How fast would you like to become fluent in Tagalog? Six years? One year? Or six to three months?
As with other ambitions in life, you must have a specific goal in order for you to strategize your way in achieving it.
You also should write your intention for learning the language, whether it’s for personal and professional purposes. Post this written goals to a wall or somewhere you see daily so as to remind you to keep going in times when you’re about to give up.
I have been teaching Tagalog to foreigners since 2005 and here are tips and language hacks on what helped some of my learners get better at it.
(For those interested in learning the English language, I wrote “10 Surefire Ways to Enhance Your English Communication Skills” in 2016 which I gathered from my many years of experience in learning English.)
- Get a personal Tagalog Tutor – Tim Ferriss, entrepreneur and famed author of “The 4-hour Workweek” as well as Benny The Irish Polyglot, founder of www.fluentin3months.com, both recommended hiring a language teacher in their quest for learning another language.
It’s a given that many Tagalog-learning resources are free online. But it shows how serious you are and takes your learning to the next level when you actually pay for something.
One best value-for-money outcome in having a personal Tagalog teacher is that you get instant feedback and correction in terms of pronunciation and others. That expedites your learning more than other tips you could get online.
- Commitment to Self-study – We’re all busy. It’s just an excuse to say, “I only have once-a-week time for learning Tagalog.” If you’re really committed to learning Tagalog, although you could only have a weekly lesson with your hired Tagalog tutor, you should also incorporate daily learning by yourself at home with your chosen online resources.
Malcolm Gladwell, author of “Outliers”, said it takes 10,000 hours to achieve a certain level of expertise in any given field.
That means, if you want to become an expert Tagalog speaker, you’d have to do all these language hacks I wrote here at least 6 hours broken down in a day for 6 years.
One Tagalog-learning book I highly recommend is Victoria Carlos’ “I’d Like to Speak Filipino” (Gusto Kong Mag-Filipino) Book 2, the “blue” book which is both a course book and a workbook excellent for self-study.
- Practice Daily with Tagalog Natives – Many of my Tagalog learners live in the Philippines where they are exposed to Filipinos with whom they either work or deal with daily. I often suggest for them to maximize that time to practice and learn with my countrymen for them to be productive in the aspect of learning.
Imagine if you’re working at least eight hours a day and you’re working with Filipinos but not really intentionally learning the language with them. Lots of wasted of learning opportunities there!
- Have fun with it – Your brain remembers it more if you’re having fun in an activity. Same goes with Tagalog learning. Choose resources that are related to your hobbies and interests.
For example, if you enjoy cooking, look for YouTube videos related to it. If you like watching TV series, watch Pinoy Tagalog TV series on ABS-CBN or GMA on primetime. You won’t only pick-up on the language, but also our sensitivity to words spoken to us, as well as our habits and Pinoy culture.
- Repeat it like clockwork – Repetition is key to any type of learning, whether in Math, any skills, and especially in learning Tagalog.
One tip I give to my learners is record themselves using their smartphone saying Tagalog words, phrases, and sentences the right way so they could just play it while doing something else like exercise or household chores.
- Associate Tagalog words in your existing vocabulary – For example, the work “anak” means, “child.” If you’re a Star Wars fan, you could associate it by remembering that “Anakin” (just remember the first two syllables for “anak”) is a “child” of?
When teaching the word “wala” which means “nothing,” I tell them it’s close to the sound of the Tagalog “walo” which is “eight” in English. Or you could associate it further by saying it’s like the French word “voila” pronounced as “wa-lah” by Americans which means “look here.”
Word associations does wonders to your brain and it’s like hitting two birds in one stone.
- Take advantage of technology – I would often send video links to my Tagalog learners to remind them to do their self-study. I highly recommend subscribing to YouTube’s “Learn Tagalog” channel. Here’s a sample video on the uses of “naman” which is one of the many Tagalog words that changes meaning depending on the situational context.
Using apps smartphone apps like Anki and Duolingo comes handy and would be useful wherever you are because you always have your phone with you.
Google translate also does magic, but beware because some words are not precisely translated.
- Be consistent in daily Tagalog learning and practice – If you’re not learning daily, your heart and mind are not really into it. Aristotle once said, “Excellence is a habit.” Again, remind yourself of your goals and what it would take to get you there.
Consistency is key to the world of the Tagalog language.
When you learn to not only speak but also write another language, you have the backstage pass to a world of wonders of its native speakers.