Recently, some sectors of Philippine media went on a frenzy condemning the bad, âcarabaoâ English of some public school textbooks written by Filipino authors. Their reaction was perfectly understandable, of course, for what parentâeven if not a journalistâwould want his or her child befuddled by a textbook that claims that âThe rain and storm are needed to snuff out the heat in the air,â that tells pupils to âJust remember this acronymâDOCSiShQACNMN to make it easy for [them] to remember the order of adjectives in a series,â that asks âDonât you think it would be funny to see a monkey pick guava with its tail?â and then answers itself with âHow funny!â, and that explains bad weather as that condition when âStrong winds blow the rain inside the clouds. Bits of water break up causing electricity and lightningâ? Indeed, for the salvation of the new generation of Filipinos not only from bad English but from outright simplemindedness, our education officials should withdraw such textbooks from circulation without delay and replace them with semantically competent and truly educational ones.
Now that we are at it, however, perhaps we should also ask an important corollary question: Is Philippine media criticizing the bad English and semantic incompetence of some public school textbooks a case of the kettle calling the pot black? To put it more bluntly, is the English of Philippine mediaâparticularly the major daily newspapers and the TV networksâbetter or not any worse than that of the average locally written public school textbook?
The good news is that yes, the English of the major Philippine broadsheets and domestic TV programming is still way above the quality of public-textbook English in terms of overall grammar, semantics, and basic logic. This much I can say based on my readings of the major broadsheets and my (admittedly limited) viewing of local English-language TV programs during the past week. I would say that in general, the news stories and features of the major broadsheets are written and edited well enough, and the live reporting and program anchoring of the TV networks spoken with above-averageâsometimes admirableâEnglish diction and semantic finesse. If I were an English professor, Iâd probably give their overall English a B+.
The bad news, though, is that in my readings of the major broadsheets, I found a significant incidence of bad or questionable English usage and, in some instances, sizable pockets of atrocious English. As might be expected, I found most of the badly written and badly edited stories in the inside pages, although one or two sometimes would land on the front page itself. This indicates that their editors are perhaps inordinately devoting their attention to their front pages and neglecting their inside pages, which sometimes run very badly written stories that show telltale signs of no editing at all. From the looks of it, Iâm afraid that if Philippine print media donât watch out and police their English more rigorously, they themselves might eventually go the way of the bad-English public textbooks that they are criticizing now.
I started this media English-usage watch in mid-June of 2009 to encourage the national newspapers and TV networks to be much more vigilant with their English, whether in writing or editing their stories or when enunciating them during broadcasts. I trust that by reading the reports and critiques in âMy Media English Watch,â not only the media organizations but you yourself could learn an overlooked or forgotten lesson or two in English grammar and usageâand, every now and then, perhaps in Logic 101 as well.