English Proficiency in the Philippines

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Because English is so widely spoken, it has often been referred to as a "world language", the lingua franca of the modern era, and while it is not an official language in most countries, it is currently the language most often taught as a foreign language.

The history of the English language really started with the arrival of three Germanic tribes who invaded Britain during the 5th century AD. These tribes, the Angles, the Saxons and the Jutes, crossed the North Sea from what today is Denmark and northern Germany. At that time the inhabitants of Britain spoke a Celtic language. But most of the Celtic speakers were pushed west and north by the invaders - mainly into what is now Wales, Scotland and Ireland. The Angles came from England and their language was called Englisc - from which the words England and English are derived.

Approximately 375 million people speak English as their first language. English today is probably the third largest language by number of native speakers, after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish. However, when combining native and non-native speakers it is probably the most commonly spoken language in the world, though possibly second to a combination of the Chinese languages (depending on whether or not distinctions in the latter are classified as "languages" or "dialects"). Countries such as the Philippines, Jamaica and Nigeria also have millions of native speakers of dialect continua ranging from an English-based creole to a more standard version of English.

The Philippine-American connection has undergone considerable changes since then. Today, English - the means the Americans used to teach us via the mass media, the arts, social, business and political interaction - continues to be a strong thread that binds the two nations. The Spanish language, meanwhile, has been relegated to a college elective and to private gatherings of wealthy clans of Spanish descent. Why has English become so easy to learn and so easy to use in the Philippines? A major reason is that the Americans were once our colonizers and continue to influence our everyday lives in many ways. Another reason is that for most Filipinos, English is not seen as a foreign language. In a country of 60 million people who speak no less than 8 languages, English is a second language. In some areas, English is more popular than our official national language. For a select few, it is even a first language. It is not unusual to see Filipino children responding to and speaking English words long before they learn these in school

According to Philippine statistics data released on March 18, 2005-six out of ten persons aged 5 years and over can speak English. Among household population 5 years old and over, 63.71 percent of them can speak English. NCR (81.75 percent) was the highest across regions followed by Ilocos Region (73.75 percent), CAR (70.99 percent), and Central Luzon (70.12 percent). The lowest was ARMM (29.44 percent). On the other hand, there was a relatively higher proportion among females (7.39 percent) than males (5.61 percent) with academic degree holder who can speak English.

Usually, by the time the child enters elementary school, he or she has built a vocabulary of English that includes body parts, names of animals and objects, action verbs, simple adjectives (dirty, good, bad), polite expressions (please, thank you, I'm sorry), nursery rhymes, and simple questions (What's your name? How old are you?) For most middle and upper class Filipino children, English begins at home with adults who use English or through snatches of English words and phrases heard over the radio and on TV. To the Filipino child or, at least, one who has grown up in a home where English is often heard and spoken, English is not an alien tongue. Filipino children may not understand the nuances of the English language, but it's there and it's theirs to manipulate. English is familiar and, better yet, user-friendly. Anybody...
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