Bending English for the Filipino Stage

Bienvenido L. Lumbera

Abstract

Through representative examples of Filipino plays in English that were written during the American colonial regime, the article traces how playwriting and the theater were instrumental in teaching the English language to Filipinos educated in the American educational project. To make the transition from the local languages to the newly acquired English easier to contextualize, the English in the colonial-period plays was consciously stylized to sound “as though [the characters] were speaking in their own tongues”—thus the phrase ‘bending English’. Having “bent English” indeed does make reading easier for Filipinos, however the performances of plays with “bent English” provide a rich field of discussion on incongruities and disjunctions of linguistic experimentation.

Keywords

colonial education, English language, Philippine theater

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.13185/1536