Why We Don’t Have Filipino Editions

As most of you know, I live in Manila, which is the capital of the Philippines. It just occurred to me that maybe some of you wonder why we don’t have Filipino editions of books. I mean you’ve probably seen several foreign editions of your favorite books – French, German, Brazilian, Japanese, Chinese, etc. but you’ve probably never seen a Filipino edition. This is mostly because English is the medium of instruction in schools around here, which is the effect of the American colonization way back in the late 1800s to early 1900s. Americans came to the Philippines and established public schools and they sent Americans to educate Filipinos. We still have those public schools but the education isn’t as good as the ones provided by private schools. From grade school to high school to college, most of our subjects are taught in English except for a handful such as Filipino and certain history classes. So for those of you who wonder, English books are widely distributed over here and foreign books aren’t translated to Filipino. I never gave much thought to not having Filipino editions of certain books. I wonder if there’s a market for it though?

My cousins from the States tell me that my English is different from theirs in the sense that it’s more formal. I guess that’s because I’m used to speaking and writing English in class. Although most Filipinos nowadays speak a mix of English and Filipino in their daily lives. It’s hard for me to speak in straight English but it’s also hard for me to speak in straight Filipino. I guess that’s the effect of growing up with two languages. If you follow me on Twitter, you would’ve probably noticed that I speak a mix of these two languages when I talk to my friends.

What about you, is English your first language? To the international book bloggers, do you read in English or are books translated into your local language?

15 thoughts on “Why We Don’t Have Filipino Editions

  1. I have wondered this myself. Thanks for writing this. I assume that a lot of the bloggers I encounter from other countries at least partially read in English because they blog in English. I wonder if they are the minority in their countries though and most people in their country read in their native languages.

    I actually had no idea that books wouldn’t be printed in Filipino. Would you enjoy reading more books in Filipino?

  2. Hey Carin, I decided to make a post since I know people are curious about international book bloggers. I’d love to know more about bloggers from other countries, I mean what the situation is over there.

    Hmm I can’t imagine reading the fiction books that I read in Filipino! I think it would be weird. I would imagine a lot would be lost in translation. LOL. I’m pretty used to English books.

  3. I wish there was a way to separate these two languages. I’m not saying ‘Taglish’ is bad. I just wish that Filipino can survive as its own language (with its own literature). Oh well, that’s just wishful thinking now.

    Btw. For those who can read Filipino, here’s a great opinion piece by Virgilio Almario about the problems associated with Taglish (Filipino + English).

  4. Pau, I know what you mean. It would’ve been great if we used more Filipino but then again I think one of the main problems with this is that we have local dialects per region (or per province) so a lot of people didn’t accept Filipino as the national language.

    I think you forgot to put in the link? 🙂 I’d be interested in reading that piece though.

  5. I did know you read a lot of English, but didn’t realize you don’t read any Filipino!

    I’m in the Netherlands and I read a mixture of Dutch and English books. A lot of foreign books get translated into Dutch, but if the original language is English, I often prefer to read the English – the translations aren’t always good.

  6. Judith, it’s because the books that I like are available in English (mostly young adult and fantasy) and they don’t get translated to Filipino.

    Aww really, the translations aren’t that good? It is better to read the original if you can so you can understand the context better. Especially with contemporary novels.

    • Translations: sometimes you can guess what the original sentence in English was, and it does not make good sense in Dutch. Or the translator translates something quite literally, but I know (because I lived in England for such a long time) that something different is meant (because it’s a sort of slang, or referring to some event or situation that the translator obviously didn’t know about).

      It doesn’t happen with all books, not at all, but still!

  7. Judith, oh I see what you mean. That’s what I was thinking of when I said that things become lost in translation. I doubt if they can successfully translate slang.

  8. English is my first language. My mom’s bf, Rey, is from the Phillipines. He speaks English when he’s talking to us. He speaks his native tounge when he’s talking to his family or friends. His family went back to the Phillipines last summer.

  9. Most of the things (not all of them) I am interested were written&composed in english and it takes ages before are translated into italian so I had to organize myself and improve my english.
    Must say that my spoken english is not great (neither is the written) but it radically improved when I moved to Dublin.
    I read lots of italian authors and watch lots of italian movies, I also keep a blog in italian 🙂

  10. Ashley, yay, you have a Filipino connection! That’s interesting. Have you ever noticed though that when your mom’s boyfriend speaks with his family and friends, there are a lot of English words thrown in with the Filipino? Unless he uses a different dialect, there are provinces here that have their own language.

    Emily, you have great English! I’m glad that you’re now able to read books directly in English and you don’t have to wait for them to be translated. I watch Filipino movies but sadly, I don’t read a lot of Filipino books. Oooh you have an Italian blog! Is it a personal blog or a book blog as well?

  11. Hi. I had the exact same thought and had argued this among some friends, so I googled it and found your site. I realized this a couple of weeks ago when I saw a Turkish friend who was reading a Paul Auster novel in her own language, then a Tom Robbins. So I asked others, one Japanese, Korean and Thai if they do have translated editions and they do. So, how come publishers never do translate them in our language? Quite disturbing, I thought – a result of colonialism, backed, indirectly, by capitalism.

    Having a number of dialects doesn’t have to be a barrier. I see it as an opportunity. Imagine a Harry Potter novel in Tagalog, Bisaya, Ilokano and others. More editions mean we can extend the target market, enrich our language and generate more jobs.

    I know translations can be tricky specially for grabbing the right expressed thought by the author, but we never tried. We’ll never overcome it if we don’t give it a shot. Besides, this is the primary concern of every translated text and finding ways to properly translate English text will also help develop our own (say, our social responsibility?)

    I know some, personally, prefer English versions since they bear the original thought, but the whole point of making these editions to reach out farther and get these wonderful stories to people who are more adept to their own.

    It may be a simple idea, but filling this gap/hole that is overlooked in our culture is absolutely a great idea. There is definitely a market for it. The only major hurdle is our nation’s mentality. It’s never too late, though.

    • Oh wow, such an insightful comment! I think it can stand as a blog post all on its own. You do have a point – I believe publishers don’t translate the books in local languages because they don’t think there’s a market for it, I mean they probably think that those editions won’t sell.

      I think it would be great if there were Harry Potter editions in local dialects. I’ll probably collect those even if I couldn’t speak the other dialects. I’m not sure if something like this should start with fiction books though. I know there was a movement for Filipino to be the official medium of instruction but it looks like it never pushed through. I’ve always been amazed that other countries study math and science in their local languages while we do it in English.

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