Berkeley Filipino language program wins Champions of Language Award

The UC Berkeley Filipino language program was awarded the Kampeon ng Wika award, or language Champion award, by the Philippine national Commission on the Filipino Language for its contributions in advancing and promoting the Filipino language.

UC Berkeley is the first American university to receive the award, according to a campus press release. Awardees included Berkeley lecturers from the South and Southeast Asian Studies department, staff and alumni.

“I feel very honored and more inspired to Advocate for Filipino language studies here on campus and beyond,” said Fritzie de Mata, Filipino Language Studies alumni, Volunteer and Advocate on campus, in an email. “This award acknowledges the long history of Filipino language courses here on campus, how Filipinx students have not only initiated the beginning of these courses but also have always fought for these courses to continue.”

Nominations are typically submitted by an individual or organization, according to UC Berkeley senior lecturer Joi Barrios-LeBlanc. After drafting the pool of nominees, the commission forms a panel to select the awardees.

This year, the campus’s Filipino language team was nominated by the Filipino Language Center at the University of the Philippines, Barrios-LeBlanc noted. The award was accepted by campus South and Southeast Asian Studies alumni Denice Sy-Munez on behalf of the program.

“It is a testament to what we can achieve as a community of Filipinx teachers, staff and students, as well as our supporters,” Barrios-LeBlanc said in an email.

In addition to the award, the commission also recognized the campus Asian Pacific American Student Development office, UC Berkeley Language Center, League of Filipino Students, {m}aganda magazine, Pilipinx American Student Services, Pilipinx American Alliance and the Cal Philipinx American Alumni Association for their contributions to developing and sustaining the language program.

The campus’s Filipino language program offers the highest number of Filipino courses on the US mainland, Barrios-LeBlanc added, as well as a study abroad program in the Philippines to further students’ understanding of the language and culture.

“The Filipino language program at UC Berkeley provides a sense of belonging and community to Filipinx students on campus, especially since Filipinx students have been historically marginalized on campus,” de Mata said in the email. “Most importantly, because of the United States’ history of colonizing the Philippines and its institutionalization of the English language in the Philippines, teaching Filipino languages ​​to students on campus is an act of decolonization.”

The program also provides students with resources to learn the Filipino language after growing up prioritizing the English language, de Mata added.

Program leaders hope to continue their mission of strengthening and advancing the Filipino language.

“With the help of our alumni and our colleagues from other UC campuses and universities with like-minded ideas, we hope we can truly build a Center for Philippine Languages,” Barrios-LeBlanc said in the email.

Phoebe Chen is an academics and administration reporter. Contact her at [email protected]and follow her on Twitter at @ph0ebechen.

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