Spanish 101

I started taking classes in Spanish at the Instituto Cervantes, the Spanish language school and cultural center, located in Avenida Kalaw. Filipinos are fortunate to have this institution around, it provides everyone the oppurtunity to learn the Castillian language.

I have been reading Spanish text for sometime, although I could discern the meaning behind the words I feel that I am missing some important pieces. I am incapable of effective communication in Spanish. I realized that formal lessons is the right course.

I regret the fact that we removed Spanish subjects in our schools, It is a beautiful language, its part of our history and heritage – something that some popular history scholars would immediately dismiss, out of their nationalistic sentiments and the hate of everything that is Spanish.

The role that this language has played in our development has been annulled by our leaders in the past (both political & educational – an American manipulation) who views  it useless. Instead, we make English subjects compulsary for everyone – a foreign language who came to our shores less than a century ago.

We Filipinos owe so much from this language, it enhanced our way of life, gave us Catholicism – our faith, Education and all the wonderful things that was shared to us by Spaniards through this language. It is only fitting that we respect it as part of our culture and history.

Let not the ‘historia negra’ blind us, the Spanish era was not the dark ages, it was a transitional period were we progressed into a better way of life, having better working communities, civilized, God fearing, educated and in order. We have to start reading our history – the real history.

I’m pleased with what I found out in the Instituto, they have been seeing an increased in enrollment. They credit the call centers demands for Spanish representatives. I hope that in the process, the students would not only use the skill to increase their pay grade but find in themselves the splendor of the Castillian language and how important it was then to our county – and how relevant it is now for us Filipinos. As the Profesor said in one of the class, ‘I hope you’ll fall in love with the Spanish language just like I did, you’ll understand our history and how people was then through this language’.

I’ve always advocated that our educational system bring back to our schools the Castillian language, if its too much to ask, at least make it an optional subject. Students of history, like me would definitely be interested in taking it up – and all the other Filipinos who understands its true historical value.

According to Pio Andrade, Spanish was widely used althrough out the archipelago. Proof of this is the Chinese Filipinos of Binondo. He uncovered that most spoke fluent Spanish. The 1% theory of the late Bro. Andrew in his book is inaccurate. It was not the language of the aristocrats but of common folks too. Filipinos was widely using the language in different levels of proficiency, most having a working knowledge of how to communicate, in fact in Visayas and Mindanao – it was the language that would be understood when, for example a Cebuano would find trouble understanding a Waray, not the Tagalog.

Americans study French, and some other country still honor their colonial language by studying it. It is still being disputed how widely used the Castillian language was during the Spanish era, some has cited that the Spanish intentionally disallowed its teaching because they do not want the poor Indios to learn Spanish – this is not true, the reason why it was controlled (not totally banned) is to protect the country from the liberals and antimonarchs coming from Spain and the rest of Europe, which was a natural reaction from the Catholic and Spanish hierarchy.

They wanted to limit books and all the other types of communication that could have subversive liberal contents. They fear that it could create a movement in the islands that would seek to overthrow the Spanish leadership. 

In the end, the revoution did took place. If it was any consolation, it was the proof that Filipinos, was the most educated Asian of his time – thanks to the Spanish language.

Why Learn Spanish then?

Here are some exlanation Gerald Erichsen of provided:

Better understanding of English: Much of the vocabulary of English has Latin origins, much of which came to English by way of French. Since Spanish is also a Latin language, you will find as you study Spanish that you have a better understanding of your native vocabulary. Similarly, both Spanish and English share Indo-European roots, so their grammars are similar. There is perhaps no more effective way to learn English grammar than by studying the grammar of another language, for the study forces you to think about how your language is structured. It’s not unusual, for example, to gain an understanding of English verbs’ tenses and moods by learning how those verbs are used in Spanish.

Knowing your neighbors: Not all that many years ago, the Spanish-speaking population of the United States was confined to the Mexican border states, Florida and New York City. But no more. Even where I live, less than 100 kilometers from the Canadian border, there are Spanish-speaking people living on the same street as I do. Knowing Spanish has proven invaluable in speaking with other residents of my town who don’t know English.

Travel: Yes, it is perfectly possible to visit Mexico, Spain and even Ecuatorial Guinea without speaking a word of Spanish. But it isn’t nearly half as much fun. I remember about two decades ago — when my Spanish was much less adequate than it is today — when I met some mariachis on top of one of the pyramids near Mexico City. Because I spoke (albeit limited) Spanish, they wrote down the words for me so I could sing along. It turned out to be one of my most memorable travel experiences, and one unlike what most tourists have the opportunity to enjoy. Time and time again while traveling in Mexico, Central America and South America I have had doors opened to me simply because I speak Spanish, allowing me to see and do things that many other visitors do not.

Cultural understanding: While most of us can’t hope to learn the languages of more than one or two cultures other than that of our own, those that we can learn help us to learn how other people learn and think. When I read Latin American or Spanish newspapers, for example, I often find that I gain a sense of how other people think and feel, a way that is different than my own. Spanish also offers a wealth of literature, both modern and traditional.

Learning other languages: If you can learn Spanish, you’ll have a head start in learning the other Latin-based languages such as French and Italian. And it will even help you learn Russian and German, since they too have Indo-European roots and have some characteristics (such as gender and extensive conjugation) that are present in Spanish but not English. And I wouldn’t be surprised if learning Spanish might even help you learn Japanese or any other non-Indo-European language, since intensive learning the structure of a language can give you a reference point for learning others.


18 responses to “Spanish 101

  • nold

    I think that men like Recto and Joaquin did not really believe that the Spanish rule was that mythical era where the islands were transformed into a biblical paradise. What they believe in is that we became Filipinos and continue to be Filipinos because of our Spanish experience.

    Hispanophobia is a reality in our land, I’ve seen this being taught by professors and historians there. Most Filipino still have this Padre Damaso hang over but this we have to remember, if we see our hispano past as something irrelevant, not truly important, then we should cease to call ourselves Filipinos, do we have any alternative?

  • Benjamin de Leon

    To a certain extent I think I can understand why some of the people commenting chose to see this blog entry as something that is unpatriotic. After all when was the last time the grade schools and high schools, both public and private, updated their history books?

    Before raising hell and shouting “Unpatriotic!” and such it would be best, as Mr. Pepe Alas has wonderfully expressed in his comment, to know the entire truth behind our history and the role that Spain has played. Regardless if we were oppressed or not, their mere presence is part of our development as the people that we are now.

    Americans were taxed by the British without representation and were also oppressed but they still kept their language. The Australia’s first convict migrants were in fact shun away by Britain herself and thrown into a desolate place with nothing but their wits, but they kept the language of the very people who practically signed their death warrant and even, up to now, regarded the Queen of England as their monarchical figure head.

    I guess the point I simply want to point out is that. So what if we were oppressed. We can’t deny the fact that Spain was here and embedded her culture for over 300 years. We learned the language, mannerisms and culture. Why would be such a big deal to trace back our roots?

    I hope I made this comment as respectful as possible. 🙂

  • Tita

    I had a wonderful time in Spain and I did find myself somewhat connected to their culture (in terms of language and food). I gather you are a history buff? You should go to Seville’s Archivo General de Indias ( You’ll find lots of history there–artworks and maps from the Philippines and Latin America, dating as far back as the 1500’s. I actually wrote an entry about it in my blog.

    In Madrid, there is a street called “Avenida Islas Filipinas” (I believe there is a metro stop as well called Islas Filipinas)–just goes to show that we are part of their history.

  • nold

    Hi Tita,

    Glorifying Spain is the obligation of its people, what I’m after is glorifying our past, which is very much connected to Spain’s rule, as much as our ‘nationalist’ historians and Americanized kababayans would want us to believe otherwise, its impossible to get rid of that identity.

    Yes, I did noticed that in the US even some political campaign ads are in Spanish. I am glad that they are already recognizing the presence of the hispanics.

    ‘Tagalog dialect itself has numerous Spanish words’, this is something that most people do take for granted, there’s a history that is not being studied objectively. I’m glad that you got the chance to visit Spain, I am certain that you felt connected to its culture more compared to your visits to our Asian neighbors if ever you’ve been in one.

  • Tita

    I got here from agam-agam’s blog. There’s nothing wrong in learning a third or even a fourth language. Spanish is highly used in the U.S. and a lot of employers are now looking for bilingual employees (Spanish and English speakers). French is still being taught in schools here ofcourse pero a lot of students are now signing up for Spanish coz it’s more useful considering the U.S. has a huge Spanish-speaking population.

    Ang daming violent reactions re: your post. I think your readers misinterpreted your entry as something that glorifies Spain or the Spanish language. In any case, the Tagalog dialect itself has numerous Spanish words. As a fluent Tagalog speaker, I was able to get by in Spain on one of my solo trips–even took their public transportation and the regional trains w/o any problems. You’d be surprised at how much Spanish you can understand just by knowing Tagalog. 🙂

  • nold

    hey Martin, your on my blog. Last time I checked, this site still belongs to me 🙂

    Forcing people is not my style, did I force you to read my blog?

    I’ll publish all comments, as long as its related to the topic. Negative or positive, I’ll bring it here.

    Thanks Martin, or should I call you Marty? (since your fond of calling me Nold?)

  • Martin

    Dumami yata nagcomment sa post mo nung nagcomment ako! harharhar!

    I can’t understand why someone like you, na mukha naman matalino, would insist on getting Spanish back in schools and would favor our Spanish past. As if it was heaven! it was an era of oppression! why are you bent on changing what already happened?

    Nold you are wasting you time! if you like studying it, do it – but never try to force others to follow you.

    You may or may not publish this but I hope you take this advise to heart.


  • Pepe Alas

    Oh, and one more thing that I have to say to all of you cabrones (and I include YOU, Mr. Cásares) who loathe so much this most noble of all Filipino languages: learn and identify first the notion of WHAT A FILIPINO REALLY IS before you guys argue.

  • Pepe Alas

    To Mr. Makagagong Bonifacio,

    Such hispanophobic diatribe frothing from your keyboard is beyond me. Don’t worry. I won’t waste my time jotting down each and every Spanish contribution to our country just to prove you wrong. Countless others, respected in every field, have already done that for me. Why, Spanish contributions to the Philippines won’t fit even the bandwidth of!

    Just look around you, mate: almost everything sensibly Filipino is simmering and boiling and roiling and mocking the very fibers of your bewildered existence.

    Afterwards, remember this: what you’re attacking with your hate lexicon are not the Spaniards, nor our Spanish past.

    What you are attacking, wittingly or unwittingly, is the FILIPINO IDENTITY itself.

    Remember: the Spaniards are no longer here…

  • nold

    Hi Makabagong Bonifacio

    Thanks for the visit!

    I do not have a phd, actually I’m not even a history major. I studied something else in college but whenever I’m free I would study our history. Like what you should be doing.

    I am sure that abuse and tyranny did took place during the more than 300 years of Spanish rule, my friend – we are already governed by our fellow countrymen and we still have this around. Its not confined in that era alone. But always keep in mind what we became as a people – did we evolved, did we progressed?

    We take for granted what was given to us, a united country of tribes – Filipinas. Its just not the name of the country, its a nation, a united one. What could have been our natural evolution as nation? judging on what we are witnessing now, my guess would be, at least a dozen separate warring tribe nations. That’s on a good day!

    The question is if ‘we would have made it out of the caves’ without Spain, that would be difficult to answer. My belief is that it was an era of colonial rule, we could’ve been Portuguese or British or Dutch or lead by a Chinese pirate, pick one. Our location is a magnate for the shipping world power’s. We are not alone in this category. ‘Hampered’? did the British hampered Singapore’s and hong kong’s progress? and the portueguese for the Indons?

    History, is not static – we have to be objective when we study. Americans had wars with us, killed millions of Filipinos, deceived the republic of Aguinaldo but look, we are so in love with their culture and language, why is it that when you say ‘colonial rule’ in the Philippines only Spain would come to mind, and that it is evil – didn’t the Americans colonialized the islands for its economic and militaristic interest? are we being taught the Americanized version of things, what do you think? now is the time to study my friend.

  • nold

    Hey Ricardo,

    Thank you for the comment.

    I have been in the call center business for 6 years and I get it when you said ‘economics’, that understandable. I am not ‘advocating’ abolishing ENGLISH let me clear that. Its practical, and I believe we should utilize it.

    In some states in the US, they have integrated French studies in their curriculum – in Virginia, this is in effect in all public schools. Its perfectly fine to teach Spanish here, like in other progressive countries, its goals is to utilize the mental faculties of the student and promote heritage studies – its not a bad idea to learn another language, it would also prove beneficial since our history, almost all of it, is written in Spanish. If one is in doubt, I suggest a visit to the national archives.

    It is nice to hear that you still speak in Spanish and that your family is still speaking in Spanish. Our family never did – my dad is a Spanish mestizo who believes its useless. I never had the chance since by the time I was in school- the subject was already abolished.

    Rizal was a masterful propagandist, you are right that the reason behind him writing in Spanish is to get attention- I’m sure he had that in mind, but one should wonder – how could he make Filipinos rise to revolt if his literary works would be useless them, if the Filipino he wants to change can not understand his books, his language?

    I hope you would read more about him. He was a fascinating man. A great Filipino.

    PS I do not know Prof. Lapuz personally – but I’ve heard of him, I’m not from UST either.

  • Sardinas

    Spanish sucks! Tagalog sucks! Mabuhay and Ilokandia!

  • Ricky Cásares

    Arnold, judging from the content of your blog, you’re mislead by José Rizal.

    Let me tell you something. I come from a Spanish-speaking family. Both my parents speak Spanish. But we rarely use it now. I mean, what for? English is a much better tool for communication and in transacting business.

    I assume that you’re a Tagalog. In transacting business or at the workplace, would you choose Tagalog over English? Of course, not.

    Let’s make it simpler: when watching movies, which do you prefer — English movies or Tagalog.

    I hope you’re not offended. I don’t mean no harm, sir. But when I read that you’re advocating the return of Spanish, I think that’s too much. Take it from me. I’ve been speaking Spanish since I was a child, but I never advocated its return to our country. For one, economic reasons Arnold. Economic reasons.

    Bringing back Spanish in the schools requires legislation of some sort. I’m not a lawyer, but this is common knowledge to people like us.

    I have a hunch that you’re a student of Prof. José David Lápuz. Are you from UST? Don’t listen to his pro-Spanish speeches. Prof. Lápuz is a fine gentlemen, a great foreign politics expert, but when it comes to his pro-Spanish sentiments, he’s a bit hazy, as if he doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

    Instead of advocating Spanish, we should focus more on how we Filipinos should learn AND master the English language.

    Don’t get me wrong. I love Spanish. Heck, it’s the language of my family. And I won’t hesitate teaching it to my children when I’m going to have my own family.
    Biut teaching it to others who never had it as their first language for “nationalist” reasons could be a dangerous thing. We couldn’t afford another revolution. The revolution against Spain is enough.

    And remember that the only reason why Rizal wrote in Spanish is in order for the tyrannical Spaniards to understand the bitterness of the Filipinos against them.

    I hope you’re now enlightened. More power! ¡y gracias!

    Ricardo Cásares

  • Miggy V.

    Spanish is a beautiful language, but bringing it back will only make us remember old wounds. Remeberthat spanish was the tool of the oppresor. why bring it back? its ok to study it, but making our children learn this language from a once evil nation is too much, arnold. i’d rather study mandarin, the language of the future!!!

  • Sheryl Lim

    Arnold, if you’re so inlove w/ Spanish, why not just go and live ain a Spanish speakng country?

    Get out of our country! Sorry ka, pero nakakahiya ang mga tulad mo sa aming mga Pilipino!

  • Ang Makabagong Bonifacio

    How dare you say Bro. Andrew Gonzalez’s research is inaccurate. Who do you think you are? Do you even have a PhD? And do you think that this Andrade character has the monopoly of truth? How sure are you that YOUR Andrade’s research is accurate?

    If you are a true Filipino, then you should not fool yourself into believing that Spain and her language created us, gave us heaven. Sure, there were niceties and progress and all that jazz. Sure, we have Spanish surnames, and the names of our food, provinces, and almost everything that there is, is Castilian. But did we ever have a choice. But the bottomline is, colonialism is evil. Spain colonized us.

    Mr. Arnaiz, Spain HAMPERED our own natural and national evolution.

    For sure, your ancestors suffered the wrath of Spanish tyranny. My friend, you’re doing them a great disservice.

    Do you even know how to define what a Filipino is?


    Tsk, tsk, tsk. Wake up, Mr. Arnaiz.

  • nold

    No, not all Martin.

    Our heroes were excellent individuals. This men however were products of Spanish Institutions, educated by the use of the Spanish language.

    Our more than 300 years of history is written in Spanish – our nations name, our name, our religion etc etc originated from our Spanish past.

    So why would we be ashamed to learn Spanish now? I do not see it as unpatriotic, its part of our culture and, yes our history.

  • Martin

    We should learn from the sacrifices of our heroes during the revolution. Bringing Spanish as a language back is an insult to their heroism.

    I hope your not offended nold. We should be proud to be Filipinos.

    Good website, I stumbled upon your blog when I searched for Rizal monuments.

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