Wednesday, September 27, 2006


A SPRINKLING of the country’s ScrabbleTM players have earned for Filipinos one of the three top ranks among the world’s best in the word game. That feat of a dozen or so board game competitors sent out to participate in the ScrabbleTM Olympics doesn’t mean we’re world-class in word power—75% of the country’s annual 400,000 college graduates have “sub-standard English skills.”

Achievement tests given to high school seniors in the 2004-2005 school year revealed that less than 7% could read, speak and grasp English well enough to enter college. And about 45% had no inkling of English.

Cebu lawmaker Eduardo Gullas is eyeing word games like ScrabbleTM and crossword puzzle books as tools to rev up learning of English. Indeed, the road to mastery of a global language is paved with desperation.

Sadly, acquiring a cache of stand-alone words—bled of context and content—but ready to be plunked down onto a ScrabbleTM board or tiled in on a crossword puzzle blank don’t inhere a grip on a foreign tongue.

People possess words. Words possess people who have delved into both the content and context of words at their command. So it is bruited that words one possess—or word power-- determines one’s role in civilization. A limited vocabulary will limit one’s potential role.

Researchers claim a 700-word vocabulary is the minimum to get along. It takes less than two years—get acquainted with a new word each day—to muster that minimum. It takes a 3,000-word arsenal—built up over eight years-- as minimum to land a job.

A stockpile of at least 10,000 words primes the individual for a social role. It may take over 27 years to own such a pile, learning a new word a day. Wordsmiths in the league of William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Rabindranath Tagore or Kung Fu-tze are known to have nurtured a 60,000-word nursery that grew on them, in them.

We might as well pore over the workbooks and textbooks that Filipino schoolchildren use—most of ‘em books are as boring, dull, lousy and numb as their authors who rake in millions from such books.

We could use lively writing in ‘em books to inject life, maybe infect our schoolchildren with a love of learning—whether the subject is math, science, or English.

No comments: