling it irrational and divisive regionalism and such.

I do support Atty. Buenaventura's idea of reciprocity to a certain extent, however it's not a Tagalog-speaker's fault they can't learn the language (Cebuano resources are difficult to obtain, and I speak from experience, as a Tagalog speaker). It should be up to the Philippine educational system to implement such a program. More on this can be found in my blog entry titled My Ideal Language Policy.

In any case, you can view the video at the end of this blog entry. You can also access it directly (as well as leaving the author a comment) by clicking here.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Link of the day: Yami Language Learning Center

I wrote about Yami in this blog over two years ago in this entry. While it is spoken outside of the Philippines, it is, for all intents and purposes, a Philippine language due to its relationship to other Philippine languages, namely to Ivatan and Itbayat spoken in the Batanes Islands north of Luzon. Because of this, I feel (felt) that this has some relevance in my blog.

I ran across a website housed by Providence University in Taichung County, Taiwan. It is called the Yami Language Learning Center. It is basically a Yami language learning site.

The site is divided into three learning levels, beginning, intermediate, and advanced. Each level has 1 book (with 10 lessons each), with the exception of the intermediate level which has 2 books. There is also a grammatical sketch, learning games (with Jeopardy!), a final exam, and a dictionary. Awesome, huh?

What I like is that the dialogs have accompanying MP3 recordings with them. This allowed me to listen to this language for the first time. What I noticed is their pronunciation of /r/. It is retroflex as in Mandarin. Which leads me to wonder if Mandarin has influenced this.

I also noticed a Japanese word that made it to Yami, sinsi. It comes from 先生 (sensei) meaning "teacher."

One more thing I have found interesting is that they included the personal marker "si" in the dialogs. The sentence for example says "mo sinsi, ngongyod a tao si Paloy ang?" and in English it became "Teacher, is si Paloy a real person?" Normally, in the Philippines, the si is left untranslated This was also the case in the link I talked about in my last entry about Yami. They included the si in the Yami man's name, si-Mogaz. Now, I may not be Yami but from my Tagalog point of view this doesn't sound right.

Enjoy the site. I found it fascinating.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Two new Wikipedias in two Philippine languages

Hi folks, I am pleased to announce the opening of two new Wikipedias in two Philippine languages.

The first one is the Pangasinan Wikipedia at . In my previous entry, someone left a message in Pangasinan asking for volunteers to contribute to Pangasinan. So now that it's up, I hope the word gets out.

The second one is in the Zamboanga variety of Chavacano, which is now available at . I voted in support of this Wikipedia provided that "zam" be included as part of the domain name. There are three types of Chavacano (the other two in Cavite & Ternate), and each is different so it wouldn't really make sense to have three varieties in one Wikipedia. Of course, I still foresee the problem of Caviteños and Ternateños making edits in their respective tongues there.

So in addition to the two Philippine languages above, there are Wikipedias available in (along with number of articles as of now): Cebuano (1,366), Ilokano (2,003), Kapampangan (1,420), Tagalog (4,840) and Waray-Waray (1,645).

And also, two other Philippine Wikipedias are also on incubator status. This is usually the final step before becoming a full-fledged Wikipedia. I am not fully up to speed on the creation process, but I think they need more articles and more contributors before making that very step. These two languages, spoken on Panay Island, are Hiligaynon (aka Ilonggo) and Kinaray-a. So spread the word.

On a related noted, I think it's sad the first time these languages have an encyclopedia is only online.

PS: Hoy, sa sakuyang mga kahimanwang Bikolnon - naghahalat pa ako nin Wikipedia para sa tataramon na Bikol. Noarin maabot? :-) (translation: Hey! To my Bicolano kababayans - I'm still waiting for a Wikipedia in Bikol. When's it coming?)