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The Coños and their Taglish

My friend Emma showed me the article of her beloved son, Ariel Llanto who passed away last December, 9 2005. Ariel had hepatosplenic gamma delta T-cell lymphoma, a rare and particularly aggressive disease and lived barely one month after the diagnosis. His April 27 article on the Inquirer’s Young Blood was about Leaving Manila. As a Cebuana who studied college in Manila during the mid seventies, Ariel ‘s observations was evident during my time.

I started to uncover social nuances at school. I have vivid memories of roaming around the campus, trawling for evidence of the disparities, in particular, between the way Cebuanos and Manileños spoke. I winced at the sound of the Tagalog accent and words finding their way to English statements. Many girls — and, to my horror, guys — spoke like Kris Aquino.

An amusing breed, known as ““coños,” acted as if they didn’t know how to speak straight Tagalog, opting to communicate in a mangled mish-mash of Tagalog and English (““Taglish”).

Although Kris Aquino wasn’t around during my college days, I was in for a culture shock at the way Manileños spoke in Taglish with a distinct Tagalog Accent. How come Cebuanos didn’t mix Cebuano and English in one sentence? There is no such thing as “Cebualish“. People would gush with admiration at how we, Cebuanos didn’t have Cebuano accents whenever we spoke English. The Cebuanos from UP or Ateneo studied from top-notch high schools in Cebu with the same high standards as those of exclusive schools in Manila. So what made the difference? It was only much later that I found out that the taglish originated from the “yayas” (caregivers).

I resolved that if ever I had kids, they should speak straight English and or speak in pure Tagalog. No Taglish.

I grew up with parents who spoke Tagalog to each other but spoke to us in English. (Mom was an English teacher who taught English Literature and Speech.) The maids spoke to us in Cebuano. We siblings understood Tagalog and Cebuano but preferred to communicate in English. Cebuano was spoken in its pure form whenever we communicated with our helpers. Not that we were being elitist but how else could we talk to them. Our school was also strict in the use of the English Language. We were fined or penalized if a single dialect word was interspersed with our conversation. This rule started since I was in first grade and I just learned to speak English in its pure form.

When the girls were born, I decided that they should be both fluent in English and Tagalog. My husband and I spoke to the kids in English . I instructed the maids to speak in Tagalog without any English words mingled with the dialect. It worked quite well because the maids were more fluent in Tagalog. Inspite of the bilingual language at home, my eldest daughter struggled with Pilipino during her Grade school years. She thought in English but couldn’t express it in Pilipino. Sometimes I don’t know where I went wrong. The second daughter didn’t face that problem though. My son had the unfortunate or was it fortunate luck to have a “yaya” that spoke perfect English with the right diction and grammar. She’s an Igorot native and I was told that English is taught by the missionaries in her hometown in Benguet. My son never really knew how to speak Tagalog . He would get upset if I spoke in Tagalog . How strange.

Ariel studied in the same college as my daughter. Thank goodness my daughters don’t speak like Kris Aquino. I know that English is spoken differently in every country but I believe that the Tagalog and English should not be mixed in one sentence. I also understand that ““coños,” can speak in straight English but that the taglish is just a social norm among themselves. However, it also isolates them from the rest of their schoolmates who come from the provinces.

Is there hope for the English language in the Philippines?

11 thoughts on “The Coños and their Taglish”

  1. Hello,

    Good observations, as I suppose could only be articulated effectively by a non-Tagalog. I can empathize, since I too speak Cebuano, though I grew up also in Cagayan de Oro. Thus, speaking our own brand of Cebuano called binisaya or bisaya.

    But quite curious about the use of the word, coños or coño in that quoted piece. From my Cebuano mom, who spoke Spanish, we learned that that was a cuss word, same with Puñeta. And cono without the Spanish n is even worse, because it refers to a woman’s anatomy.

    And the Kris Aquino reference, I could not get. Is she simply using that particular speech to cater to her masa audience or is that really her? I would think that aside from a very privileged background, remember she also spent a good part of her growing years in the US.

  2. Amadeo: I believe the meaning of the coño has evolved to another meaning. coño was a derogatory term for rich snobs during the 1800’s

    Kris grew up in the Philippines. I think she only stayed in Boston for 4 years when her father was in exile. I am not sure why she speaks that way though.

  3. hmm not for anything but sometimes there really isn’t any other way to perfectly express what you want other than in taglish. i admit to speaking in taglish quite a lot, and it has been somewhat of a problem here in philadelphia when i speak to my classmates — my words are sprinkled with “ay” or “eh” or “noh” probably because it’s always been that way for me growing up. there was one instance when i was teasing an american friend coz she offended another friend of ours and i made the mistake of blurting out “hala!” simply because i could not express that sentiment in english. funny thing is i’m pretty horrible at tagalog (and i do wish i were better at it).

    anyway all i’m really saying is that although it is not necessarily a good thing, taglish is becoming all the more common… and just coz someone speaks taglish, does not necessarily make them coño. most of my pinoy friends here at penn are very down-to-earth people, yet we do admit to lapsing into taglish a lot..

  4. Cris: coño is the stereotype associated with taglish. True, not all who speakk Taglish are coño . It’s just they have an unusual accent.

    The taglish is just so common among tagalog speaking Filipinos. The hala, oy, eh, noh is alright. It’s just one does not hear Cebuano mixed with English in a sentence.

  5. I think speaking in Taglish is a matter of choice. People can really do away with taglish if they will just be conscious about it. It is a fact that speaking in taglish hampers the progression of fluency in both languages and i guess it is the product of our school system’s attempt at bilingual education and the influence of pop culture and domestic media, where the dominant language is Taglish, It has become the standard rather than the exception.
    The kind of things that we see on television promotes the bastardisation of the English language. We accept what the media feeds us. As with kris Aquino, she is a part of the local media and has been subliminally contributing to the decline of not only the English language but Tagalog as well

  6. @arden- I think Taglish is alright only if our English is within acceptable levels.Thus when we need to speak straight english to Americans or British or whoever, we won’t be an embarassment..

  7. Language is living and not dead. It changes every generation. English is notorious for borrowing words from many languages.
    For example, you never say “croissant” the way the French pronounce it when you’re at a bakery. Taglish may be irritating, but it’s an expression of the English language. Tagalog has borrowed so many words in English now that you dont even hear those words that originated in Spanish anymore. You dont say “Sa Disyembre ang pasko”. People normally would prefer to say “Sa december ang Krismas”. During the Spanish times, we borrowed so many words from Spanish that many Spanish speakers in first hearing tagalog an in recognizing the words of spanish origin immediately assume that filipinos are fluent in it. Anyway, relax. Teens and college students in the U.S. dont exactly speak correct English. These taglish speakers in Manila are just trying to be cool and taglish is just part of manila’s pop culture. In time, they will realize that you can’t really get a job talking like that. Not unless you’re in showbiz like Kris Aquino!

  8. There are taglish and there are taglish. “Let’s make tusok-tusok the fishball” is the kind that I don’t think is a byproduct of our bilingual education system. I believe, it is the kind that bastardizes both English and Tagalog. On the other hand, “Buksan mo yung door.” is the forgivable kind.

    I once attended a launching of a book in fisheries management whose author was Dutch who lived in Miamis Oriental for a long time. One comment of the critic was the difficulty he had in reading the book because of its Dutch-English. Years later, I was surfing through the net and again encountered articles describing Indian English. I realized, even if a Pinoy speaks English fluently, it will still be Filipino English.

  9. I believe speaking in Taglish isn’t a sin, just be sure you use Filipino and English properly. So that means, “make tusuk-tusok the fishball” is definitely a no-no. I will consider, “Tusukin mo ang fishball”, though.

    I speak in Taglish but I try my best not to bastardize the two languages. For instance, I use Filipino the way it should be. Sentence pattern is usually: verb-subject (Inaantok ako), and not subject-verb (Ako ay inaantok) – which is the typical English sentence pattern (I am sleepy).

    The sin that I am very guilty of is using the i-, like “i-push mo nga ang cart!” I talk like that when I need to speak ASAP, and I haven’t processed the Filipino word for push.

    Dianes last blog post..Pond’s Bloggers Party: It’s About Being Your Best

  10. The existence of “Taglish” is one of the reasons our students are getting dumber by the day. No matter how much mass media glorifies it, “Taglish” is never “sosyal.” It is STUPID. When you want to speak in English, please speak in straight English. When you want to speak in straight Tagalog, please speak in straight Tagalog.

    You know what’s the bitter irony in this “Taglish” issue? The students who pass themselves off as cool by speaking in Taglish today are the OFWs of tomorrow.

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