Philippine English is legitimate, says Oxford English Dictionary editor


Posted at Aug 20 2020 07:10 PM | Updated as of Aug 20 2020 08:35 PM

MANILA -- Contrary to what many Filipinos think, Philippine English is a legitimate variety of the English language, according to an expert.

Dr. Danica Salazar, world English editor for the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), stressed that Philippine English is "not slang, not wrong, not carabao English, or any other derogatory word that's been used over the years."

She said that just like British, American, Australian, and Singaporean variants, Philippine English plays an important role in the historical development of the language, which OED seeks to document.

"What OED does is it tells the history of the English language through the development of its words, and that story is not complete if we don't tell the part that Philippine English plays," she said in a recent webinar organized by the Philippine Embassy in Spain.

"Philippine English, just like American English or British English, or Indian English or Singapore English, are all part of the same story," she added. "We all have a role to play in this. Philippine English has as much of a place in the history in the lexicon of the English language as all these other varieties."

According to Salazar, adding Philippine English words to OED takes them months of work, but was quick to reiterate that "it's worth it."

"These words like 'bongga' or 'kilig,' you might find them silly but they do say something about our culture and they are worth spending hours and months researching," she said.


Salazar also pointed out how Filipinos have their own unique way of speaking in English, and that this is something that should be embraced.

She noted how some people try to sound American or British, under the impression that this is the "right" way to communicate using the English language.

"I've been living in the UK for seven years now, and nobody's ever told me, 'I don't understand you.' And I speak with a totally Philippine English accent," she said.

"The accent and the words that we use, these are a reflection of our identity, of our culture," she explained. "And adapting languages to suit a communicative means is something that everyone does. Americans adapted British English, Australians did the same, people in New Zealand do the same. So why can't we do the same?"

Salazar went on to share that the Philippine accent is "one of the most understandable accents in the world," saying this is "one of the reasons why our call center industry is so successful."

"We don't need to sound American to speak English correctly," she stressed, adding, "We don't have to waste our time in the classroom trying to twist our students' tongues in shapes that they can't make."

Watch Salazar talk about Philippine English starting at the 1:04:14 mark in the video below: