Fugly Filipino English

My body was pretty much knocked out of whack with a virus that couldn’t decide whether it was going to be a cough, a cold, or a sore throat. In any case, having a semi-feverish state of mind made me start noticing the little things. Well, actually, just one thing in particular.

Keep Refrigeration After Open Because we’re in a global economy, boxes with text like “keep refrigeration after open” are a common sight in Philippine supermarkets. Oddly worded printed English like this has come to be known as “Engrish” and is often found on printed material from Asian countries. The wrong grammar and/or spelling usually occurs because of unfamiliarity with the syntax of the English language.

I’ve come to expect this kind of English from countries which don’t have a strong background in the English language. I also thought most educated Filipinos would have a good background in written English. I was wrong. Filipino English is fugly (frightfully ugly).

A free flipflop? Just one? People say that Filipinos writing in English tend to use more words than is necessary to get their point across. See the copy in this ad, for instance. Aside from the glaring error of offering just A flipflop (I get one free! My other foot goes barefoot?), it reads “a very comfortable footwear that’s just begging to be worn wherever you wanna go this summer!” Allow me to demonstrate the power of the strikethrough tag: “a very comfortable footwear that’s just begging to be worn wherever you wanna go this summer!” That’s just one way to go about editing this chunky dependent clause.

my grammatical eyes! Maybe it’s just me being anal about correct English, but I wouldn’t trust a bank with an ad that reads: “outstanding features that tops those of all others.” Let’s play Spot the Error, shall we? Give up? Subject-verb agreement: it’s either the features top all others, or the feature tops all others.

Whenever I read something ungrammatical, I pause and think “Is the meaning I’m getting from this the same meaning the writer meant to convey?” Back in college, I heard of professors who’d give up on reading essay exam answers when the grammar is atrocious, and they’d just flunk the poor student. Proper English grammar is important if you want to make your message clear for readers (or viewers, or listeners, depending on your medium). Otherwise, you’re just wasting their time.

It all began IN a beach I think I’ve grown out of touch with what’s being printed locally; there used to be a time when grammatical errors were a rarity in the newspapers and magazines I read. These days I can’t read through two sentences before I get hit with a whopper of an error. Sometimes I can’t even make it past the headline. I try to read on, but when there’s an error of this magnitude preceding the text, the rest of it usually gives me a headache.

I know I’m no saint in the matter; there are times when I use ungrammatical sentence construction in informal English, and I do have occasional unintentional lapses. At least I try to eliminate the fugly from what I write (I reserve the right to edit my posts for grammar and spelling errors).

Our Asian neighbors are scrambling to learn English, some even coming to the Philippines to be tutored by English-speaking Filipinos. (Yep, those Koreans aren’t tourists. You think they come to Manila for the smoggy weather?) Call centers are hiring those proficient in English (here’s an example of who they’re NOT hiring). International business is conducted in English (unless you’re French, Chinese, or Japanese). The language of scholarly reading and writing is primarily English in our universities (and Miriam Quiambao would have won Miss Universe if she had a better grasp of English! Oops, non sequitur…). No matter how pundits may decry using English as detrimental to nationalism, good English is simply damn useful.

The standard of education in English has deteriorated in the Philippines, and it’s now palpable in what we produce. This isn’t meant to put anybody down. I don’t think people who make grammatical mistakes are necessarily dumb. I don’t think that people who can’t speak or write English are dumb. It’s just that I think if you’re going to use English, use it well. What can I say? I’m a perfectionist.

ADVICES? By the way, if you couldn’t detect what was wrong with these pictures, I’d advise you to buy a book on English grammar. Please, it’s for my own safety — I don’t want to have to put my own eyes out. (The word “advice,” by the way, is used for single and plural. There is no such thing as “advices.”)

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