Guild to English for Filipinos

Guide to English for Filipinos, Common Mistakes

There are many books and articles on English for Filipinos this is in no way a guide to learning the English language, it is more pointing out common mistakes some Filipinos make.

Common Mistakes

  • The most common of all the mistakes is the belief that the English language is from the United States of America.
  • British English is slang.
  • Filipinos speak English with a neutral accent.
  • Hey what’s up is a greeting.
  • English should be spoken through the nose.

The English language is not from America.

First we must point out the English language is not from the United States of America. In fact America does not have an official language, it is nearly 400 years since the Pilgrim Fathers landed in America and in that 400 years they have not been able to come up with their own language. As the Philippines has well over 100 languages and some that are no longer used maybe you could sell America a language as they can’t come up with one for themselves.

Yes most Americans do speak English, but ask any Englishman and they will tell you American English is not correct, Americans use many words incorrectly, pronounce words wrong and spell words incorrectly.

A clue to where the English Language is from

The biggest clue to where the English language is from is the fact it is called English and people from England are English. The English are not called English because of the language they speak they are called English because they come from England.

History of the English Language

We won’t go to deep into the history as it will bore you, but the history does need pointing out.

English has been spoken in the form of Old English in England since 550–1066AD but some of the words in the English language predate this.

English is a mingle-mangle of languages and dialects spread over many hundreds of years.

The Celts were the first to leave their mark on the English language when they arrived in Britain around 500BC.

Next it was the Romans in 43 BC they stayed in the British Isle for about 400 years and because of it Latin words entered the language.

In 449AD Germanic tribes called the Angles, Saxons and Jutes started to arrive in Britain and with them came the dialects that formed Old English.

Finally the Norman conquest of 1066 also added many words to the English language.

Sometime during the Hundred Year War 1337-1450 the vast majority of England’s population started to speak Middle English.

It is far more complicated than this but it is enough to give you a basic understanding of how the English language came about.

There is one more date you need to know and that is 1620 that is the year the Pilgrim Fathers arrived in America and set up the first permanent colony, you can see from this that it is impossible that the English language started in America.

British English is slang

Filipinos often say to us British “you are so slang” please stop and think how insulting that is to us English. would you like it if a foreigner told you your Tagalog was slang? You would find it very insulting. So stop and think before you say it as it is not a good way to start a friendship in any form.

I suspect what Filipinos mean when they tell us we are slang is we speak with an accent they are not used too, the answer to this is listen carefully and you will understand what they are saying, the same way us English have to with many Filipinos when they talk English to us. It also is not easy for us British to understand some of you because of your accent.

Filipinos speak English with a neutral accent

There is no such thing as a neutral accent everyone speaks with an accent. Probably the closest you will hear to a neutral English accent is News presenters on the BBC and I have never heard a Filipino speak English like a BBC News presenter.

I believe this myth came about for 2 reasons firstly some call centres claim they teach their staff to talk with a neutral accent, they do not they teach them to speak with an American accent that is stronger than most Americans speak. When I was in the UK I would talk to call centre agents and with in 10 seconds I would know they were Filipinos.

The second is when people speak they do not hear their own accent and also don’t notice the accent of people who sound like them. So it makes people think they do not have an accent.

Filipino Accent when they speak English.

There seems to be 3 main accents for Filipinos when they speak English.

One is an American accent but far stronger than most Americans speak. Another is the same accent they speak Tagalog with, this is the hardest for us British to understand. Then there is what I call the nursery school teacher accent as it sounds like they are talking to young children, I suspect this is because it is as a young child in school they learnt to speak English.

Please don’t get upset by this as we have already said everyone has an accent, because you can’t hear it yourself does not mean you do not have an accent. 

Hey what’s up

Americans might say “hey what’s up” as a greeting but it is not a greeting it is a question. Say it to a British person and they are likely to say “nothing is up” or they might start telling you about their health. In English “Hey what’s up?” Is inquiring about somebody’s health or state of mind, it should only be said to people who look ill or depressed.

It does not matter if “hey what’s up” is used as a greeting by an American or a Filipino it makes us British cringe.

English should be spoken through the nose

I hear a lot of Filipinos that talk English through their nose, one girl who asked me to help her with her English, said her English teacher told them English must be spoken through the nose, this is not correct and made her sound like she came from Texas, which is not good as people from Texas have a terrible accent.

There are nasal sounds in the English language but not all sounds should be nasal most are not nasal. You might also come across some English that speak very nasal but this is their regional accent most English speakers do not speak through their nose.

We should make it clear that these mistakes are not made by all Filipinos.

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