James Soriano's Language, learning, identity, privilege

James Soriano's Language, Learning, Identity, Privilege

James Soriano Article

James Soriano, currently a student of Ateneo de manila University and a columnist at Manila Bulletin Online had became famous in a pace that I'm sure he didn't expect to be.

After Manila Bulletin Online published his article entitled "Language, learning, identity, privilege" that talks about his view about Filipino language, Filipino community rampaged as they reacted after reading the artcile.

As expected, many had found offended, most especially knowing that he published it here in the Philippines. He said on the article on how he and his classmates had used to complain on their Filipino subject. I myself found it really very offensive, here are some of the striking extracts from the article.

"Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes."

"Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics"

"Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed 'sundo na.'"

He even said that he is using Filipino to avoid being mugged by those who speak Filipino.

"..because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino."

As expected, offended Filipino had reacted to him in a crispy negative way. However, some people had agreed to what he wrote.

We, the keywordspeak.com team wants to give unbiased news even though we are offended personally. We think that some parts of the article is true. You will really use Filipino language to communicate to the tinderas, katulongs and drivers.

However, he should have became more sensitive.

Manila Bulletin Online had removed his article on their website. We tried searching the term "James Soriano language learning identity privilege" on google and their site is on the number one on the search engine result page, SERP. Here is the screenshot that we got after using that search term.

james soriano filipino

The above screenshot proves that the Manila Bulletin Online had posted his article last August 24, 2011, at 4:06 AM. However, clicking the link will only lead you to a blank page of their website. "You are not authorized to access this page." the page reads.

james soriano Language, learning, identity, privilege

showbiznest.blogspot.com blog site had made a screenshot when mb.com.ph haven't removed the article yet, screenshot below is from showbiznest.blogspot.com.

Here is the controversial article from James Soriano:

Language, learning, identity, privilege
August 24, 2011, 4:06am
The Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — English is the language of learning. I’ve known this since before I could go to school. As a toddler, my first study materials were a set of flash cards that my mother used to teach me the English alphabet.

My mother made home conducive to learning English: all my storybooks and coloring books were in English, and so were the cartoons I watched and the music I listened to. She required me to speak English at home. She even hired tutors to help me learn to read and write in English.

In school I learned to think in English. We used English to learn about numbers, equations and variables. With it we learned about observation and inference, the moon and the stars, monsoons and photosynthesis. With it we learned about shapes and colors, about meter and rhythm. I learned about God in English, and I prayed to Him in English.

Filipino, on the other hand, was always the ‘other’ subject — almost a special subject like PE or Home Economics, except that it was graded the same way as Science, Math, Religion, and English. My classmates and I used to complain about Filipino all the time. Filipino was a chore, like washing the dishes; it was not the language of learning. It was the language we used to speak to the people who washed our dishes.

We used to think learning Filipino was important because it was practical: Filipino was the language of the world outside the classroom. It was the language of the streets: it was how you spoke to the tindera when you went to the tindahan, what you used to tell your katulong that you had an utos, and how you texted manong when you needed “sundo na.”

These skills were required to survive in the outside world, because we are forced to relate with the tinderas and the manongs and the katulongs of this world. If we wanted to communicate to these people — or otherwise avoid being mugged on the jeepney — we needed to learn Filipino.

That being said though, I was proud of my proficiency with the language. Filipino was the language I used to speak with my cousins and uncles and grandparents in the province, so I never had much trouble reciting.

It was the reading and writing that was tedious and difficult. I spoke Filipino, but only when I was in a different world like the streets or the province; it did not come naturally to me. English was more natural; I read, wrote and thought in English. And so, in much of the same way that I learned German later on, I learned Filipino in terms of English. In this way I survived Filipino in high school, albeit with too many sentences that had the preposition ‘ay.’

It was really only in university that I began to grasp Filipino in terms of language and not just dialect. Filipino was not merely a peculiar variety of language, derived and continuously borrowing from the English and Spanish alphabets; it was its own system, with its own grammar, semantics, sounds, even symbols.

But more significantly, it was its own way of reading, writing, and thinking. There are ideas and concepts unique to Filipino that can never be translated into another. Try translating bayanihan, tagay, kilig or diskarte.

Only recently have I begun to grasp Filipino as the language of identity: the language of emotion, experience, and even of learning. And with this comes the realization that I do, in fact, smell worse than a malansang isda. My own language is foreign to me: I speak, think, read and write primarily in English. To borrow the terminology of Fr. Bulatao, I am a split-level Filipino.

But perhaps this is not so bad in a society of rotten beef and stinking fish. For while Filipino may be the language of identity, it is the language of the streets. It might have the capacity to be the language of learning, but it is not the language of the learned.

It is neither the language of the classroom and the laboratory, nor the language of the boardroom, the court room, or the operating room. It is not the language of privilege. I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections.

So I have my education to thank for making English my mother language.

This incident should serve as an eye opener to all of us Filipino. We think that the article is striking because the honesty on the sentences was too realizing. Also, parents should also teach their kids other than what the tutors and teachers can do, as parents are the ones who is the best person who can teach kids about their roots. That his own heroes died for their country, own language included.

UPDATE: mb.com.ph reinstated James Soriano's controversial article


  1. put*ng*na naman niyan. kung magtext pala sa driver eh "sundo na" lang ang laman? bastos, hindi man lang nag-po-po.

    g*ga din malamang nanay niyan.
    pati mga classmates niya na puro complain sa Filipino subj.

    kapag ako ang tindera eh hindi ko pagbibilhan yan. at pabababain ko iyan kapag ako ang jeepney driver.

    kakasira ng araw, naku!

  2. Sayang ang pinag-aralan nitong batang ito!...di nya alam ang insultong idudulot ng article nya!..ignorante at manhid sa pakiramdam ng ibang tao..kawawang bata! akala nya ang pagiging fluent sa english ang basehan ng pagiging isang edukadong tao! Maling mali sya! utak biya talaga! dayuhan sa sariling bayan...hindi sya makaka-survived sa labas ng bahay nya mlamang magulpe o mayari sya sa mga lansangan pagnasiraan sya ng sasakyan!..kawawa naman!

  3. You've spoken like a child who was brainwashed by your parents thinking that speaking English is for the rich.You have forgotten that you are Filipino no matter how much you want to deny it. I am a filipino raised in America where English became my language but i have not forgotten my roots. I am proud to speak my native tongue of Ilocano and Tagalog. If you are here in U.S. and you said that to me and other proud Filipinos, trust me you will catch our fade where your jaw will be shut with wires. I blame 25% on you and 75% on your parents for your ignorance. I hope one day you will empty your cup and start appreciating your own culture instead of idolizing others. You should be ashamed of yourself and i pity you..

  4. " I may be disconnected from my being Filipino, but with a tongue of privilege I will always have my connections." - I feel sorry for you dude, I think you got some real issues to look at and address it on your own, besides, you don't need help from anyone since you already have your "connections" right?

    Piece of advise, do your real homework first. It doesn't mean just because you're good at writing while using the english language doesn't make you some guy who knows everything about the use of "Tagalog". How old are you and what have you done for your country? Oh yeah, my bad, you're still a student.

    Damn, I just wonder, why did MB even published this article in the first place?

    Guys naman, we all know we're a FREE country and we have DEMOCRACY and FREEDOM OF SPEECH and all that but we should also be RESPONSIBLE and do it with RESPECT.

    Nuff said.

  5. James Soriano is a product of ignorance, stupidity, and outright dumb@$$-ness.To answer his baffling predicament:

    bayanihan - cooperation
    tagay - drink-up
    kilig - flattered
    diskarte - approach

    Tanga ka, James!

    Tangi*a ka. I am the first Filipino in the University of Maryland who was chosen among 3,800 Americans graduating that day to have the priviledge as the featured student speaker for the 2009 Commencement here in Washington DC area. Out of 3,800 Americans who were recipients of Bachelor's Degrees, Master's Degrees, and PhDs. Pero gago ka kung sa tingin mo salita ng mga maralita ang tagalog. Tanga ka pala eh, kahit girlfriend kong taga Colombia at mga pamilya niya natututo ng Tagalog dahil para sa kanila katulad ng Espanol ang lenguahe natin. It resembles their mother language so they have so much respect that such a language exists in Asia.

    Kung sa tingin mo salitang kanto lang ang Tagalog, tanga ka. Hindi ka pa siguro nakakalabas ng bansa. Hindi mo pa siguro nababasa ang mga matitinding literatures ng ating mga ninuno. Ang bagsik, ang sarap basahin, at napaka henio ng banat (ng diskarte).

    Tanga ka, James. Tanga ka. In behalf of the Filipino Culture around the world and the Washington DC area, we'd like to express to you: "TANGA KA"

  6. masaklap.
    isa sa mga dahilan kung bakit tayo hindi umuunlad ay kulang ang paggamit sa sarili nating wika. ito rin ang dahilan kung bakit tuluyang nawawala ang ating kultura. tandaan natin, ang wika ang unang hakbang upang maisapuso't maintindihan ang kultura ng isang bansa.

  7. I pity you JAMES SORIANO, mayaman ka ba talaga? ... or, trying hard elite? from your looks? ... naka-awa ka.

  8. Sino nga ba si james soriano? Siya 'yong batang pinapag-aaral para sana malinang ang kanyang kaisapan, ngunit sa halip ay pinag-intirisan lang ang ibinibigay na baon araw-araw para maka-panood lang ng pilikulang inglis. Sya ang batang pinapag-aaral sa mamahaling eskwelahan, pumapasok sa eskwela pero walang natotonan, 'ika nga "physically present but mentally absent". Isa pa, may pera naman pala sila pero bakit siya nasa ateneo lang! Kung ako ang magulang nya sa HARVARD o sa CAMBRIDGE ko sya papag-aaralin. At kung ako sa'yo james, ang aaralin ko ay hindi salitang aleman sa halip ay espanyol o kung hindi naman ay salitang pransiskano. Alam mo ba na hindi ka "in" kung pupunta ka sa kanluran o sa europa, kasi ang inglis mo sa mga lugar na nasabi ko ay hindi naman maiintindihan. Ni call center sa pinas ay wala sa'yong tatanggap kasi inglis lang ang alam mo pero hindi mo alam kung ano ang responsibilidad ng trabaho mo. You're insane, james. Most likely more that a hairstrand away from being sane. Tomado usted, mono? Prises vous, le senge? Kuha mo, unggoy?

    Jan Uno - Aix les Bains

  9. ang masasabi ko lang sa'yo James, PLASTIK at TANGA ka mula sa simula na gawin mo tong article na to hanggang sa maipost.

    Bakit? Kunwari ka pa, aminin mu man o hindi, MAS MALAKI ang naitulong ng lenggwaheng Pilipino sa buhay mo na hindi mo nakikita ang ganda ng naidulot neto sa'yo. Isipin mo...Ay! T A N G A ka nga pla, hindi mo maiisip yun..

  10. James Soriano is a jerk. Period.

    He's got a point but still he's an asshole that needs to to learn how to respect. Filipino still counts as a language and English is not the language of the learned but a language of globalization so everyone should learn it. But learning it doesn't makes you on top of everyone else.

    Religion? He might be doing well with it but if forgotten how it teaches respect then he better get his ass kicked real hard.

    So you need to speak in Filipino to talk to the poor and real citizens of Japan, Poland, Iraq and any other countries? I doubt that they'll understand. There's the hole to his crappy entry.

  11. i bet your one of trying hard to be on the top...
    guys remember SHAIRA LUNA? she meant to be scientist pero tignan nyo ano ginusto nya? photography?.. soriano wala ka pa sa bilang ni SHAIRA LUNA!!! mas maganda story nya kesa sayo!

  12. Siguro kulang lang ang kaalaman nitong si James Soriano sa kulturang Filipino kaya masyado niyang minaliit ang nakagisnan nating lengwahe.

    Siguro din ay isa siya sa mga dayuhang Espanyol sa kadahilalang ang tingin niya sa ating mga Filipino ay mga "Indios".

    Para pala sa kanya, kelangan niyang matutong mag "tagalog" para maka survive at para maka utos sa mga katulong, magpasundo sa driver, makabili sa tindahan, at hindi mabugbog sa kalye.

    Dapat sa Amerika na lang siya namuhay at nag aral kung "chore" lang pala sa kanya ang ating wika.

    Haayyy! Samantalang kaming nandito sa English speaking country ay maligayang maligaya pag nakakakita ng mga kababayan dahil mas masarap mag usap sa "tagalog" kesa inglis...

    Sana lang maging sensitive ka sa mga susunod mong artikulo...kung meron pa....

  13. kung sa ibang bansa man siya ngayon sana iban nang bumalik sa Pilipinas..para kung sa amerika man siya tumanda sa home for the aged siya mamamatay.ingrato ka james soriano,ni meyoyong..sa tagalog wala kang kwenta wala ka sa ayos..bastos ingrato.

  14. I want to hear him speak English, his mother language... I bet he doesn't blend the words and has a bad intonation....

  15. Kudos to James Soriano, you hit the nail right on the head. It's time to knock the Tagalogs head so that they will wake up in their nightmare. Here is something to wake them even more.