Improving a Pinoy’s “Carabao English”

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Despite recent reports that show Filipinos getting ahead in speaking English, there are still thousands who are struggling communicators. The basics considered by a native English speaker surprisingly remain as challenges to an average Pinoy, hence the birth of “carabao English”.

Below are the most common Pinoy boo-boos in English communication:

1. Informal vs. Formal – inappropriate use of words


Alright – this is acceptable in casual interactions whether via SMS or online

All right – best for written work and conversations related to business and academics

2. Redundancy

Examples: free gift, more prettier, uniquely different

3. Possessive adjective vs. Contraction


Your so beautiful (should be You’re)

She’s not their (should be there)

4. That vs. Which – the comma (,) separates one from the other


The car, which was purchased only yesterday, is a silver Mercedes Benz manufactured in 1955. (sounds more factual)

The 1955 silver Mercedes Benz was the car that he purchased only yesterday. (short but sweet)

5. Words that can be confusing


Adapt and adopt

Between and among

6. Filipinisms (English words with twisted meanings used by Filipinos)


Filipinos say comfort room; native English speakers say toilet, washroom or powder room

Filipinos say for a while over the phone instead of hold, please (formal) or hang on (informal); native English speakers think that the term for a while is not for the impatient as it implies a longer duration

7. Spelling and Pronunciation

Wrong: Green-minded Right: Grin-minded

Wrong: Eye bugs Right: Eye bags

8. In, On, At


riding on a cycle

riding in a car

socializing at a party

There’s still hope for carabao English to be solved, one Filipino at a time. American English came up with a published reference material entitled Don’t Speak Good. Speak Well!, which is also available as an e-book for tech-savvy learners. Other institutions may find it too basic to be used as teaching tool to focus on English Grammar lessons, but the printed version’s compact yet comprehensive nature made it a bestselling product of American English Skills Development Center. The e-book features exactly the same content, with additional materials and exercises for students to access online courtesy of a unique product key. All nglish language-related issues have been addressed by Don’t Speak Good. Speak Well!, based on publishers’ own encounters with English professors of all school levels nationwide as part of American English’s marketing efforts.

Fed up with the “carabao English syndrome”? Brush up your English with this highly-recommended book today for only P590.


(36) Comments

  • jean April 23, 2014 @ 12:23 pm

    I would like to know if there is any specific topic or lessons related to American Accent or General American. I’m looking forward for your kind response. Thank you!

  • Jerl S. Rey August 11, 2014 @ 5:32 pm

    I remember my English professor who frequently gave us argumentation and debate every Monday as part of English conversation practice and our logical reasoning . We were divided into 2 groups. Each of us need to give our best opinion for which side we were in. Every body participated on this activity. At the end of each argumentation and debate, she made a comment and decided whose group should win and gave a reward on who among the winning group was the best debater. She also made comments and tried to correct the choice of words we used during the debate. One day, she chose not to have an argumentation and debate instead, she announced that she would give an Oral Recitation the next morning. One of my classmate laughed at her. Our teacher asked my classmate angrily, “Are laughing at me?” She immediately answered. “Ma’am, What is the difference between Oral and Recitation?” By then she stopped and try to correct my classmate. Most of us argued with her that Oral and recitation are the same. We even showed to her in a Latin Dictionary that they both have the same logical concept and it’s not proper to use “Oral Recitation.” After giving us failing grade, she made a note to our school dean priest who happened to be our LATIN Professor to conduct an “Oral Recitation” on the Philosophy of St. Augustine. Sometimes our Filipino teacher tried to use words that are not appropriate in other language, like Oral Recitation itself. Carabao English or Filipinism is commonly mistake that lead to acceptance. Sooner or later, Carabao English will evolve into Jejemon English and later Chuvanes English. Well of course, most of us are familiar of this if we tried to conscientiously think of our choices of words we use to. I believe it contributes social media a lot, giving equivocal meaning every word that we encounter such as the word ‘selfie’ – a person taking her / his own picture. If we try to look for in the dictionary, there is no equivalent meaning in it. We can only find it in the Social Media such as Facebook or twitter and etc. Social Media has a great impact in changing everything in our world even our culture, language and etc.. Well, indeed, it is inevitable. We need to adapt ourselves for us to belong with or “IN” but we should be careful of using those terms or else somebody would be laughing at us.

  • Herschelle Marquez August 12, 2014 @ 1:28 pm

    Last week, there was an article that I have read written by my English teacher. The article stated that English is a borrowed language. I find it as the reason why we, Filipinos, have the “carabao english” or Filipino English. We are not native speakers of the language. We are born with our dialects and we get to learn to speak English at school.
    While Philippines is an English-speaking country currently, there are many Filipinos with carabao English. We may be trying hard to speak the language to sound foreign. We still have flaws in speaking the borrowed language even those who have been taught of the language.
    However, learning speaking the language can be easily done by exercising our native ears in listening English. Through listening, our ears will be used to listen to the pronunciation and diction.

  • Ma. Jelyn Gayo August 12, 2014 @ 5:26 pm

    In addition to the comments above, Carabao English is the term used to define the language a lot of Filipinos are using. This kind of language impose a non-practice of proper grammar and pronunciation. Sometimes Filipino use this kind of thing when they are fooling or joking around. I believe that too much use of it might lead us to misunderstanding so we must try to practice and improve ourselves in speaking proper English to avoid mistakes and embarrassment.

  • Herschelle Marquez August 13, 2014 @ 9:43 am

    There are common Filipino mistakes in speaking the English language. I won’t exempt myself because I keep on committing the same mistakes. There is one good thing in myself, I am a bookworm. I read a lot. So, I look for corrections. To improve oneself in speaking the English language is to be conscious with the common mistakes and to strive to correct it to be better. Our language is evolving and fast changing. So, we also need to be updated. There are online courses or lectures, which I can refer from time to time. Internet is just a click away.

  • BEA BERNICE M. VITTO December 16, 2014 @ 8:21 pm

    “Carabao English” seems to be a most commonly used term to define our the way we Filipino speak or communicate with Native English speakers. In my opinion, I am proud to be a Filipino having said to be having “Carabao English” because we learned how to speak English only secondary to our Native Language. We learned two languages during our childhood and improve it through time. Maybe I have improved so much in speaking English, but I will never give up some of my “Carabao English” syndrome, because this is what’s making we Filipinos ‘uniquely different’ to other race.

  • Chavez,Maisie A. December 18, 2014 @ 3:35 pm

    We Filipinos are fund of using ” English Carabao” language. But most Filipinos don’t care if their english are correct or incorrect as long as they understand each other. They do believe that it’s a matter of understanding that’s why many of them doesn’t care about it. But for me, it really cares a lot that’s why I attended a seminar to get to no more about my english grammar. So I am encouraging others to please visit your website for more information.

  • Mary Ellaine Maligalig January 16, 2015 @ 3:35 pm

    In my opinion, “English Carabao” really seems to be discriminating Filipinos but despite of that, I really think that we should be proud because since our primary language is Tagalog, we can still communicate to different people using English language.

    Although there are some errors, for me, it’s normal having little mistakes because we all know that the first step of learning is committing an error. As we continue using English language, this will improve our diction, grammar, and pronunciation. When time goes by, we’ll realize that our English speaking skills is already enhanced.

    I remember when I was a college student, our midterm exam in marketing has conducted a training to improve our marketing skills. As a chosen leader of our group, I was assigned to be the speaker in our training. It is really hard because the language that we’re going to use is English. Another challenge is that I need to persuade them and also compete with another speaker because our rating depends on the result of the training. At first I was really nervous about how will I communicate with them and how will I let them understand my presentation, but eventually everything went well and I’ve succeeded. For me, “English Carabao” is quite acceptable but its better if we practice more in speaking English for us to be more efficient.

  • VICTORIA C. CASTILLO January 17, 2015 @ 5:57 am

    For us, Filipinos, it is unavoidable to speak such kind of English because sometimes we take it as a joke to make somebody laugh unknowingly that it leaves impression to someone who happens to hear it. I, myself, sometimes encounter this kind of “English” and say to myself, “oh my!”. It is really important to further learn and train for this kind of subject especially those working and encounter other people as part of the job. Though it is a “Filipino’s comedy part”, still it needs to be improved.

  • VICTORIA C. CASTILLO January 18, 2015 @ 1:04 pm

    Filipinos are fast-learners especially when it comes to English. However, there are also those who speak it the “carabao” way. For me, this is not a big issue because sometimes they do it just to make others laugh. What is important is that we can understand what is being expressed. However, this should be avoided when it comes to formal communications or business writing, and I believe that continuous study is needed to avoid being criticized.

  • Greta O. Guevara January 19, 2015 @ 9:15 am

    It is good that we have reference materials on basic English that is easily understandable like “Don’t Speak Good, Speak Well!” to guide us Filipinos.

    Carabao English of old, devoid of proper use of tenses and prepositions and uses a lot of hand gestures, is the way the olden “probinsiyanos” speak.

    Today, we speak English in a peculiar way, still carabao English because of some flaws in constuction, substitution and insertion of Tagalog words like “kasi”, “naman”, “pa”, “eh”, as we grope for words to express ourselves.

  • Bea Bernice M. Vitto January 19, 2015 @ 11:01 am

    “Carabao English” seems to be the most commonly used term to define our way we Filipino speak or communicate with Native English speakers. In my opinion, I am proud to be a Filipino having said to be having “Carabao English” because we learned how to speak English only secondary to our Native Language. We learned two languages during our childhood and improve it through time. Maybe I have improved so much in speaking English, but I will never give up some of my “Carabao English” syndrome, because this is what’s making we Filipinos ‘uniquely different’ to other race.

  • MA. ENELYN G. CENTENO January 19, 2015 @ 11:48 am

    Some Filipinos are often offended whenever people telling the manner of our speaking as “Carabao English”. But we shouldn’t get annoyed actually, instead let us take it as a challenge. Lets find a way on how we can improve our English skills, like attending classes or courses that will help us improve our written & oral English skills.

    We Filipinos can perfect our crafts when we put our hearts into it. We only prove that if we strive, we can achieve what we want.

  • Rhoda M. Villaroz January 20, 2015 @ 4:32 pm

    Even though the Philippines has been regarded as #3 among the largest English-speaking nations, Filipinos are still being associated with English Carabao. One can’t help but laugh or put a grin in his face when he heard someone spoke in an ‘English Carabao’ accent. We are not born American or British that are fluent in speaking English. We are Filipinos and our national language is Filipino, but it doesn’t make us less compare to them. We should be proud of our own language. Filipinos are fast learners. We can keep up with them in learning correct English. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, thus with continuous practice and learning, we Filipinos will not only be speaking good English but speaking well. Thank you to American English for shedding light to us when it comes to speaking English. Thank you for the trainings they have conducted in our municipality.

  • Jenette Rubico January 24, 2015 @ 8:55 am

    It is mortifying to some Filinos who technically mastered the English language and pessimistic sarcasm together when they hear his or her fellowmen speak Carabao English. It is not their fault to have a hard time with the English Language, but knowing they try to learn and embrace a foreign linguistics proves that we Flipinios never back down to a challenge. Though it is predominant to have heard P’s became F’s and V’s to B’s; the addition of created “Dialects” in the cases of “jejemon” and the shorthand “SMS style”, we Filipinos are not alone in the so-called Carabao English pattern-other non-English speaking countries like China, Japan and Thailad also have their own version of Carabao English as they also have a hard time in speaking the language of the world. Slowly but surely, we Filipinos are getting back to the elite list of the world’s English-speaking countries.

  • Krizzalie Paras January 27, 2015 @ 10:08 pm

    I’ve read a lot of articles relating to common mistakes and confusions in grammar and the spelling of certain English words, and I think partly, we can blame the presence of cellular phones and the social network. Or maybe, it is not the technology’s fault but the laziness of the people to spell out the exact words instead of inventing an abbreviation for it. Because we became accustomed in spelling out a certain word this way, then that information is imprinted in our mind that the next time we use that word in a formal letter, we tend to forget if it contains to “g’s” or just one “l” or if it has an apostrophe after the last letter. Learning is a series of recollection, and if one has ceased to master a word, then the knowledge about that word will undergo extinction.

  • Renee Evangeline M. Granadino January 28, 2015 @ 9:19 am

    I too have a share of speaking and/or writing in Carabao English. Most of the time, it happens when I translate a Filipino sentence word-for-word to English. But, I am not ashamed of that, because I try to make it to a point to correct myself. I think that speaks well for most of us Filipinos who have the same experiences and strive to be better to speak our second language.

  • Emma Claire P. Claveria February 2, 2015 @ 5:22 pm

    I must admit that I do not know everything about the English language especially with its very rich vocabulary. I always have this feeling of writing my sentences in simple words and in simple sentences. This way, I get to minimize possible grammatical errors. I seldom use some “not so familiar” words whenever I am very certain that it means the way I wanted it written in a sentence.

  • Hazel Faye S. Cuba February 2, 2015 @ 7:17 pm

    It will take a lot of time and effort to minimize Filipino’s use of “Carabao English” in communication. We, Filipinos, are fast learners. We immediately adopt a new concept. Every time we learn, see, or hear a new “word”, we use it to communicate to the next person we speak with. When people try to correct our style or use of words, we either defend ourselves by citing the majority or shy away from correction. I believe that we should strive for self-improvement and yearn for knowledge. This will help us develop our communication skills. We should stop replicating expressions from other people and know what is appropriate and best to use. We should know how to correct ourselves and practice saying what is right.

  • Roderick Aguisanda February 7, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

    The Philippines has been colonized by the Americans in the early 20th century therefore implying that the citizens are well-informed of the rules of the language. However, as time progressed, technology also did. All over the world, Filipinos are revered as efficient users of the English language but no matter how efficient most of them are, there are still some flaws that need some fixing such as redundancy, spelling and incorrect word usage. Most students disregard their lessons language and use shortcuts or inappropriate words whenever they send messages through phone or the internet. But a fact that can’t be ignored is that schools try their best in getting rid of this “Carabao English”, no matter how useful it had been with its flaws ignored.

  • Nina Galang February 8, 2015 @ 2:43 am

    We Filipinos are very fast learners. We can adopt what we hear only in our surroundings, and use it without knowing that we used it on the wrong way. I think Carabao English is already part of our culture, as long as you and the person you are speaking with is understand each other, I don’t see any problem with it.

  • Marie Therese A. Bahala February 8, 2015 @ 1:11 pm

    English has been my favorite subject in school. I do admit that while I was still in grade school, I struggled a lot with which words to use to construct a sentence. I thought “the same” was “de same” because I base the spelling on how it is being pronounced by the professor. I taught myself how to speak english and corrected my grammar by reading books and watching movies. Books taught me the right punctuation, correct sentence construction, and honed my imagination while watching movies equipped me on how to handle everyday conversations. Spot on conversation with english speakers can really be fun for me, whether it be someone asking for an address or clients at work. I have even come to adapt to speaking in informal english that some of my foreign friends have taught me. The key to eradicating “Carabao English” is to learn and surround oneself with English speakers and have fun with it. We need not worry, if they say that we struggle with english, they too struggle with tagalog and it’s surprising how many foreigners are interested in learning our native language.

  • Nelbem J. Santillan February 8, 2015 @ 4:10 pm

    Everyone has the tendency to commit grammatical mistakes and I’m one of them. Engaging in trainings and seminars to improve English communications skills, may it be verbal and written, is a great help. For me, reading a right material is the effective one. We should know how to say the right thing at the right place in the right time.

  • Joel O. Rosuman February 8, 2015 @ 7:06 pm

    We Filipinos used to speak carabao English in communication, the reason to become accepted to us. While it is accepted, it degrade the effectiveness in communicating to foreigners and technical persons. It also distort our English curriculum in school. There is really a need to improve our Carabao English by continues learning in English grammar to improve our proficiency giving us more confident to communicate. We therefore need a published reference material, “Don’t Speak Good. Speak Well!!” so that we will learn to improve our communication skill.

  • Josephine Tolentino February 9, 2015 @ 9:35 am

    Additional information to the topic is that carabao english refers to Filipinos’ way of speaking english. it could be gramatically wrong but its good enough for us because we understand each other. The use of carabao is in reference to our national beast of burden, same as saying “filipino english”. Carabao english is old term and now refers to broken english spoken by the “poor and uneducated”. When its “broken” english spoken by the “society class”, its called taglish. We Filipinos should know the appropriate words in every conversation that we do with other people.

  • Annabie Galaura February 9, 2015 @ 10:33 am

    I am grateful that there are people nowadays who sincerely took time to help Filipinos correct their accustomed English words. Most these commonly used words are grammatically wrong. Hence the birth of the so-called “Carabao English”. Personally, I find this Filipino brand discriminating as it depicts how poor Filipinos are when it comes to grammar. This is in spite of the fact that majority of the Filipinos can comprehend and speak English well compared to other nationalities. I should say Filipinos are far better in Oral English than in Written English. This is because in school, students are often encouraged to speak out their thoughts than put in writing. But, it is not too late for Filipinos to learn and correct their habituated English words. It is a good thing that there is a published reference material like Don’t Speak Good. Speak Well! that will help Filipinos to become excellent English communicators.

  • Pamela G. Mendoza February 9, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

    The average Filipinos commonly make mistakes in the use of grammars in conversing in English and written communication. The constant use of the text message also helps contribute in the poor use of the English language. But I believe that it can be improve by simply reading books, search lessons online or attend trainings on English lessons on grammar.

  • Leo Wilfred R. Caban February 9, 2015 @ 4:50 pm

    “Carabao English” is frequently used in oral communications by persons with adequate knowledge with English and persons that are considered not so good in English. Some of these persons who are not English proficient are Filipinos that were unfortunate with their studies, and some are foreigners from different countries in which English is not their natural medium of expressions. In the Philippines, “Carabao English” is not recommended for written communications because it might cause disappointment. And to avoid embarrassment, it is also discouraged to use when speaking in official business gatherings with formal audiences or listeners.

  • Annabelle G. Mercado February 9, 2015 @ 6:01 pm

    Carabao English is resorted when we translated the way we Filipinos speak the English way. There is a saying that when speaking in English speak the English way.

  • ARNEL T. GALLOR February 9, 2015 @ 6:48 pm

    Carabao English is part of our culture as Filipinos, even our teachers and professors commits these little mistakes while teaching us that is why we are not dot conscious that we are also committing these mistakes. It is very hard to correct this practice because even in our own language we are still learning, if you would observe very closely we also commit mistakes while speaking in Filipino.

  • Chrischelle Mae R. Jumarang February 10, 2015 @ 6:00 pm

    Grammatical errors are always inevitable but there are ways to improve our spoken and written English. Engaging in English grammar lessons is indeed a big help to improve our communication skills. In addition, reading the right material and constant communication with our friends in English will enhance that skill.

  • mylene dominguez February 10, 2015 @ 7:15 pm

    One way of reaching out is through communication. Filipinos are known for being hospitable and part of this hospitality is entertaining visitors. Filipinos are brave in communicating in english orally eventhough it is grammatically incorrect. They have their way of conveying their message to the receiver. We hear different stories about the carabao english and we sometimes laughed at it because we know that the grammar is wrong but we still get the message. Good communication skill is learned through proper training and through education.

  • Ma. Loida A. Rosario February 10, 2015 @ 7:24 pm

    Carabao English is the term known for Filipinos speaking English. It means that the improper/wrong use of grammar and pronunciations. Because of this term, a lot of Training/Educational Institutions were established. One of them is the American English Inc. it helps participant like us to gained higher awareness of essential writing skills and etiquette, gained more confidence in writing English and enhanced grammatical competence for writing in English.

  • Krizia Karla A. Tanqueco February 10, 2015 @ 7:43 pm

    “Carabao English” or I must say “Broken English”. We Filipinos are non-native English speakers adopting the foreign language, and embedded to our culture. There is nothing wrong about that, as long as it we use it in a good manner and we have respect for each other and that is enough to converse with other people.

  • JUANITO U. UROLAZA JR February 10, 2015 @ 11:11 pm

    We often speak “Carabao English,” named after the country’s beast of burden, the Carabao or water buffalo. It impose to the non-practice of a proper grammar and pronunciation. However, I believe that too much use of it might lead us to misunderstanding. To improve our speaking of English Language, we should be conscious on our common mistakes and correct to be better.

  • Jaives March 11, 2015 @ 11:02 pm

    I finally got curious on the etymology of “green-minded” after reading this. I couldn’t find a legitimate source on the idiom “grin-minded” like you mentioned other than some people claiming it to be correct. However, I did find one that had a better explanation. The Spanish for green (verde) can also mean naughty or risque (source: Wiktionary), in the same way that it can stand for fresh or envy in English.

    While we’re at it, might as well mention the rest:
    – “Toilet” is more of a Japanese term. “Powder room” is usually used only by Southerners.
    – Possessive vs. contraction is a common issue everywhere. Even American are prone to these errors.

    – #8 should say “In, On, At”

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