When I hear Filipinos Speaking English...

To Me, "Filipino English" Makes More Sense Than American English.


As I travel around the Philippines, I try to pick up bits and pieces of the languages wherever I go (Filipino, Bisaya, Bicolano, Aklanon, Ilongo...etc).  In the process, one thing has become abundantly clear:


English just doesn't make much sense. 


I say that, because basically all of the Philippine languages I try to learn make much more sense than English.  Somebody can show me a word that I've never seen before, and there's a pretty good chance I will be able to pronounce it correctly.  No, it's not because I'm some kind of genius, it's because Filipino languages are much more straightforward.  

As far as I know (and from an American perspective), "a" is  always pronounces "ah", "o" is always pronounced "oh", and "i" is always "ee" (as in "eel"...so in Filipino, "eel" would be "il")  It makes more sense, and it's so refreshing!

An Apology

Their English is so much better than my Bicolano - with students in Naga City
Their English is so much better than my Bicolano - with students in Naga City

So before I list the common English mistakes I hear my Filipino friends make, let me apologize for how ridiculous the English language can be.  Now that I've studied quite a few languages, I consider English to be one of the more difficult languages to learn.


It has silent letters, and for some reason "Elephant" is pronounced with an "f" sound.  The word "light" is a term to describe roughly how much something weighs, OR to describe the opposite of dark.  It is also a thing, as in "bring a light (flashlight, or torch) with you". 


To top it off, "light" it is spelled with a "g" and an "h"!!??  Hay naku!  So confusing!



It sounds funny to us when Filipinos pronounce the word "color", but when I really think about it, we Americans are the ones with a strange way of pronouncing it!


For some reason, we pronounce it (from a Filipino perspective) "koler"...though the "o" is more of a mixture of an "o" and "u" sound in Filipino.  I don't think Filipinos have a letter for the exact sound we use. 

So why do Americans pronounce the first "o" in "color" a certain way, and the second "o" a different way?  And why don't either of them sound like an actual "o"??  Haha.   Like I said, to me it just seems unnecessary.

 Helpful English Tips

Please accept the following tips as a helpful gesture - I don't mean for them to come across as complaints or annoyances at all.  I fully understand how frustrating and difficult American English can be.  If you have no desire to learn it, I don't blame you, and you can ignore this post


However, if you feel that English is a useful language throughout the world, and you want to learn more, read on.  Like I mentioned in previous articles, I find that Filipinos already have a very impressive grasp of the language.  These tips will just help sharpen these skills even more.


It is also worth mentioning that Americans have butchered proper British English, and I'm not even positive that all my suggestions represent "proper" American English.  You can add your thoughts in the comments if you'd like. 


Here we go!


Common Mistakes - the Prepositions of "ON" and "IN"



The "Standing Rule" for Taxis / Jeepneys / Buses...etc



This is the most common mistake I hear.  You should not say I'm getting on a taxi."  I may not be the first one to think of this, but I came up with a rule that seems to work (almost always). 


If you can stand up when you're riding it, then you are standing on it.  You can stand on the bus, you can stand on a boat, and you can stand inside of a train. 


Therefor, you can say:


"I am on a bus."


"I am on a train."


I am on a boat."


I am on a "plane." (woohoo, that rhymed!) 


(Note* you can also say that you are in any of these as well.  Both are acceptable.  That's because you can sit as well as stand)



If You Can't Stand Inside of it, You Should Use "IN"...


You cannot say the same for transportation that you can only sit in.  You can't stand inside of a taxi...so you should say:


"I am in a taxi". 


You also climb inside a jeepney, so you say:


"I am in a jeepney". 


In American English, saying "I am on a taxi (or jeepney) is incorrect.  So is saying "I got off the taxi".  Since you are in the taxi, you must get out of the taxi.  That is correct. Since you can stand in them, you get off a bus, boat, or plane.  Those are also correct. 


* top-loading  might be the one exception where you could could say you are "on a jeepney." :)


"I'm Getting Off The Taxi" = Incorrect   ("I'm Getting Out Of The Taxi" = Correct)



Months & Dates


Another thing I often hear is "I'm going there on January".  That is incorrect.  The only time you should use "on" in situations like this is when you are mentioning a specific date.  For example: 

I am going on January 13th". 

That is correct.   If you are mentioning only the month, you say:

"I am going in January". 

The same goes for when you say:

"I'm going there in 2015." 

Those are both correct.


I know it doesn't make sense.  For some reason it's just the way it is.  Haha. 

"I'm Going To Quezon City IN January" = Correct




Rankings & Awards


When I'm at competitions in the Philippines, I often hear the announcers saying "on first place is...." or "on third place is...)


As far as I know, this should always be:


"In first place", or "in third place". 


That is correct.  However, you can say to somebody:


"Hey, congratulations on winning first place!" 


That is acceptable.



"...and IN first place, Manny Pacquiao!" = Correct

Here is a dorky picture of me ON an island.  (In Boracay)
Here is a dorky picture of me ON an island. (In Boracay)



I often hear people say "I'm in the island", and I believe that is incorrect.  This one is a bit tricky.  You can use the "standing rule" for islands as well.  You should say:

"I'm on the island". 

The exception is that you can say:

"I'm in Boracay". 

Any city or place you are, you can use "in". 

However, the use of the word "island" is what seems to make the word "on" needed instead of "in".  So again, you can say "I'm on the island of Bohol", or you can say "I'm in Bohol".   For some reason you cannot say "I'm in the island of Bohol".  Basically, "island" = on


It's silly, I know! 


"Worst" & "Worse"



I actually saw a news article that Philstar just put out.  It's about the bad traffic expected on December 19th<-----*note the use of "on", and the specific date.)  In the article headline, they said something like "traffic will be at its worse on December 19th".  That is incorrect.


It's no wonder this mistake is common - if your own media is publishing it this way.  Just to clear it up, I can say:

"I feel worse than you do", or I can say:

"Of all of us, I feel the worst". 

"Worse" just means more than some people or things..."worst" means more than all people or things.  Both of the previous sentences are correct.


So I believe what they were trying to say in that article was "traffic will be at its worst on December 19th"...meaning it will be as bad as it's going to get (perhaps all year...or ever?) 

"The worst" = it cannot get any worse. 

"Worst" always has to have "the" in front of it, because it can't get any worse.  It's already the worst.  Hopefully that's not too confusing.  Haha. 



"I Am Worse Than You At Math.  In Fact, I Am The Worst!"  - Correct






There seems to be some debate about this one, but the way I learned and always use it is:


"Johnathan was especially proud of his math score." 


"Especially" in this situation could mean that he had other scores that he was happy with, but he was most proud of his math score.


"Specially" could be used like this: 


"I won first place, so they made a trophy specially for me."


That means it's a special trophy just for me, because I won first place.  I don't think you should use especially in that situation, because it implies that the trophy was made for other people, but mostly for me.  I believe that is incorrect.  If anybody has more info about this one, please do contribute!


"Fruit Shakes Are My Favorite, Especially Buko" - Correct

"Close The Light"


This is the ultimate example of Filipino English ....and for some reason, I think I've only heard Filipinos in the U.S. use it.  Instead of saying "turn off the light", they say:


"Close the light." 


I always wondered where this expression came from...maybe a time when people used candles, and had to cover or "close" them to extinguish the flame?  Any input on this would be greatly appreciated!



That's all for now...I hope you will accept this as my early Christmas present, because I really appreciate you all so much! Also, I do hope you all will return the favor when I ask for Filipino language help on the "I Dreamed Of This" FB page!


 - Nathan Allen


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Have something to add?  Please let me know! 



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