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I’m Canadian, my husband is from the Philippines and our son was born in Korea (You can read more about our family’s story here!). We of course want our son to love and appreciate his Filipino heritage and a big part of that is learning to speak Tagalog. By being able to speak Tagalog he will be able to connect with his father’s country and join in conversations with his family and other Filipinos more deeply than if he only spoke English.
Teaching him to speak Tagalog while we live in Korea though has been a challenge. Our son attends preschool taught in Korean and he hears Korean everywhere when he leaves the house. My husband and I speak English to each other and it’s easy to find English books, videos and toys either in Korea or online. Though I have studied Tagalog, teaching it to our son is primarily left up to daddy and it isn’t even his first language.
My husband grew up in Negros Occidental on the border of the Ilonggo and Cebuano language regions. They spoke one language at home and when they went to the market they spoke the other. When he started school his classes were in English and Tagalog so, by the time he was 6 years old he was using the 4 languages on a regular basis. After college he would go on to learn to speak Japanese while living there for 2 years and later learnt to speak Korean before going to Korea to work. I’ve seen him have conversations with groups of people switching back and forth between 3 – 4 different languages! So while he can speak Tagalog he doesn’t use it often and sometimes he struggles to find the words for things.
We tried using the very effective one parent one language technique in our home. I would speak English and my husband Tagalog but since my husband and I were speaking English to each other we would always forget to have him switch to Tagalog when he spoke with our son. Despite knowing many families in Korea with at least one Filipino parent, we have only been able to find 2 families in our city who were also teaching their children Tagalog. One has left and we have lost contact with the other family. A cultural center in our city offered us free space to hold language and cultural classes for Filipino kids but there was no interest from the Filipino community. We have visited Filipino groceries, sporting events, restaurants and churches to expose our son to Tagalog here in Korea as well but people go to these places to spend time with their friends and so he may hear the language but doesn’t get to practice it much at all.
We realized that we were going to have to collect resources to help us to teach our son. Here are some we have used. I hope they can help your family as well!
Tagalog for Kids Flash Cards
We bought the Tuttle Tagalog for Kids and the More Tagalog for Kids flashcards before our son was even born! Each set includes 64 cards, an audio CD, a poster wall chart and a learning guide for parents with teaching suggestions. On the front of the card is a simple graphic in color with the word in Tagalog. On the back of the card is the English translation and a couple of sentences using the vocabulary word. The CD includes the pronunciation of the words, sentences and some songs.
Before our son could even talk he loved looking through the cards and having us tell him over and over what they said. We visited the Philippines for the first time when he was about a year and a half old and as soon as we got out of the airport he started pointing and excitedly yelling “Jeepney! Jeepney!” He had learnt about Jeepney from these cards. Though they are made from strong paper I would recommend having the cards laminated if possible. We ended up laminating ours and it has made them easier to clean and more difficult to damage. Now that our son is older we can work on the sentences with him.
We struggled a bit to find good books in Tagalog but over the past 4 years more have been showing up on the market. We wanted fun and educational stories for our son but we found that a lot of the available Tagalog books are religious or political in content even for very small children. While this is fine for many families, we wanted to keep the topics more lighthearted when he was very young. Another reoccurring theme in many children’s’ books are balikbayan returnee stories. These are a fantastic resource for children who are learning Tagalog because their families are going to move to the Philippines. In our case I was worried that if our son keeps on reading about how he should be moving back to the Philippines he might feel guilty about living abroad. I might be worrying too much though!
It is possible to get books for children in Tagalog online and at the National Bookstore in the Philippines but at the bookstore the Tagalog selection is far smaller than the English book section. At two of the National Bookstores we visited in the Philippines the employees didn’t even know where the Tagalog children’s book sections were! My husband and I had to search through all the aisles and show them. It was really shocking!
Here are some of our favorite Tagalog kids books:
Lakas and the Manilatown Fish / Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown
Lakas and the Manilatown Fish / Si Lakas at ang Isdang Manilatown was the very first Tagalog book that we got for our son. The story follows Lakas through Manila town in San Francisco as he chases a magical fish and meets unusual characters along the way. It is a dual language book. On the left side the story is written in Tagalog and on the right it is written in English so in our family daddy reads it in Tagalog and mommy reads it in English. It is aimed at children age 5 and up but we started reading it to our son when he was a baby. The beautiful illustrations kept his attention and he just enjoyed listening to us. Years later, he still enjoys it. The author and illustrator have released a second book Lakas and the Makibaka Hotel / Si Lakas at ang Makibaka Hotel but we have not had the chance to read it yet.
The book Filipino Friends has been created in the same style as the classic English language Richard Scarry books. The objects in the illustrations have been labeled in both English and Tagalog. The story is only in English though. Included among the pages are points teaching about Filipino culture, foods and even a simple recipe for kalamansi juice! We enjoy singing Bahay Kubo together when we reach that section of the book. This book does end up being a balikbayan returnee story but it is so full of fun cultural bits we just couldn’t pass it up!
The illustrations alone in Tagu-Taguan are reason to buy this Filipino counting book! From sampu to isa the reader travels through the garden counting different insects. This book is a bit too difficult for children who are learning to count to read on their own but is a great book to read together as a family. Our son is an insect and number lover so this book was an instant favorite!
We actually have 3 books in this series. “Kokak! Kokak!”, “ Mmmmm… Sarap!” and “Prrrrrt…Utot!” There are others in the series as well by the same author and illustrator. They’re funny little books with simple big graphics and few words on the page for young learners. They can be purchased online and shipped internationally through http://www.anvilpublishing.com/ We got ours at National Bookstore and will be looking for more the next time we visit!
Adarna House Books
Adarna House Books have been publishing quality books for newborn to teenaged Filipino children since 1980. The following books can all be purchased through http://adarna.com.ph/ and shipped internationally. They are also available at the National Book Store in the Philippines
The award winning Dumaan si Butiki follows a cute little lizard up and down and around the house. It is a young learner’s board book that teaches locations as the little lizard goes left, right, up and under. It can be purchased online and shipped internationally through we purchased our copy in the Philippines.
These two books are small board books with only one or two words on each page. Ideal for babies, they’re nice first books for little hands.
We love carabao (just like lolo’s!) and so any book that features them is a hit in our family! Ang Mabait na Kalabaw is a dual language book with Tagalog at the top of the page and English at the bottom. The good carabao is a role model of good behavior as he goes about his day. There are items to count on each page as well starting at 1 on the first page and finishing with 13 in the last illustration.
Check out part 2 here: Teaching Tagalog to our Kids, Part 2: Batibot!
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