My OFS Julia writes:

Years ago, John wrote this post about how you can determine your VAs English skills based on what they watched when they were kids.

This technique worked 10 years ago when most Filipino VAs looking for work were exposed to shows like Batibot and Sesame Street as kids. 

However, that won’t work because Batibot has been off the air for years. And we don’t get Sesame Street on free TV anymore. 

Even though these shows are long gone on the Philippine airwaves, we’ve noticed that there is still a correlation between English skills to the kind of children’s television Filipinos were exposed to. Our kids are still exposed to Western children’s media. The difference lies in whether they were exposed to ‘Tagalized’ (translated) shows or the ones in the original English.

When a foreign TV show is really popular, the TV networks would invest in localizing it so it would reach a broader audience. If you watch anime or K-dramas in the Philippines, the biggest hits are usually the ones that came with Filipino dubs.

Having Filipino dubs for children’s television was encouraged. It was seen as a way to help kids learn educational concepts easier because there’s no need to translate from English to Filipino.

This was a great idea on paper but didn’t really work for a lot of Filipinos. What most people don’t know is that the Philippines has around 120-187 languages. For most of us, Filipino isn’t our native language. Growing up, I learned my native tongue first (Cebuano), then English, then Filipino in grade school.

For some parents, exposing their kids to “Tagalized” children’s television actually made it harder for them to learn.  Instead, they’d go out of their way to find children’s television in English. 

Don’t get me wrong. Filipino is a beautiful language. It’s very poetic. Very descriptive. It really lends itself well to literature and poetry. But it has a lot of compound words. So many prefixes and suffixes that determine tone and tense. And so many words with the same spelling but have different meanings. 

Kind of hard to use when you need relay information quickly.

So the next time you interview a Filipino worker, ask them what shows they watched as a kid. You’ll see that they watched the same TV shows as you did growing up. Dora the Explorer. Yo Gaba Gaba, Peppa Pig, etc. Then ask them if they watched it in the original English or the ‘Tagalized’ version. Trust me, you’ll see a difference with how they write and speak.