Omg. I am embarassed by my poor grasp of my very own language. I can explain. I picked-up and used Bisaya growing up. I use it to communicate with my family, friends and people in general. I did not learn it formally in school nor did I read Bisaya literature so my fluency is practical and conversational. English was what I learned in school. Like most Filipino students, I was exposed to English grammar and literature lessons. If I want to express emotion, I speak in Bisaya. With letters and formalities, English is the language of choice.
Last year, my mom brought a copy of a Bisaya magazine and I could not “read” it. There were too many words that were “deep” or seemed “antiquated” (but they’re not!). I realized that my vocabulary was SUPER limited. I could not believe that I spoke and grew up with a language but could not even appreciate an article or literary piece. Even this blog entry is in English. So I have taken up the challenge of expanding my Bisaya vocabulary with the help of Bisaya magazine and blogs that publish Visayan poems.
For a better idea about dialects and languages, listen to this podcast episode (Aug 6 2019) which mainly says that “The difference between a language and a dialect is mostly meaningless and entirely political.”
During the time of writing the below paragraph, my understanding of the differences between dialect and languages was simplistic, based on what info I was exposed. I was also conflicted of the idea that if dialects were varieties of language so would they not be the same thing? Like…Bisaya is a dialect but it is also a language.
Anyway, I’m pretty happy about learning from this podcast and sharing it with you!
“What’s a language? What’s a dialect? Really it’s about how people speak in relatively small communities from place to place and it varies a bit as you move along from place to place. That’s what language is really like” -John H. McWhorter
Also here’s a bit of insightful Reddit convo:
I once had a bet with my unknowing boss who said Tagalog was our language and the rest are dialects. I insisted we had 8 major languages and he vehemently disagreed. Of course I only bet when I’m sure. His was a common mistake.
Most people think of Philippine languages, that are not Tagalog, as dialects. Dialect is a variation of a language. Bisaya, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Pangasinense, Kampampangan, Ilocano are not variations of Tagalog. Always, I want to correct that mistake but don’t bother. Let me satisfy that itch:
The Philippines is an archipelagic country with diverse languages. We have 8 major languages: Tagalog, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Waray, Pangasinense, Ilocano, Bikol and Kapampangan. Major only because these are spoken by huge chunks of the population. We actually have more than eight languages.
Those 8 languages are not mutually intelligible. I will not understand my grandfather if he speaks to me in Pangasinense. He will not understand my Bisaya either. Those are two different languages.
If I speak in Kagay-anon with someone who is from Bohol, we will be able to understand and have a conversation despite differences in pronunciation or a few terms because these are dialects of Bisaya. Just like a Batangueno will understand a Caviteno if they converse in their own dialect of the Tagalog language.
In the end, I won the bet and got myself a free bottle of wine.