KWF bares program for native languages in midyear report

MANILA – As the Filipino language continues to advance as national lingua franca and the official language of education and in technical and other areas of knowledge, the sole government language agency, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) bared a wide-ranging four-pronged program furthering Filipino’s development while targeting benefits for the other Filipino native languages.

In what amounted to a mid-year report of the language agency, KWF Chairman Virgilio S. Almario, who is also a National Artist for Literature, outlined the four-pronged program as being composed of the both ongoing and new KWF strategic actions in the areas of research, advocacy, translation, and intervention for endangered languages.

At the recent forum on a national agenda for endangered languages held in Quezon City, which is part of the mandate of KWF, full-time commissioner for the Ilocano language, Prof. Purificacion de Lima, elaborated on the four strategic areas. For research,

De Lima said that the re-strengthening and reorientation of language research is currently being undertaken in five areas, first of which is the production of Atlas Filipinas, a language map of the country, showing the status and location of the various Philippine languages. The first edition of Atlas Filipinas has been printed and distributed to LGUs and its new edition is being prepared with revisions.

Secondly, KWF is undertaking and overseeing the conduct of ongoing researches in the relatively new field of Linguistic Ethnography, which is a branch of  linguistic anthropology and is the interdisciplinary study of how language influences social life. It is a branch of anthropology that originated from the endeavor to document endangered languages, and has grown over the past century to encompass most aspects of language structure and use.

Third, and now in development, according to De Lima, is the Pambansang Gramatikang Filipino, or the New Filipino Grammar, which will update and expand on the old Balarila authored by Lope K. Santos, which is the basis for the development of Filipino and founded on Dr. Jose P. Rizal’s Estudios sobre de la lengua tagala.

The fourth program under research integrates language studies into the larger area of the national cultural heritage. In this activity, KWF is undertaking, together the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) the Registry of Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH). The United Nations specialized agency for education, science, and culture (UNESCO) defines ICH as the practices, representations, expressions, as well as the knowledge and skills (including instruments, objects, artifacts, cultural spaces), that communities, groups and, in some cases, individuals recognize as part of their cultural heritage. Such a registry is crucial for safeguarding intangible cultural heritage including endangered languages.

The second prong of KWF’s strategic actions for native languages is an advocacy program that targets young people and the new generation to encourage and provide them incentives to use and otherwise promote their native languages. It includes three major projects: 1) the Timpalak Uswag Darepdep, which is an annual high-school level literary contest; 2) iKAW, a Young Ambassadors of Language program and competitions where young people try to outdo each in program proposals for language. The winner’s program is granted adequate funding by KWF.

The last advocacy program is the Bantayog-Wika, involves the construction of unique, imposing, and symbolic language monuments designed by award-winning sculptor Junyee. The Bantayog-Wika completed in their respective localities include monuments for the languages of Kinaray-a, Mandaya, Kalingga, Pangasinan, Bikol-Sorsogon, mga Wika ng Mangyan, Tuwali, Ivatan, Tagalog Batangas, Ayta Magbukun, Binukid, Surigawnon, Ibaloy, Blaan, and Tiboli.

Translation is the third prong of KWF strategic actions for native languages. De Lima mentioned KWF’s huge and long-running translation project termed Aklat ng Bayan, which consists of the translation into Filipino and compilation of a Library of Knowledge of important works in the various Filipino languages. Already completed are works in Bikol, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Sebwano, Mëranaw, Waray, Kinaray-a, Hiligaynon, and English. Ongoing are commissioned translations for folk epics such Lam-ang, Ullalim, Agyu, and Darangën.

KWF’s final strategic action is most significant and timely for the year 2019 being declared by UNESCO as the Year of Endangered Languages. The language agency, under its program for the Intervention for Endangered Languages initiated in 2017 its first Bahay-Wika project for the Aeta Language in Bataan. In 2018, KWF hosted the country’s first International Conference on Language Endangerment (ICLE) at the National Museum. It was attended by international language and language endangerment experts from Europe, USA, Mexico, South America, and Australia.  Proceedings of the conference are scheduled for release.

All the foregoing activities are ongoing or in various stages of completion, Almario said. These are on top of the agency’s nationwide campaign for a national orthography or Ortograpiyang Pambansa (OP), Masinop na Pagsulat, and Korespondensiya Opisyal, under the general title of Uswag: Dangal ng Filipino, consisting of workshops for the national and regional language orthographies and their harmonization, or Armonisasyon, craft and style for good writing, and Filipino for government correspondence.

Almario also bared the language agency’s midyear strategic actions and accomplishments in anticipation of the month-long celebration of the Buwan ng Wika in August and as part of its implementation of its periodic medium-term plan or Medyo Matagalang Plano which KWF has for the first time regularly formulated and conducted for the national language.