Expanding Marketing Coverage in the Asean Region Through the Development of a Common Language while Retaining the Language of Culture






Vice-President, ASEAN Book Publishers Association

(August 30, 2006, World Trade Center, Manila)


A Wake Up Call!


Greetings and a hearty welcome to all of you for gracing this occasion and sharing your valuable thoughts on the thrust of our forum entitled ” Expanding Marketing Coverage in the ASEAN Region Through The Development of a Common Language While Retaining the Language of Culture”.


Consistent with this topic, allow me to highlight a Chinese saying which runs thus:
“ If you are thinking of a year ahead, sow seed. If you are thinking of ten years ahead, plant a tree. If you are thinking of 100 years ahead make people aware. By sowing seed once, you will harvest once. By planting a tree you will harvest tenfold. But by opening the minds of people, you will harvest 100 fold.”


This is the essence and the challenge that faces us now. This is a Wake Up Call to all. Each day as we venture outside the doors of our homes, we witness a world undergoing greater climate change than those we witnessed many years ago, and experiencing a mass extinction of species greater than those experienced a million years ago. These changes suggest that the door of the future is opening to a scenario which is more global, more unescapable, more bewildering than those encountered by our forefathers. Add to these is the fact that with the new communication technology, the publishing industry is now facing, new challenges namely “convergence, specialization and globalization. Publishers must be prepared to seize these opportunities in order for the industry to survive. The great demand for books, both printed and electronics still looks to be very promising and this is the very reason for our existence and success.


Such a scenario should alert us on what we need to do. At the present time, we are consciously preoccupied with local concerns of our daily lives in all parts of our country. The most common concern is on economics or environmental aspects as well as the interdependence of livelihood and the limited capacity to support the growing demands of the population. Viewed in this light, if we just concentrate on our industry in the local scenario in which there is a big number of competitors, the problem will naturally be compounded. So, we need to look at all aspects of the problem by examining both the local and global scenario in order to develop a sense of vision that is not only local, but global as well.


We must always remember that the future can still be our future. We can possess the future provided we do not allow it to possess us. All we have to do is to make a choice and/or examine some alternatives and choose from among those that are available, reasonable and feasible for us.


The Proposed Alternative


To my mind, based on the existing conditions facing our industry and looking at both the local and global scenarios, it seems and I hope you agree with me that our alternative is to expand our marketing coverage in the ASEAN Region through the development of a common language while retaining the language of culture. So, for those who doubt this possibility, I feel safe in saying that this can happen through the development of common communication system which will eventually lead to a sincere understanding, friendship, unity between and among the nations in the ASEAN Region.


Through a common language messages can be conveyed and the cultural dimension of all countries in the ASEAN Region can be understood resulting in genuine respect, love and appreciation for the culture of the place.


The Process


In my travels to the different ASEAN as well as to other European, and African countries, I have seen the possibility of the expansion of the market. The only difficulty though is the variations in language in al these countries. So, by developing a common language we can still reach our goal of expanding the market while retaining the language of culture.


I have also learned that these countries have what is known as “lingua franca” which is an auxiliary language, generally of a hybrid and partially developed nature, that is employed over an extensive area by people speaking different and mutually unintelligible tongues in order to communicate with one another. Such a language is frequently used primarily for commercial purposes.


In the ASEAN region the following languages are used:


Bahasa Malaya, is used in Malaysia, parts of Indonesia, Brunei, Singapore, Southern Thailand and Southern Philippines.


In the Philippines Malay words have evolved and have been integrated into the Filipino language. Examples include words like:


Salamat datang – salamat sa pagdating
Serga saket – may sakit ako
Tolong – tulong
Mangga – mangga
Bihun – bihon etc.


By contrast, Bahasa Indonesia has been successfully known as lingua franca for its disparate island. Bahasa Indonesia is widely spoken and recognized under its Constitution as a “working language.” Likewise, the Malay language has many borrowed language from Arabia, Senskrit, Tamil, Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese, and recently English.


Likewise, the present Constitution of the Philippines ratified in 1987 stated that English and Filipino are both the official languages of the country. There are 12 native languages with at least one million people speakers in Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Bohol, Waray-waray, Kapangpangan, Pangasinan, Kiraray-a, Maranao, Maguindanao, and Tausug. One or more of these is spoken natively by more than 90% of the population.


How To Go About This


Theoretically, it is easy to say that expanding the market through the Asean Region is easy and attainable. But the search for a common language and still retain the language culture is the big question. But let me share with you the experiences of the Portuguese. When the Portuguese explored the seas of Africa,America, Asia and Oceanea, they tried to communicate with the natives by mixing a Portuguese influenced version of lingua franca with the local language. When English, French crew failed to understand the language of the natives, they used the “Broken Portuguese”. Through a process of change the Lingua Franca and Portuguese Woodstock was substituted by the language of the people in contact.


The same process was experienced in the Philippines. Spanish replaced Latin, then English replaced Spanish, the Japanese and Chinese had some influence in the language. To date, however, English and Filipino are recognized as the official languages or lingua Franca of the Philippines.


Viewed against these experiences, the development of a common language without neglecting the language culture is possible. Operationally the topic of our forum is feasible by adapting a common adage which is: “Think globally, act locally”. This means that while a common language may be attained through a coordinated research effort by selected members of the publishing industry, the content and implementation of the product must be according to the culture of the place. Hence, when the products are marketed in the ASEAN Region, the materials can be understood via a common language and at the same time the cultural beliefs, practices and traditions of the different countries in the ASEAN Region will be known, respected and appreciated by all. In this way, unity, friendship, understanding, respect and love for one another will result is peace of the highest order.


A Look Ahead


On this note, the benefit which can be derived is that by bonding together, a greater market would be created through co-publishing, translation, new books written in a common language, but most of all this will enrich the respective dialects, languages and cultural information as the vehicle through which the cultural heritage are preserved and exposed.


As our publications are sources of knowledge, the ASEAN book publishing sector can be a potent force to contend with. Furthermore, by linking regional publications together, developing skills and resources and forging contracts with ASEAN and international organizations, we will be able to build a vigorous publishing industry not only in our region, but the ASEAN Regions as well. We must be proactive and sensitive to the changes and need to feel a new lease of life and henceforth play a role in building the publishing industry to a higher level and at the same time bringing our countries together.


Allow me to enjoin one and all to respond to this wake up call which I believe will eliminate the obstacles and difficulties facing the industry.


At this point let me close by reiterating an improved version of the Chinese saying which I quoted earlier that… “if we sow the seed of Hope, we can be sure to harvest its fruits tomorrow not only ones but a hundredfold of harvest in the form of an expanded-marketing of products through a common language while retaining the language of culture.”


Thank you.

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