ONE August, the Buwan ng Wika, Sen. Vicente “Tito Sen” Sotto 3rd asked reporters to translate into Filipino/Tagalog the following sentence: “Sa mga pangulo ng Pilipinas, pang-ilan si Erap Estrada?”
Head-scratching followed Tito Sen’s poser. I’m a full-blooded Ilocano so I had a valid excuse why I couldn’t translate it. However, even the reporters from Tagalog provinces like Quezon, Batangas, Laguna and Cavite were unable to give any satisfactory answer.
This proves that a number of Filipino/Tagalog words or phrases are very difficult to translate in English. Some translate literally. A friend recently described Secretary Mar Roxas as “no arrival.” That’s English but it sounded Greek to me until he explained that “no arrival” is the literal translation of the Filipino/Tagalog idiom “walang dating.”
Language is just a tool for communication so it should not matter if a sentence is interspersed with English and Filipino/Tagalog words as long as its essence is comprehensible. Here’s an example: “What do you call a person who puts the left shoe on his right foot and the right shoe on his left foot?”
Answer: “Mali shoes.”
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It’s undeniable that Filipino/Tagalog has made great strides since its use as medium of instruction in the elementary grades. Why, the kids in my barangay in Lupao, Nueva Ecija are now conversing in Tagalog/Filipino. Oh well, at least they have retained their Ilocano accent.
There are some lawmakers, however, who raise hell whenever a colleague delivers a speech in Filipino/Tagalog on the floor. Off hand, I could name former Rep. Pablo Garcia who always stood up to protest the use of such language in plenary and even threatened to interpelate using Cebuano.
Indeed, despite the inroads made by Filipino/Tagalog as a national language, there are still some who have difficulty understanding it. Thankfully, modern technology has broken the language barrier by providing automatic translation of what’s posted, especially in social media.
The translation offered by Facebook, however, is so out of this world that one gets more confused after reading it. Here are samples:
“Mag-ingat kayo sa police na ito, hindi naman naka uniform, ang tigas ng mukha, taga ‘Tondo’ lang ito. Sa UNO PRISINTO sa ibat-ibang street sila ng Tondo nanghuhuli sa gabi.”
FB’s automatic translation: “Caution you against police. These are not uniform, the hardness, from only neuropathology at uno prisinto. Across the street they neuropathology nanghuhuli at night.”
Here’s another one:
“Sa mga mahilig gumamit ng Magic Sarap, it’s not good for the health. Dahil sa ingredients na ginamit sa Magic Sarap, dahil maaring maging cause ng pagkakaroon ng sakit sa puso at iba pang sakit.”
FB: “The like to use a Magic Delicious, it’s not good for the health. Because the ingredients used the Magic Delicious. Because may be the cause of having a heart disease or other pain.”
An attempt to make a public service message understandable to non-Filipino/Tagalog speakers falls flat on its face. Here goes:
“Alam niyo ba ng tama ninyong timbang? May taong mukhang payat pero ang taba ay nasa bilbil. May taong mabilog ang mukha pero payat naman.”
FB translation: “Know is said to ideal weight? Someone looks thin but fat is on bilbil. Someone mabilog the face but thin there.”
Here’s a classic, courtesy of VP Jojo Binay’s spokesman, Joey Salgado, right after Secretary Edwin Lacierda described Binay’s “True State of the Nation Address” as “charot.”
“Tungkol naman po sa pagtawag nyo na ‘charot’ ang True State of the Nation Address ni Vice President, sorry po at hindi ako maalam sa beki speak. Pero nagkonsulta ako sa mga marurunong at ito ang sagot nila:
“Imbey ang fez ni Scretarush dahil trulalu ang spluk ni VP. Pero ang SONA ng pangulo, chaka ever sa madlang pipol dahil hindi trulalu.”
Now, this “beki speak” is already head-spinning but Facebook’s automatic translation makes it even more so:
“About please, please call ‘charot’ ang True State of the Nation Address by Vice President, sorry po and I maalam with beki speak. But I’m on nagkonsulta marurunong and they answer:
“The fez imbey secretarush trulalo because the spluk by VP. But the zone, chaka president ever in the audience because trulalo pipol.”
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Oh yes, on this Buwan ng Wika, I want to greet a blue-blooded Bulakeño, veteran newsman Bert de Guzman of Balita, who celebrated his birthday yesterday. While studying Journalism at UST, Bert won a number of awards in the Tagalog literary contest sponsored by The Varsitarian, the school’s official student organ of which I was once features editor and news editor.