Over at Manolo's blog, a lively and substantive discussion on whether to use English or Pilipino as a medium of instruction . As of this writing *, especially interesting are the comments by 'Blackshama' and 'Iniduro ni Emilie'.
Blackshama commented on teaching and learning science in the vernacular.
First, he makes a good point on aiming for the right level of English proficiency based on one's professional goals and requirements.
"I agree that if one would like to go into a science career one has to master English. But not all citizens would want to become scientists. The level of English competency should match their career needs. Service workers should at least master to a level equivalent to IELTS band of 5-6. Academics at 8.0. Those who feel English is not for them at least should have studied basic English. Now since a lot of people believe English will make them more competitive, many would try to attain a band 6-7, like many nurses do."
As a practicing scientist, he gives the following tips on how to teach science in Filipino:
"Also for science teaching in Filipino, scientific terms in English with Filipino counterparts may be used. Velocity = bilis, acceleration = arangkada. Latin and Greek terms should remain as is to preserve their exact meaning. While some of the Latin terms have counterparts in Spanish, our linguists should be able to offer advice if we would adopt the Spanish terms. During a period of transition it may be permissible to use the English words per se." (I strongly agree with the last sentence. He then cited a passage teaching Evolution which i found very readable.)
Indiuro ni Emilie, for his part, provided excellent insights (complete with illustrations) on improper and oftentimes unnecessary translations of math into natural language (whether in English or Filipino) which is worth quoting in full [all emphasis mine]:
"there goes the errors in translation.
in the everyday languge context, yes! but in the language of mathematics: not necessarily!
consider: what is 1/2 of 12?
equation: 1/2 x 12.
operation used: multiplication
question: dumami ba yung twelve?
consider: 1 - -3 = 1 + 3
operation used: subtraction, which turned into addition
question: nabawasan nga ba ang 1?
my point: math has its own language. the natural language is often used only to help build our understanding of the concepts made intricate by the mathematical language. often it is the natural language that impedes the understanding of the language of math. but we can’t help the use of it because that’s how our learning processes are governed. but certainly there are natural languages that make for better support in concept building.
consider example 1. often the danger among filipino math teachers is to use the word “times”, as in 1/2 times 12, when in fact, it should be read one half of 12. in plain filipino: ano ang kalahati nang 12? in the language of math, 1/2 x 12 is the semoitic representation, not the semantic reading of the problem. that’s how complicated the language of math is to begin with. and this has to be explained in english? “of”? that that preposition come natural to us?
as to djb’s exercise: “Three and three fourths divided by six point two equals?”
am sure what you have in mind in the natural language translation. what you’re missing out is that it can be translated pure and simple in the semiotic language of math as: 3¾ / 6.2 = ?"
Oo nga naman.
Update (04-28-2007 11:51pm): Big Mango believes the whole issue is a waste of time. I indicated my disagreement in his comments section. While he may be comfortable with learning Math and Science in English, studies by our educators have shown that majority of students are not in the same position.
Update (04-30-2007 7:50pm): It turns out that Blackshama has a blog where he has posted his take on this issue. (Hat tip: Manolo)
* April 28, at 2:04PM, Philippine time