Overcoming Crab Mentality Stigma with Better English Skills

Most Filipinos tend to be too judgmental over their fellow citizens in terms of physical appearance, social status, behavior and personal preferences. Such factors are usually based on trends set by the rich and famous here and abroad, one manifestation of which is getting a lot of bashing in any form because of the inability to communicate fluently in English. The harsh treatment shown by the society towards people who are not that fluent in English is one of the ill effects of crab mentality, a term derived from how crabs act towards each other when contained in one place. It means possessing an unfavorable attitude of pulling people down due to jealousy, envy, or having a case of superiority complex.

There are history buffs who would declare that crab mentality predates to the era when the Spaniards conquered the Philippines and regarded themselves as full-fledged Filipinos, the most superior social class bearing the rights to acquire and own lands, head the churches, and put up business establishments. The self-declared Filipinos were classified as peninsulares (Spaniards born in Spain) and insulares (Spaniards born in the Philippines). The original natives who became their business cronies and spouses and those children produced from relationships between natives and Spaniards formed another chunk of the old society, the illustrados. The illustrados became the first local politicians and top management of Spaniard-run corporations, and their families became the principalia – which is the counterpart of today’s Filipino middle class.

Crab mentality entered the picture when the natural-born Filipino natives (called indios by the Spaniards), who worked as servants to the peninsulares and insulares in order to survive, began destroying the reputation and credibility of  illustrados for their own benefit. The indios then presented themselves as the better option after the damage has been done as they aspire to be the new favorites of the peninsulares and insulares. Crab mentality is said to have become a fixture in Filipino culture even after the Spaniards were taken over by the Japanese and the Americans during the decade of the Second World War. Until now, traces of crab mentality have remained with modern-day Filipinos, considering that the nation is greatly influenced by foreign pop culture and corporate practices.

Whether in an ordinary person’s environment or in a world dominated by famous local celebrities, mockery of bad English is pretty much evident. Mispronounced words and poor grammar by a Filipino get a lot of flak from other Filipinos who think they know better, while native English speakers coming to the Philippines to live and/or work who struggle to speak in straight Tagalog are perceived as cute and acceptable by the Filipino community. Between two Filipinos who have proven skills in oral and written English, they are sometimes subject to discrimination among peers as to who belongs to the “sosyal” (posh) and the parvenu set. There are also Filipinos who are being called “trying hard” just because they were able to acquire an American or British accent and use it more often when conveying their thoughts in English, which can be a result of experience gained either from international employment or living in an English-speaking country.

A Filipino can totally move on from this kind of stigma once he learns to speak and write in English in a manner that is proper and appropriate to the environment he’s in. He or she can use a neutral speaking accent and write in such a way that Filipinos who understand English can easily relate to. However, this person can learn how to speak and write in the same style as that of the Americans or the Brits as an additional skill. This is called “accent addition”, which is a lot better than “accent reduction”.

Apart from increasing one’s vocabulary by taking the time to read publications and watching TV programs done in English, being professionally trained by the experts is another surefire formula. In this way, there is constant practice and application of principles in mastering the world’s universal language hence, results to be achieved are nothing but exceptional. There are individual and corporate courses designed to fit a student’s current profile concerning his familiarity with English and communication skills, therefore prior assessment is necessary to narrow down options.

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