People who are multi-lingual or knows more than one language certainly have advantages in many aspects. They appear to be more competitive in the job market and gain more social and cultural opportunities. However, others believe that growing up with too many languages can have an adverse effect on English proficiency. Is this true?
Nothing wrong with using more than one language
According to world English editor for the Oxford English Dictionary Dr. Danica Salazar, Pinoys can still learn the English language efficiently without compromising the other languages they know since childhood. During a recent webinar, She encourages us to embrace being multilingual. She emphasized that it is okay for us to do code-switching or language alternation. Thus, knowing how to speak Filipino or any other dialect is not a hindrance to learn English. Dr. Salazar added, “The things that we do like code-switching, these are normal. We shouldn’t [be like], ‘Oh, it’s threatening the purity of the language’ or whatever, that code-switching is bad. We do these things because we are multilingual people.”
This language expert also pointed out that we Filipinos usually grow up speaking two, three, even four languages. That is not a bad thing. She continued, “Being multilingual enriches us, so we should embrace it.” After that, Salazar explained that being a native speaker of English does not have a connection with learning skills. People learn things like writing an academic paper or doing well in a job interview through academics. She added, “If we want to be effective users of English, we have to teach them how to do these things in English. So take away that obsession of you having to speak English all the time.”
As an example, Salazar used her own experience in learning Spanish. She said, “I was able to write my undergraduate thesis in Spanish after four years of studying when the only time I ever spoke Spanish was in the classroom. So, it is possible.”
English as the only medium of instruction?
There are suggestions to bring back English as the sole medium of instruction in the Philippines. This is to push students to improve their proficiency in the language. However, Salazar thinks that it will cause more problems. For her, the solution is “to find effective ways to ensure that we are harnessing the multilingualism of our students.”
She went on, “We need to kind of decolonize our way of thinking towards languages and find a way of bridging languages into the classroom in a way that puts effective communication above just rote learning.” She thinks that the education system here should reexamine its materials, its curricula, and its teaching methods. Salazar is hoping that discussions like this about learning languages will continue so it can lead to solutions to these challenges.
Do you guys agree?