Kapampángan Language is “Definitely Endangered” – UNESCO

March 7, 2019

Kapampángans are killing Kapampángans. Not by guns nor swords, nor weapons of any kind… but by linguicide.

It’s easy to observe that Kapampángan parents have consciously decided not to teach the Kapampángan language to their children. You can see it in malls, public spaces, and homes, where parents talk fluently to each other in Kapampángan, but suddenly shift to Tagalog or English when they talk to their children.

Eventually, this phenomena will lead to the endangerment and the death of the language altogether. With this also comes the eventual death of the Kapampángan people. How else are we to identify who’s Kapampángan and who’s not if we don’t use the language?

Photo by Kat Jayne from Pexels.

According to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and it’s Language Vitality and Endangerment Methodological Guideline, there are nine criteria or factors to be used in determining the endangerment of a language.

These are the following:

1. Intergenerational language transmission

2. Absolute number of speakers

3. Proportion of speakers within the total population

4. Shifts in domains of language use

5. Response to new domains and media

6. Availability of materials for language education and literacy

7. Governmental and institutional language attitudes and policies including official status and use

8. Community members’ attitudes toward their own language

9. Amount and quality of documentation

On top of the list is language transmission to the next generation, which happens when parents choose not to use Kapampángan when talking to their children.

Because of this criteria alone, the language is currently described as “definitely endangered”, as only the parental generation remain as the vast majority to still speak Kapampángan… at least to each other. The case is different for children, who only “understand” the language, but do not speak it.

Our Children are NOT Kapampángans?

Many parents choose not to teach Kapampángan to their children for several reasons. I personally have witnessed this first hand, where most of our neighbors in our community choose to talk to their children in Tagalog and English.

Their reason? It’s the medium used in school.

One of them, a five year old boy, outright told me, “Ayaw akong nagka-Kapampangan ng Papa ko. Gusto niya English”. This, despite the fact that both parents are fluent in Kapampángan.

However, the reason for the parents to do this was because all of their child’s peers talk to each other in English in school, leaving their son at a disadvantage.

This leads to parents thinking that there is no economic, mental, or tangible advantage to learning Kapampángan whatsoever. “Why teach our children this language, when we can effectively communicate to them in other languages instead?”


First language, first

This leads me to feel a sense of worry, about their son and for the next generation of learners, as the DEPED already launched the Mother Tongue-Based of Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) program, where schools are mandated to teach the child’s first-language-first.

According to an MTB-MLE primer, schooling should begin “in the mother tongue and transitions to additional languages particularly Filipino and English. It is meant to address the high functional illiteracy of Filipinos where language plays a significant factor. Since the child’s own language enables her/ him to express him/herself easily, then, there is no fear of making mistakes. It encourages active participation by children in the learning process because they understand what is being discussed and what is being asked of them. They can immediately use their mother tongue to construct and explain their world, articulate their thoughts and add new concepts to what they already know.”

While the schools and DEPED are currently in a transitional phase in the implementation of this program, the inevitability is there: soon enough, schools will have to teach Kapampángan. This, again, puts several children at a disadvantage, especially if the first language parents decided to teach them is other than their supposed Mother Tongue.

Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

The problem with implementing MTB – MLE here in Pampanga is that Kapampángan is no longer considered the First Language (L1) by many. This gives school administrators reason to conclude that the First Language of Kapampángans is Tagalog or English, just so they can comply with the program.

Sadly, it is also becoming a widespread belief that Kapampángan is a language used outside urban centers (that is, in villages and barrios) where life is more “local” and “simple”. Thus, Kapampángan has been equated and identified by many as the language of poverty and lack of prestige. English and Tagalog (Filipino) are tagged as the language of intellectuals, which have led some school to begin implementing Kapampángan as the mother tongue in the lower sections… and by lower sections, we mean children who aren’t performing academically well.

If you think about it, it’s a well hidden case of discrimination.

Transitional Phase, Transitional Pains

To overcome this, other schools have opted to conduct surveys among parents, and choose their own mother tongues, which is strange to say the least. You cannot say that your mother tongue is Tagalog when you are born from a Kapampángan family and currently reside in Pampanga.

That being said, we cannot deny that we’re still experiencing some transitional pains with regards to educating the next generation with the Kapampángan language.

The best way to have learned the language is at home. The home is one of the domains where one can prove that the language exists. However, it is also one of the domains (apart from the public space, government offices, and schools), where Kapampángan is disappearing.

The long and short of it is easy: home is where the Kapampángan should be groomed. If all Kapampángan parents would teach their children from the womb, the title of this article (and this article for that matter) wouldn’t exist at all.



2018 November 24. “Amánung Sísuan, kómustá naka?” a lecture-forum by Mike Pangilinan on the current state of the Kapampángan language, including issues on marginalization and endangerment and efforts towards its protection and revitalization.

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  1. Kapampangans ( native and fluent) will laugh at you and sometimes get mad at you if you speak THEIR language with a tagalog or visayan accent. Fookien ( chinoys ) can be flattered if you speak their language specially when doing businesses. Ilocanos bikolanos and visayans Probably will not laugh or make fun of you if you sound different from Their accent. Kapampangan culture sucks in terms of language, probably one of the reasons why migrants or children are not interested in learning how to speak because there’s a fear of rejection from the fluent kapampangans ( matigas na dila). A superiority complex indeed? I guess so.

  2. There was time that almost ALL languages, dialects were on the verge on losing as Imperial Manila is bent on erasing it and replaced it with tagalog, surreptitiously named as ‘Filipino’ Thanks to the social media, the brainwashing of the filipino pupils and high school students to speak tagalog was stopped, had it not been for the social media, those racist tagalogs would have been successful in wiping out almost all our dialects.

  3. Capampangan is being killed by Capampangans. Take note that our provincial, town and city seals are in Tagalog. And the same to the names on out public buildings are written in Tagalog. Just saying.

  4. Yes they are killing it,pareho la kampangan demg pengari misabi la tagalog keng bale .pikakarine de amanu sisuan.hindi nila namn gamat magtagalog,taga tagalog pa sila.

  5. The case of Kapampangan is not an exception. Many Tagalog speakers choose to speak English because it is sounds educated and elite. That is the mindset we grew up with, and the so-called Filipino “dialects” were not only considered “low class” but ridiculed and something to be embarassed about.
    The other problem I see in the Kapampangan language is the drifting away of the correct written form. The written message sounds correct when you read it aloud, but not so when you read it. The grouping of syllables are oftentimes are incorrect. There must be a linguist’s term for it which I don’t have right now, but a supposedly independent word is attached to another (e.g., the “infront” we incorrctly use in English) or the splitting or syllables that is actually one word. Because Kapampangan is not part of formal education, “correct grammar” drifts away. That is slow death.

  6. Some foreigners thought that all Filipinos can speak Tagalog a.k.a. Wikang Pambansa.

    That Wikang Pambansa is the language that is seen as the front language of the Philippines. The other Philippine Languages are seen just next to it.

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