Monday, March 05, 2007


Have you ever been pleasantly surprised that a great product is even better than you thought? I needed to free up some space on my hard drive a few days ago and a tip from MacBreak Weekly podcast, (episode 31) "rm -r *" suggested that I'd free up some unused language features of my Mac using a free tool called monolingual. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Mac OS X 10.4 supports “Tagalog”.

For many people Tagalog is the Filipino language. Academics of course would argue that “Tagalog” is merely a dialect, a simple subset of the language “Filipino” and that Filipino is an amalgamation of a lot of our dialects and Filipino is an official language of the Philippines.

How much of the world uses Tagalog for it to be supported by a global product? Common wisdom says that there is no money in such a venture. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Windows, which is the dominant desktop Operating System on the planet even supports the language. I don't remember if Linux supports Filipino as well.

Too bad though, most Filipinos don't even know of the Mac and those that do, think of it as an expensive computer that won't let them do work or play in a world dominated by Windows. The Mac in many people's mind is a luxurious BMW and the PC is a cheap Toyota. In a land where it is very common to have a pirated copy of Windows and arguably there are people who can only afford a PHP20,000.00 computer, the Mac is priced out. The entry level Mac is priced double that amount.

When compared to running a Linux PC and a Mac, Linux is a cheaper alternative that gives you half of the features a Mac would.

In a land where cheap entry into the world of computing is prevalent, few consider that maybe the Mac is the cheaper of the three. When one considers building a PC, a decent one using the cheapest parts and buying Windows and Office and all the software you'd need to even start being productive, you'd of course find yourself paying for the same amount as you would a basic Mac. Add that to the headaches of viruses and unnecessary ads, trojans, worms and viruses; 3rd party application messages, and Windows' own quirks, one would think the Mac is a hands down winner.

On one hand, Linux is cheap and equally if not more powerful than the Mac, on the right hands that is. I'm still constantly amazed how unfriendly Linux is for the desktop. And yes, I've been running Linux since before the turn of the century and it had been my desktop of choice long before buying a Mac. Don't get me wrong, I believe Linux can meet the needs of the PHP20,000.00 crowd. I believe it can deliver better user experience and flexibility than Windows would and it would be amazing to deploy for many government offices and private organizations. It just takes a lot of work to deliver it and when one considers the time and effort to do so, wouldn't that be equivalent to purchasing an entry level Mac?

Have I switched my user interface to Tagalog. No. I can read and write in Tagalog just like any Filipino, but to be honest, I'd rather leave my computer in English. Is it because there are no Applications written in Filipino? Honestly, I think using English. I write in English and I'm more comfortable using English as a means of communication.

Does that make a lot of Filipinos like myself less of a Filipino?

For a lot of Filipinos, it is quite easy to switch from both English and Filipino. We interchange their use in our conversations. In fact you'd quite easily hear politicians being interviewed on the radio or on television, quite comfortably interchanging and mixing the languages. You might find yourself doing the same thing.

A few people would argue that we should just use Filipino, nationalistic pride and all that. Filipino lends itself well in poetry--- just listen to a lot of Filipino songs. It is more evocative. Then it begs the question, do we have books in Filipino? Insightful ones, beyond the common sound byte of the day, beyond our national publications? Wasn't our constitution, the venerable bedrock of our Republic framed in English and then translated in Filipino? Doesn't our government use English more often than Filipino in pleadings, in laws, in directives, etc?

Our republic is a land where the humble trash collector can understand, if only the tiniest of spoken English. I don't mean to belittle, I just want to be honest. If he'd be charged in court, would he even understand the charges if the document was written in English? For that matter, does the common Juan dela Cruz understand our Constitution at all, even in its Filipino form?

I liked the fact that for a relatively obscure language like “Tagalog” to be included in a list of worldwide languages supported by an Operating System that only has 6% market share, is pretty amazing. We have more eligible voters than that, I believe. Seriously, too bad not many people would appreciate the Mac, its beauty and simplicity.

In a land were we have myriad dialects, as many, if not more than the islands of our archipelago, communication is a vital tool to understand the beautiful rich diversity of our race. The philosophical debate over computing platforms aside, a computer is just a tool and, a device for communicating to the world. Does it matter therefore if our race uses either or both English or Filipino in our daily lives? Only when there remain Filipinos in the Philippines who can't understand English, when it is the primary language for academic study, books, insight, laws, policy and just about anything that can make their lives fuller and richer. Isn't being proficient in both a matter for our educational system to address?


jhay said...

wow! more reason for me to get a mac. If I could afford one that is.

Paskalino Semirana said...

Considering that you're "more comfortable with english", the article's grammatical errors are conspicuous man.

Cocoy said...

like where?

Rizalist said...

Filipino, which used to be called Pilipino, is a "language" only in the sense that Esperanto was a language. This is because Pilipinos (who used to be called Filipinos!) don't actually speak the artificially constructed language which is now officially called Filipino.

Filipino is, like Esperanto, an officially defined language with an artificially concocted percentage of Tagalog, Cebuano, and progressively smaller percentages from just a few of the major dialects spoken throughout the archipelago. It is still maintained I believe by a language institute in Diliman somewhere.

Tagalog, Pampango, Cebuano, on the other hand, have had books and primers written about them since Spanish times, which document their "natural" evolution and distribution amongst the Pinoys.

Maybe that is why the Mac sticks to Tagalog, though I could be wrong and there is some other perhaps stranger reason.