Bookbeat: February 2005

Filipino English and Taglish: Language Switching from Multiple PerspectivesFilipino English and Taglish: Language Switching from Multiple Perspectives

by Roger M. Thompson, Department of English and Linguistics
(John Benjamins Publishing Company, 2005)

A year in the Philippines spent helping English-language teachers improve their skills turned English Professor Roger Thompson into a spectator of the language wars between English and Tagalog. Taglish is a melding of these two languages. A further three years spent analyzing Filipino commercials, programs and newspapers showed him that the use of English and Tagalog in the media exposes the rifts in Filipino society, and led to his most recent book, Filipino English and Taglish: Language Switching from Multiple Perspective.

English arrived in the Philippines as a consequence of the 1898 Spanish-American War. “America decided to teach English to everybody, and by doing so, freed Filipinos from the colonial oppression of the Spanish and enriched their lives,” says Thompson. American soldiers built schools, and the US imported thousands of highly-trained teachers. It was an early form of the Peace Corps, according to Thompson, that established high schools in every province and elementary schools in every town. Tagalog, a local language that is much easier for Filipinos to learn, came to compete with English after it became the national language in 1939.

Thompson was invited to the Philippines because of a widespread belief there that English standards were deteriorating due to the introduction of bilingual schooling, with Tagalog assigned to the humanities and social sciences and English to science during the Marcos era. Academics and students were not prepared to use pure Tagalog in the academic setting, so Taglish developed as an informal version for both English and Tagalog.

The role of English, says Thompson, has changed. “Originally English was for everyone. But in World War II schools were destroyed and rebuilding them overwhelmed the system. The rich and the middle class put their children in private schools where English was better taught. As a result, English became a divider rather an equalizer in society.”

This division, says Thompson, is reflected in the media. “English commercials imply that if you use Tagalog, you are uneducated and uncultured. The English mixed into the Tagalog programs and films give a different message. Here the implied message is that English degrades Filipinos and is the language of sex, crime and scandal—all the things to do with corruption.”

Thompson collected his data while training teachers how to use the English in the media—from commercials and TV programs to newspapers—in their teaching. “Only when I got back and started analyzing the media samples did I find all these hidden messages.” Messages, says Thompson, that came to the surface in the political battles when Joseph Estrada was elected president in 1998 on an anti-establishment and anti-English platform. Estrada’s win was a complete surprise to the country, but all the clues were there in the language battles hidden in the media. “It’s the sort of finding that makes a social linguist happy,” says Thompson.

—Michal Meyer

Conciliation and Confession: The Struggle for Unity in the Age of Reform, 1415–1648

Conciliation and Confession: The Struggle for Unity in the Age of Reform, 1415–1648Howard P. Louthan , Department of History and Randall C. Zachman; University of Notre Dame Press.

From the conciliar to the confessional age the normal challenges that peacemakers perennially face were magnified. The church was divided, and there was no obvious solution to the crisis that began in the late fourteenth century with the Great Western Schism. This volume investigates the activities of those who worked for the restoration of ecclesial unity, first in the conciliar era, then in the early years of the Protestant reformations, and finally during the “confessional age” when theological and cultural differences between competing religious groups began to emerge more clearly. Special attention is paid to the religiously diverse communities of central and eastern Europe, an area that has often been overlooked by scholars who have focused more exclusively on Protestant/ Catholic relations in the western half of the continent.


Educated by Initiative: The Effects of Direct Democracy on Citizens and Political Organizations in the American States

by Daniel A. Smith, Department of Political Science, and Caroline J. Tolbert (University of Michigan Press, 2005)

Educated by Initiative moves beyond previous evaluations of public policy to emphasize the educational importance of the initiative process itself. Since a majority of ballots ultimately fail or get overturned by the courts, Smith and Tolbert suggest that the educational consequences of initiative voting may be more important than the outcomes of the ballots themselves. The result is a fascinating and thoroughly-researched book about how direct democracy teaches citizens about politics, voting, civic engagement and the influence of special interests and political parties. Designed to be accessible to anyone interested in the future of American democracy, the book includes boxes (titled “What Matters”) that succinctly summarize the authors’ data into easily readable analyses.


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