Reporting in Filipino: Words that journalists often get wrong

Michael Bueza
Reporting in Filipino: Words that journalists often get wrong
Is it 'impluwensya' or 'impluwensiya'? What's the difference between 'kaganapan' and 'pangyayari'? When do we not use 'sa pagitan ng'? The media sometimes doesn't help clarify.

MANILA, Philippines – Is it “impluwensya” or “impluwensiya”? What’s the difference between “kaganapan” and “pangyayari”? When do we not use “sa pagitan ng”?

A lot of times, the mass media doesn’t help at all in telling its audience the proper spelling or usage of Filipino words.

The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF, or the Commission on the Filipino Language) listed down common mistakes in Filipino by media practitioners in print, broadcast, and online during its Kapihan sa Wikang Filipino on September 30.

The commission sought mass media’s help in promoting the use of correct Filipino spelling and grammar through their publications and programs. (READ: Manwal ng tamang Filipino inirekomendang gamitin ng media)

Here are some of these mistakes, according to the KWF:

1. “dyaryo” vs “diyaryo”

This word contains a diphthong (kambal-patinig), or a vowel followed by the letter “w” or “y”.

The preferred word is “diyaryo” (newspaper) to reflect the diphthong. Same goes for “probinsiya” (province), “aksiyon” (action), “eleksiyon” (election), and “impluwensiya” (influence).

The KWF’s Manwal sa Masinop na Pagsulat notes 4 rules in reflecting dipthongs:

  1. When the kambal-patinig follows a consonant in the first syllable, as in “diyaryo” and “kuwento” (story)
  2. When the kambal-patinig follows a consonant cluster (like “ks” and “st”), as in “eleksiyon” and “Kristiyano” (Christian)
  3. When the kambal-patinig follows an ‘h’ sound, as in “rehiyon” (region) and “kolehiyo” (college)
  4. When the kambal-patinig is at the end of the word and has a stress on the first vowel of the original word, as in “ekonomiya” (economía or economy)

2. “kaganapan” vs “pangyayari”

“Kaganapan” refers to completeness, fulfillment or totality, said KWF Chairman Virgilio Almario. When referring to events, use “pangyayari.”

3. “sa pagitan ng”

This phrase is a result of “Englishism” or following the flow of an English sentence when translating to Filipino, said Almario.

For example, in translating “An agreement between the Philippines and the United States…” some media outlets use “Isang kasunduan sa pagitan ng Pilipinas at Estados Unidos…” but it means that a copy of one treaty is literally between the two countries.

“Isang kasunduan ng Estados Unidos at Pilipinas…” is enough and should be used instead, Almario said.

4. “aspeto” vs “aspekto”, “imahe” vs “imahen”

A Filipino translation for the word “aspect” should be “aspekto,” as borrowed from Spanish, said Almario, not “aspeto.”

Same goes with a Filipino translation for the word “image.” It should be “imahen” – also borrowed from Spanish – not “imahe” as used by some media outlets.

Almario said that improper words like “aspeto” and “imahe” are examples of siyokoy words, referring to male merfolks in Philippine mythology.

“Its etymology or origin is unknown. It’s not from English, Spanish, even Filipino. Like a siyokoy: it’s not a fish nor a human. It’s ugly, too.”

5. Hyphens (-)

Combining Filipino prefixes and English words with a hyphen, as in “i-ban” (to ban) or “naka-SUV” (riding an SUV) are OK, though in some cases, hyphens may be removed entirely.

“Even if it is an English word, when it sounds like a Filipino word when spoken, like the word ‘monitor,’, you may not use a hyphen anymore – as in ‘magmonitor,’ meaning ‘to monitor,'” Almario said.

“But, if there’s no hyphen between ‘i-ban’ – as in ‘iban’ – readers might not recognize the word,” Almario added, noting that it’s in the discretion of editors when to use hyphens.

In addition, Almario reminded about the existence of hyphens when using the Filipino prefix “de-“. He said that some media outlets remove the hyphen in the word “de-kalidad” and place a space instead, as in “de kalidad.”

He clarified that the prefix “de-” is used to indicate usage of a thing (as in “de-susi” or “needing a key”) or to indicate a level or standing (as in “de-kalidad” or “of high quality”). 

Have you taken note of other common Filipino language mistakes in newspapers, radio, TV, and online publications? Let us know in the comments section below. –

Media icons via Shutterstock

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Michael Bueza

Michael is a data curator under Rappler's Tech Team. He works on data about elections, governance, and the budget. He also follows the Philippine pro wrestling scene and the WWE. Michael is also part of the Laffler Talk podcast trio.