PROUDLY, we say that our English proficiency is an advantage over many peoples of other Asian countries. But have you noticed how badly ordinary young people speak and write English these days?
In my small way, I try to give employment opportunities to young people from poor families who, despite having only finished or reached high school, exhibit potential, have strong character and are willing to learn.
I reason that a high school education should be enough. After all, I went to public schools and feel that I received good education.
But what do public high school students learn now?
Outside of my social development work, I also co-manage a restaurant. It is here where I often encounter manifestations of how our young people are miseducated or missed their education especially in the English language.
Besides the common mistake of interchanging “p” and “f” and the failure to correctly pronounce the letter “v”, misspelling words, no matter how ordinary, tends to be the rule rather than the exemption. Sometimes, things get to be really hilarious that even if we do not want to laugh, we cannot help ourselves. Of course we correct them afterwards. It has become our desire to teach our staff simple matters like this.
How many ways can one spell “bell pepper”? We have encountered “bill peper”, “bel paper”, and “bill paper”. “Black pepper” has also become “block paper”.
Ordinary food items are misspelled. “Salt” is “solt”, “vinegar” is spelled as “venegar”, “beef” becomes “bif”, “onion” transforms into “union”, “cabbage” is “gabbage”, “hibe” (dried baby shrimps) miraculously becomes “heavy”, “noodles,” no matter how often the word is seen in advertisements, is “nudles”, and “ham” is spelled as “hum”.
Quite often too, I think that people have the tendency to shortcut spelling. “Sauce” is “sos”, “buy” as “by”, “cheese” is now “chiz”, and “shrimp” becomes “shrim”. I do not know if the proliferation of the “jejemon” language has anything to do with this.
Spelling things as pronounced (or at least how they think things are enunciated), is also common. That’s why “lettuce” is “letus”, “rice puff” becomes “rice poff”, and the “lumpia wrapper” learns to rap and transforms into the cool “lumpia rapper”.
Sometimes, things that only need to be copied are still wrongly spelled. “Onion crisp” becomes “onion crips”, “pale pilsen” is “pale philsen”, and “merlot” gets to be “merlout”.
Funny phrases are also encountered often. “One liter” is spelled as “one letter”, “feel potatoes”’ for “peel potatoes”, “brewed coffee” becomes “broad coffee”, and “put label and date” written as “lagyan ng level at date”.
Yes, this is not just about spelling but general knowledge and language skills. What are our public high schools teaching our poor students?
I notice that ordinary high school graduates now are generally bad in understanding and following even the simplest of instructions. Their attention span is short and attention to details is also quite poor. Problem-solving skills virtually do not exist, and the desire to short cut things is quite prevalent.
Definitely the problem starts in grade school. It is about how our public education system is working or not working. If our young people’s educational foundation remains weak, how do we expect them to fare as adults?
How do we expect them to compete for gainful employment in the real world if simple life skills are not taught and learned? How will they break the shackles of poverty if they are shortchanged by our educational system? How do we expect the youth to transform into responsible, intelligent citizens without sound education?
Education is a right guaranteed by our Constitution. It should not be a privilege available only to children of moneyed families.
As things are, children of poor families are already deprived of this right. Going to school is not the same as getting an education. It is what happens inside schools that determines if our students are being developed into responsible, reasonable, and intelligent men and women of this country.
In our restaurant, dining staff are to inform guests that we are on cash basis only. We have this diligent, honest and responsible staff who, one night was attending to a group of foreigners. Before they could order food, he smilingly said, “Sir, before you order, we need your cash!”
He now works in the kitchen. He is a good person but he missed his education.
We need a public education system that works.