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Teaching Bicol children in their native tongue

By: - Correspondent / @gmoulicINQ
/ 12:05 AM March 06, 2014

THE TWO books designed for Bicol kids. WATCH TOWER PHILS./CONTRIBUTOR

A technique tried and tested by the Department of Education has made learning fun for children: Reading stories through their native tongue.

In an effort to help Bicol-speaking children understand moral values better, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, through their legal arm, Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society of the Philippines Inc. (Watch Tower), translated into the Bicol language two publications designed for children—“An Sakuyang Libro nin mga Istorya sa Bibliya” (My Book of Bible Stories) and “An Sakuyang mga Leksiyon sa Bibliya” (My Bible Lessons).

Bicol is among the 12 languages which the DepEd has been using since last year as a medium of instruction among grade schoolchildren under the Mother Tongue-Based Multilingual Education (MTB-MLE) program.

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Free books

Tagged by school officials as valuable tools in their  program, the publications have been distributed for free in several public schools in the Bicol region.

Some 18,000 copies of the books were also released to the public during a series of Bible-based conventions in Virac town, Catanduanes province; Legazpi City, Albay province; Naga City, Camarines Sur province; and Casiguran town, Sorsogon province, in November and December last year, according to Dean Jacek, spokesperson for the Jehovah’s Witnesses in the Philippines.

An Sakuyang Libro nin mga Istorya sa Bibliya, which was first published in English, contains 116 accounts taken from the Bible, including popular stories of Cain and Abel, Abraham, Noah, and King Solomon.

Even children too young to read can benefit from the book’s more than 125 illustrations, Jacek said.

On the other hand, An Sakuyang mga Leksiyon sa Bibliya is a 16-page, full-color brochure designed for use by parents to teach children 3 years of age and younger, he added.

“We believe that teaching and learning is best done through the students’ native language. At an early age, children would be learning good values in a way that is enjoyable for them. We believe this book will benefit more Filipino children if it is translated also into more local languages like Bicol,” Jacek said.

Compelling need

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Dr. Ricardo Ma. Duran Nolasco, professor at the Department of Linguistics in the University of the Philippines-Diliman and a leading advocate of the MTB-MLE, agreed on a currently “compelling need for quality instructional materials in local languages for the early grades.”

Nolasco said he was glad that local publishing institutions, such as Watch Tower Society, were filling this need by producing reading materials and videos in local languages, including Filipino Sign Language, that can be used as supplementary materials to help pupils in their studies.

“In accordance with the government’s new language-in-education policy, I highly recommend the (two) publications as supplementary materials for students under the MTB-MLE program,” he said.

Zorayda Revelo, principal of Albay Central School in Legazpi, said she was thrilled to use the book in her school as this would “instill good moral values among the pupils.”

Alma Bella Valiente, a Grade 2 teacher in Naga City, described the book as a valuable teaching aid that would make her storytelling sessions easier.

Translators’ task

Jacek said the translators were able to effectively reach the children’s hearts when they tried to think like them.

In September 2012, Watch Tower formed the team of native Bicol speakers, who volunteered their time, talent, skill and energy to produce a translation that was easy to read among children.

One of the challenges the translators had to overcome was the number of varieties of Bicol, depending on where the children come from, Jacek said.

“The translation team tried to come up with words that would be understood by all Bicolanos, regardless of province,” he said.

However, in some cases, the words were really different by region. In these cases, the translators provided footnotes with alternate words that parents could substitute when reading with their children, Jacek said.  “This is to help ensure that young ones from all regions will clearly understand the story,” he said.

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