The English Emergency: How Filipinos Are Losing The Ability To Speak, Write, and Read English

For the longest time, the Philippines has been one of the most proficient English-speaking countries in the world. Second only to the national language—Filipino—English is a language everyone in the country learns to speak fluently at a young age.

However, in 2018, the OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report revealed that Filipinos are not actually fluent in English anymore and that the country is losing its competitive edge against neighboring and other Asian countries in terms of English language proficiency. An Education First study, meanwhile, reported that the Philippines dropped from 20th place to 27th place in the English Proficiency Index in 2020.

The Factors Contributing To The Decline of English Proficiency in The Philippines

Numerous factors have been linked to the deterioration of English proficiency in the Philippines. For one, Tagalog has been replacing English as the language of instruction in Philippine schools over the years.

While the Department of Education has taken steps to improve the situation, much more must be done to ensure that all Filipino students can communicate effectively in English. Today, schools still lack programs and activities to help students achieve fluency in English, and teachers are still not using English effectively when teaching students.

The media also share some blame for how Filipinos speak and write English because they propagate a form of language called “Taglish” (a combination of Tagalog and English) in their programming and keep dubbing foreign shows into Tagalog.

This is despite the fact that many studies have shown that early exposure to the English language is recommended as students have improved their English communication skills by watching movies and shows and listening to music in the language.

Shame and Fear Don’t Belong in Language Learning

In addition to everything stated above, there has been a negative attitude toward speaking English among Filipinos. Some feel that using English in conversation is unpatriotic; they are intimidated by those who speak the language fluently, and they feel insecure about their own ability to speak English because of the tendency of some Filipinos to associate fluent English speakers with high-status individuals.

Fear and shame can be major obstacles to learning English. Many students are afraid to make mistakes, which may negatively influence their learning. They can either be insulted or laughed at for making an error in the English language. Hence, most opt to keep a low profile, so they do not become the center of attention.

Hence, the teaching focus should be on building the confidence and skills needed by the students to communicate in English through multi-sensory learning experiences that are both fun and challenging. Students will speak English more comfortably in an environment that they enjoy. The key to making learning anything fun and effective is by making it interesting, inclusive, engaging, and relevant.

In the end, despite its challenges, true language proficiency takes time and practice. With the right attitude toward learning and sufficient resources, Filipinos can reclaim their pride as a nation of English-speakers.


Cabigon, M. (2015, November). State of English in the Philippines: Should We Be Concerned? British Council Philippines. Jugo https://www.britishcouncil.ph/teach/state-english-philippines-should-we-be-concerned-2

Jugo, R. (2020, June 29). Language Anxiety in Focus: The Case of Filipino Undergraduate Teacher Education Learners. Hindawi. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/edri/2020/7049837/

Baclig, C. (2020, November 20). Philippines drops further in global English proficiency rankings. Philippine Daily Inquirer. https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1362951/philippines-drops-further-in-global-english-proficiency-rankings

Diaz, C. (2018, September 6). Reasons Why Filipino’s English Proficiency Is Gradually Deteriorating. https://cyrusdiaz88.wordpress.com/2018/09/06/reasons-why-filipinos-english-proficiency-is-gradually-deteriorating/