‘Nose bleed’ is an expression you soon hear as an expat when mixing with Filipino friends or the family of your spouse or girlfriend.
Many of your Filipino acquaintances will make an effort to speak in English with you, assuming you as the foreigner, are from an English speaking nation. However, don’t be at all surprised after thirty minutes or so if they revert to speaking in their regional or national tongue. Occasionally, the odd Filipino will make zero effort to speak in English in your company.
I noticed this within a few short weeks of arriving on the shores of the archipelago. Every time I was socializing surrounded by Filipinos all would speak in English for a time before reverting to Ilonggo; the language of Negros Island also known as Hiligaynon. Except for one guy, who flat refused to talk in English.
After a few months I decided to query this phenomenon in a most pleasant way. Laughing and joking with a smile on my face, I asked two of the family group about this. They laughed and simply said, “Nose bleed”.
Essentially the expression is used whenever Filipinos encounter somebody that speaks English fluently. Alternatively, it is used by Filipinos when they encounter something difficult like an exam, an interview, when trying to solve complex problems, or when reading a document containing technical words. Examples of those types of documents would be those found in the medical or legal professions where English is the lingua franca.
Personally, it does not faze me when experiencing the sudden switch from English to the native tongue. I know of one expat who finds it annoying and even interprets it as a sign of rudeness. I don’t agree with that – it’s simply a Filipino thing just like surfing Facebook on their cell phones even during a meal! Vive la difference!
Filipino or Tagalog?
The use of language in the Philippines is an interesting subject. For example, from my own reading I am still uncertain whether Filipino or Tagalog is the official language of the country. It depends on the source of your information.
And, did you know that there are some 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines, depending on the method of classification?
It also appears that the subject of language is capable of causing spleens to vent. A recent article in the Inquirer titled “Filipino is no longer Tagalog” by Marne Kilates, deals with the evolution of Filipino, the national language, since it was proclaimed as the basis for the development of the national language in 1937. Much of this piece is about a misconception among Filipinos that the national language is “out to kill [off] the native and regional languages”.
In the same article, Almario, one of the prominent defenders of the national language extolled its virtues owing to it being a “living language”. The article then goes on to explain in detail about the history of the Filipino alphabet (abakada) with its addition of consonants such as F and V. Then later as Rizal added the vowels E and O to the native 3-vowel, 17-sound vocabulary the argument runs that abakada was “no longer ‘pure’ Tagalog”.
It was the 1987 Constitution of the Republic that first called the national language Filipino. It also added 8 letters to the abakada so it became more “inclusive of the sounds occurring in the Philippines’ other native languages”. This marked the change from the Tagalog/Pilipino abakada to the Filipino “alpabeto”. Almario concludes with the proposition “[T]hat’s why the Filipino language is no longer Tagalog”.
Venting of Spleens
The venting of spleens was to be found in the comments section of the article –
Bull! Filipino is still Tagalog, pure and simple, not this kind of stupidity fostered by Almario and his gang. What are the sounds this megalomaniac is talking about? KWF has no strategy/program for developing Filipino. The F and V sounds and the orthographies they are developing for the other languages do not make Filipino. But the structure, the syntax, the vocabulary of Filipino should define the national language. What words, idiomatic expressions, phrases in the other languages have been incorporated in Filipino? For one, where is balay that is common to Ilokano and other Visayan languages?
Followed by –
Listen to UKG or TV Patrol for a minute or two and you'll be amazed at the words they have introduced into Pilipino, new words like “problemado”, “tensionado”, “inorderan”, “klnumpirmahan”, etc. I suggest the anchors and support personnel take some time to read “Florante at Laura”, “Banaag at Sikat” or “Ibong Mandaaragit”. It's a shame.
It all reminds me firstly of why Latin is now a ‘dead language’; secondly it is also harking back to the days when the ‘language police’ in England used to wring their collective hands at such Americanisms as “alphabetize”.
It’s what people who collect records do to their collection. Until relatively recently, British people would have just called that putting the records in alphabetical order, or having a tidy-up, but now many of them use this apt expression for it, even if it does come with that troublesome z on the end.
Anyway (if you are British, anyways if American) a living language, whether Filipino or English, has to be better than a dead one, even if it all gives us nose bleed!
If you would like to read the full article that inspired this post you can find it here.