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The future language of these islands, March 13, 1909

March 13, 1909, Saturday

The future language of these islands

That, according to Dr. Barrows, the director of education, is English. He says that “if we may judge by what is taking place in all parts of the globe, the Philippine languages will disappear from use”. Nor is the day far distant, in Dr. Barrows’ opinion, when the Spanish language here will have to yield the scepter it has so long held. He says: “The new generation, which will be foremost in the affairs of the Islands in another ten years, will not use Spanish for ordinary purposes and their influence will be decisive. It is rapidly ceasing to be the medium of administrative correspondence. Probably its longest official use will be as the language of the Legislature”.

To those who believe the spread and dominance of the English language in the Philippines anything but a “consummation devoutly to be wished”, and who favor a Philippine language, the director of education holds out some comfort but no hope. The only two “supposable ways” by which a Philippine language might be produced, he asserts, is first, “by selecting one and suppressing all the others” and second, by “thoroughly fusing all these (native) dialects retaining the best elements of all”. And both of these methods he dismisses as “visionary”, the first because Tagalog, which has been considered by some as the probable “ultimate Philippine language” is spoken by only 21 per cent of the Christian inhabitants of the archipelago and because there is no considerable expansion of the Tagalog people into new regions, and the second because fusion is impracticable. Amplifying this latter reason the director of education refers to the “shortsighted policy” adopted by Filipino scholars interested in the development of the Tagalog language. To quote: “In a chauvinistic effort at linguistic purity, they are trying to eject all words of foreign origin and to substitute circumlocutions or words of new invention. The policy adopted by Tagalog scholars for ‘purifying’ and perfecting their own speech spells its ultimate sterilization and death”.

The conclusions reached by the director of education may not be relished by those who should prefer to see either Spanish or one of the native dialects the general language of the archipelago, but they seem convincing and unavoidable.