On May 1st, I started learning Tagalog.
There are well over a hundred and fifty distinct languages in the Philippines – languages, not dialects – but only two of them have official language status: Filipino (or Tagalog) and English. Estimates place the number of Tagalog-speakers at over 24 million worldwide – five of whom just happen to be my husband, his siblings and his parents.
I’d planned on starting with Pimsleur. I think that Pimsleur is a decent introductory language program. It helps with pronunciation, and starts building automaticity right from the beginning. And it’s also free from the library. Bonus!
So I tried the first Tagalog lesson at the dining room table, with JP sitting next to me.
me: *repeating along happily*
him: Nobody talks like that.
me: No, but look! It’s Conversational Tagalog. See?!
me: There are half-hour lessons! All audio! I can practice every day!
me: It’ll be awesome!
him: Nobody talks like that.
So much for Pimsleur.
And so, after a few weeks of trial and error, I’ve settled on a few different resources which I’m hoping will help me learn to talk like a real, live person.
Tara, Mag-Tagalog Tayo! This textbook and workbook, with MP3 audio, is forming the backbone of my learning at this point. It’s meant to be used in a classroom, so I have to adapt some of the activities. Having access to a native speaker is really helpful, since I can ask JP to clarify vocabulary, do role-plays and read through dialogues with me. There are some decent dialogues in the audio at full native speed, which I enjoy, although I wish there were more of them. The grammar explanations seem pretty solid, so for now I’m not planning on buying a dedicated grammar book.
Skype tutors. My Tagalog is not yet at a level where I can have conversations. But I can practice very specific skills using vocabulary and sentence structures that I’m working on in my textbook. For now, I’m mainly introducing myself, talking about myself on a very basic level, and asking and answering the same simple questions over and over again. And over and over again. (This is why I have to pay someone to talk to me at this point.) We also read dialogues together to work on my pronunciation, rhythm and intonation. For now, I’m aiming for two half-hour lessons per week. I book all of my tutoring sessions with italki tutors.
Notebook entries. You can also post texts on italki and have them corrected by native speakers. I’ve only posted a few so far, but my goal is to put up a new notebook entry after every lesson. I put any corrections into anki so that I can practice them later.
Filipinopod101. I paid for a one-month subscription to filipinopod101 at an introductory price of a dollar. Unfortunately, the content is lacking and I don’t plan on renewing my subscription. As of now, there are only 20 lessons for absolute beginners, and I’ll finish those by the time my month is up. The lessons that are there offer a decent source of very simple dialogues, although I don’t bother with the full lessons as they’re mostly in English. You can get a free week as a new member, or a month for a dollar after signing up. Hopefully they’ll add more content in the near future.
Anki. I have three anki decks, all of which I’m building myself. The first one has basic vocabulary and sentences from my textbook and tutoring sessions. The second deck is a picture vocabulary deck that I’m building based on the 625-word list from Fluent Forever. The third is an audio deck. After I finish a lesson on filipinopod101 or learn a dialogue in my textbook, I create an audio card with the dialogue, Tagalog transcript, and English translation.
Tracking my learning via a language log. I’ve kept a Spanish learning log on the HTLAL forums since late July of last year. I find that tracking my learning keeps me accountable and creates a record of my progress. I started my Taga-log on day one. You can check it out here.
Complete Filipino: A Teach Yourself Guide. I recently ordered this book with audio. I haven’t received it yet, so I can’t tell you exactly how I’m going to use it. I just knew that I wanted another resource, and I wasn’t having much luck digging around online. I’ve heard very good things about the Teach Yourself language courses, and this one was published in 2011, so I’m hoping that it has modern, colloquial language. At less than 30 dollars, I thought it was worth the gamble. Let’s hope I was right!
I spend anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes per day on Tagalog. I’m moving very slowly, but I’m OK with that. I’m not in any rush.
Over the next few months, I’ll write more about what I’m doing, what works, what doesn’t, and what you might want to try if you’re interested in learning Tagalog.
Tara, mag-Tagalog tayo!
(Yeah, yeah, I’m totally cheating by just typing out the name of my textbook. But it means “Come on, let’s talk Tagalog”, so I thought it was fitting.)
(Also, please don’t worry if you’re here for the Spanish. Spanish still is – and I suspect will always be – my first language love, and I have absolutely no intention of replacing it. Look for a balance between Tagalog and Spanish learning in future posts.)