Kids, Cartoons, and the English Language or the Filipinization of Sponge Bob, et al.

As a teacher, I am very much aware of how wanting my students are when it comes to English Language proficiency.  I bet no educator or parent out there would argue with me about this lamentable fact.  I find this pretty alarming because the thrust of our education today is toward globalization and of course, this cannot be made possible if our graduates do not possess the necessary communication skills.  I won’t point fingers as to who is to blame for this breakdown because I too, am responsible and I am not proud of the fact that although I am highly proficient in the language, I did not succeed in rubbing off the same level [in some cases, not even close] of mastery to my students.  I must admit, something is definitely wrong with my methodology. On the other hand,  it is also undeniable that there are so many factors to be considered  to arrive at a conclusive generalization [i.e. laying the blame totally on educators].

Television, in isolation to other factors,  is one important medium in language acquisition.  Through the years, television’s role in shaping how we think, say, act and feel has become more and more prominent.  TV has redefined our cultures, both positively and negatively.  But TV’s impact t on children cannot be made more protuberant.  And one of these influences is on language acquisition.

TV psychologists [read: creative teams] have zeroed in on cartoons to attract children, its more eminent clients.  It is undeniable that the popularity of cartoons among young people [some not to so young even], is of global proportions.  More so in the Philippines.

As a little girl, I grew up with Sesame Street, Voltes V, and Superman–all dubbed in English.  Since English in School was highly scientific and formal in approach, these shows provided me with a whole new way of learning the language. And the rest they say, is history.

Now that I have kids of my own, I do not discourage them from watching cartoons.  But to my surprise, things are a bit different these days.  Most educational cartoons [Blue’s Clues, Dora the Explorer], and the more entertaining ones like Sponge Bob, are now in Filipino.

Please, I do not mean to sound unpatriotic but, my big question is WHY? The TV station’s preamble was for kids to learn Tagalog. What if I lived in Luzon? Why do I need to learn Tagalog when this is already my first language?  I was born and raised in Mindanao but I can understand, write and speak  [disregarding the Visayan accent of course] Tagalog/Filipino as well as anybody, without having to watch any Tagalog cartoon [or soap or movie] as a child.  Of course aptitude is a big issue but as Filipinos our aptitude for our own language is reltively high. And the bigger issue is that  most of our college courses are offered in English.    Thus, how do we prepare our children to become say, call center agents if they struggle with conversational and situational English? As a parent/English language educator, I find this disturbing indeed.  Very few children these days have developed a sustainable reading habit so we cannot depend so much on this medium to acquire and master English.  Technology [which is to me a double-edged sword] is, whether we like it or not, the best alternative. But if we cannot even depend on technology to see our kids through, then English will remain a difficult task for them.


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