CLOSE TO HOME| What about our mother tongue?

ONE time, I had a conversation with a friend who is a father of two, and our discussion revolved around mother tongue.

 Mother tongue is the language of the place where the child is born. My friend raised his concern about my children speaking in Bisaya. According to him, here in the Philippines, it is an edge if a child speaks in English. And so, I asked what edge he is referring to. He said that in this generation, children who can articulate ideas in English are mostly preferred by employers.

 I started thinking about his ideas. He is right, employers prefer applicants who are well-versed in English. But wait. My children are only four and seven. If there is one thing I want them to know, it is their surroundings and the language spoken around them. I have observed a good number of millennials who can really speak fluent English, just that. If I listen to the depth, I must say that something is amiss. I think it’s the depth that can be derived when one has a strong grounding to his/her environment. What I hear instead are echoes of the media; from Disney Channel, Extra Extra, TMZ, and whatnots. I can’t help but feel sorry for our country.

 I am mostly concerned about the children not meeting their mother tongue and being able to use it to express the innermost movement of their souls. By the time they reach middle school, they will start to learn English and other foreign languages. By that time too, they are capable of making sense of the foreign languages and use it in the right sense and context.

 My friend added that the children could be left behind by other kids. I asked, “Left behind with what?” He could not answer. I also don’t have an answer for that. I am not saying we should not let our children learn foreign language, I’m saying that teaching them our own will give them better sense for words as they grow.

 Anyhow, I told my friend that I subscribe to the idea of embracing our mother tongue first and later, of course, who can stop an individual from speaking a different language. I remember Dr. Macario Tiu’s article around a decade ago, it was published in a national broadsheet. The article said that if you observe closely, first world countries speak their very own language. And rightly so. A strong sense of identity will never let one forget the roots where one belongs.

 Our mother tongue has been spoken by our ancestors, long before conquistadors came and demonized them. If we look closer, this act of not letting the children use the mother tongue during their early years is telling them to forget our own derivation. I would like quote Anastasia of the Ringing Cedars of Russia, “Forgetfulness of our derivation will cause our civilization to perish.” What is wrong with our mother tongue? Nothing. To me, one way I can honor our ancestors is to speak our own language to my children. Underneath those words are hidden clues to their beautiful heritage.

 My friend laughingly answered that Bisaya lacks “panache.” I can’t help but laugh too, and, interestingly, he added, “Well, what’s more devoid of panache than a cat that tries to bark like a dog?”


Joan Mae Soco-Bantayan is a mother of two and a nurturer at Tuburan Institute. For questions, comments, and suggestions, please feel free to email her at or visit Tuburan Institute at

Posted in Opinion