Like many Filipinos of my generation who grew up speaking English at home, we've lost touch with the language of our parents and thus lost a critical part of our culture. Believe it or not, this loss of identity isn't just happening abroad. It's also happening within the Philippines itself.
When I first began my language learning journey, I reached out to a teacher about potential Filipino lessons. My first attempt turned out futile, however, as this "teacher" told me I shouldn't bother learning Tagalog because I would be better off speaking English anyway. Sadly, this attitude remains persistent in many Filipino households.
On the bright side, however, there's a movement growing amongst younger Filipinos (yes, us 'awful millennials') who are yearning for connection and want to re-learn the language of our roots.
But whether you’re a Filipino longing to reconnect, or you’re a non-Filipino who wants to explore our culture, there are resources out there to learn. Here are my favourites.
PS: I’ve personally used these resources on my own language learning journey, as has Jérôme (who is not Filipino), so this post is perfect for beginners, intermediates, or those of you who just need a little refreshing.
1. Fluent in Three Months by Benny The Irish Polyglot
Don't let the name discourage you. I’ve been following Benny The Irish Polyglot for several years now, and his resources are always refreshingly insightful and consistent.
His philosophy is simple. If you want to learn a language FAST, the best thing to do is start speaking it from day one. That’s a philosophy that’s easier said than done and requires you to have a healthy dose of self-esteem, but it works. Benny’s website is packed full of free resources to help you organize your language learning journey with tips and tricks to help you focus on the right things early on. You can also pay a very reasonable fee to get access to premium resources if you want to bring your A-game.
And before you get started learning Filipino, make sure to read Benny’s detailed overview of his experience learning Tagalog first and key things you should keep in mind.
Developed by a husband and wife team in partnership with language professors and Filipino instructors, FilipinoLessons.com is a website dedicated to spreading the Filipino language. Here you can find structured lessons on vocabulary and grammar, points-based activities, and even a community forum where you can ask all your language learning questions. Everything is clearly explained and laid out, which surprisingly, most other language websites aren’t.
As I’ve started diving into Filipino and trying to re-learn it, I’ve come across a lot of different Filipino language websites, which I often found confusing, incomplete, or out of date. Filipinolessons.com is the best resource we’ve found so far for learning Filipino online. And what makes it even better? It’s completely free.
3. Try Filipino Language Apps
There are quite a few Filipino language learning apps and podcasts out there. One of the first that come to mind is FilipinoPod101 which offers a podcast, a website, and a series of YouTube videos. While I appreciate that most of these resources are free, I haven't fallen in love with FilipinoPod101's resources.
What I do love however is Pimsleur Tagalog. Pimsleur is far from free, but it’s an excellent resource. Pimsleur boasts a scientifically-proven method of language learning which will “have you speaking Tagalog in 30 days.” I can’t personally speak to how true that claim is, but from personal experience, I just love learning with the Pimsleur app for its convenience and ease of use.
Though you’re learning a language, I never feel mentally drained after a lesson so Pimsleur is perfect for learners on the go. Jérôme, whose native language is French and has used Pimsleur to learn Spanish in the past, will often complete a Tagalog lesson as he washes dishes in the evening. They’ve got Level 1 Beginner, and recently released Level 2 Intermediate!
4. Get A Filipino Teacher
Sometimes self-directed learning isn’t enough, and you just need a professional to help you out. Enter ITalki. I love this website. It’s got an easy-to-use interface which allows you to find language tutors from around the world. You can even specify if you want your teacher to be a native or advanced speaker, and which country you want them to be based. This could be helpful if, for example, you’re living in California and would like to learn more Filipino-American slang rather than traditional Filipinio in the Philippines.
ITalki also gives you the option to choose the level of experience of your teachers. You can choose a professional (someone with formal education or certification), a community teacher (someone without certification), or find a free language exchange partner. My teacher is a professional tutor based in Manila :)
ITalki also specializes in thousands of languages with teachers and students around the world. So if you’re interested in learning any language in general, make sure to bookmark ITalki for your future language learning adventures.
*Disclaimer: As a student, I've got a referral link for ITalki. If you sign up and take your first lesson with our link here, we’ll both get $10 credited to our accounts :)
5. Immerse Yourself With Filipino
Though you may not necessarily be able to fly over to the Philippines for three months and learn the language that way, there are definitely things you can do to bring the Philippines a little bit closer to where you are.
There are a few Filipino films and series available on Netflix, such as Amo, BirdShot, and Metro Manila. Unfortunately many mainstream shows from the Philippines are often in English, but these are great because they’re actually in Filipino. I also love supplementing my language learning with music from Filipino artists. While I love the classics like Parokya ni Edgar, I’ve also been really excited to discover more Filipino artists from the US and Canada like Ruby Ibarra, DATU, and RV Mendoza.
Don't miss the very moving Birdshot
6. Use Friends and family!
Finally, don't underestimate the power of just... talking! Like Benny The Irish Polyglot said, the best way to learn a language quickly is start speaking from day 1. Next time you step into a Filipino gathering with Titos and Titas all around, resist the urge to default to English and strike up a conversation in Filipino instead.
But be warned - though we're known to be friendly and hospitable, Filipinos can be brutally honest and won't try to spare your feelings. I've had my share of jokes poked at my expense for my awful accent. However, learning a language naturally requires a thick skin, a bit of stubbornness, and a lot of determination. So don't let anyone discourage you on your journey.
Are you learning Filipino or a another language from the Philippines like Bisaya or Ilocano? What has your experience been learning the language? Share your thoughts with us!