Jose Carillo's Forum


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“A” is not for “atis”
By Sage             

I am a huge fan of Mr. Carillo and I wish that schools would make his books their formal English textbook! Of course, that would entail training teachers how to teach it.

I am so desperate that I have turned to FB and Yahoogroups and to writing to people I idolize but who don’t know me from Eve. I do this for my nephew, who, like most children, will believe school teachers more than me, an English teacher myself. I simply cannot accept these dang errors in our local textbooks!

I apologize because my ranting about this issue is so trivial compared to life’s more pressing needs. But if I don’t stand up for this, who will? Maybe someday someone with authority who is as passionate about uplifting our country’s standard of English education will see my point. It starts with the little things. We can’t keep teaching what’s wrong and pass it down from generation to generation.

Either the authors and publishers get their act together or I’m calling for a boycott of all local phonics books, including ABC coloring books. To think that the authors are from institutions like PNU, UP, Ateneo, etc.  I don’t blame them though. They are writing books based on what they themselves learned before.

I just went through my nephew's phonics textbook for the next school year and I am absolutely livid at what I saw, although I had already expected it. It just never fails to send me into a rage.

Every English book will always start with the vowels, and the star of them all is the letter A. The “miseducation” of Filipinos in English has its roots right here.

The short sound of A as heard in “ant” and “alligator” is not the sound you hear in “America,” “aquarium” or “atis.” Reread this statement and digest it well—authors, teachers, and publishers!

First let me tackle “atis.” The A is pronounced “ah,” which rhymes with the “A” in “father.” It’s a totally different sound from the short “A” in “apple.” The letter “A” is pronounced in different ways. There’s the short “A” in “alligator,” the long “A” in “apron,” the “ah” sound as in “father,” the schwa sound as in “assignment,” the “A” as in “fall,” and silent in “cocoa” (this is not pronounced “kokwa” please).

Is it so hard to understand that “atis” is not even an English word? Based on my asking around and my checking with Google, “atis” is “sugar apple” or “custard apple” or “sweet sop.”  I have seen so many local books, some even finding their way in other countries where Filipino teachers are employed, that say “A” is for “Atis.” Nooooooo!

Then there’s “aquarium.”  We do not teach Filipinos one of the most important and vital features of English pronunciation—the SCHWA. It is a neutral vowel that sounds something like a quick “uh” found in unstressed syllables. This fish tank is pronounced “uh-kweh-ree-yium” because the first syllable, composed of a single letter “A,” is unstressed.

All vowels can represent the schwa sound. Examples: “A” in “about,” “O” in “lemon,” “E” in “listen,” “I” in “pencil,” and “U” in “supply.”  So, essentially, they are pronounced as if the vowel is not there (lemn, lisn...)

To make it less technical, listen to how native speakers of English pronounce “America” and “apple.” The two letter “As” in “America” are never pronounced like the “A” in “apple.”  

In the world of linguistics, there is now such a thing as World Englishes. Philippine English is what educated Filipinos speak. (Sorry jejemons, you are not included, ok?) It includes words like  “CR” (never use this abroad to mean the toilet because nobody outside of us says that), “presidentiable,” and “holdupper,” which are not words that exist in the vocabulary of native English speakers.

Well, I cannot accept “atis” as Philippine English because it’s not an English word at all.  And to say that the beginning sound of “aquarium,” “assimilate,” “accordion,” and “amazing” is the same as that of  “animal,” “abdomen,” “anthill,” and “amnesty” is going against a strong pronunciation rule in English. Time for a trip to the ENT for a hearing test, hello?

Hey, so what?  Pronouncing America like “ahh meh ree kah” with all the letter “As” sounding like the “aaaah” you utter for the dentist doesn’t change the meaning and you are still able to communicate properly, right?  Sure, I get that.

How we do things in our daily lives to establish contact and make ourselves understood is a practical act we perform. We are free to prefer fluency over accuracy.  In the end, it’s really all about getting the message across and I am all for that.

However, books are formal records of knowledge, and teaching is a profession that should label as blasphemous incorrect information being passed on to the succeeding generations. 

Last semester I was asked to evaluate a textbook. My groupmates chose a book DepEd had mandated for use in public schools. What I saw made all the blood in me go against gravity and rush to my brain like boiling lava about to be spit out by an awakened volcano. I can forgive the minor errors, but the following I cannot:

These word pairs are labeled as homonyms, santisima!

grip/gripe                              eat/it               three/tree
branch/brunch                       for/fur              are/hour

Two pairs need explanation:

Nobody cares, I know. But I’ll continue to write about this. In a country with a population like ours, someone, for one reason or the other, may see the point I’m making.  We cannot take on such a casual attitude when it comes to publications. We just CAN’T!

At least, please get the word out that “ATIS” IS NOT AN ENGLISH WORD and does NOT have the same sound as the “A” in “APPLE”!!!

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