There's a special kind of love I have for the Philippines. The landscapes, the food, the hospitality of the people, there's so much to enjoy and appreciate in that wonderful collection of islands. The country is a common destination for work and travel, and many even choose to retire there.
Yes it's true that English is one of the official language of the Philippines, but to really dive in to the local culture it's best to learn the Filipino language.
Speaking Tagalog opens up the Philippines in a way that speaking English doesn't
Once you get out into the provinces English is often spoken less. There's also a certain connection that comes when you make an effort to learn someone else's language. Thus many foreigners decide to learn Tagalog (the other official language of the Philippines).
Still there aren't exactly a ton of materials and resources out there for learning the language, especially compared to more popular languages like Spanish, French, or even Japanese.
In this post we share our top 5 resources for learning Tagalog, so that you can find the course or program that's right for your learning needs. But before we get into the list let's talk about just what exactly makes a good Tagalog course.
What makes a good Tagalog course?
It doesn't gloss over grammar
Love it or hate it grammar is an indispensable part of learning a foreign language (Tagalog included). A good Filipino language course should introduce grammar in a way that is engaging, but also helps you understand some of the tougher aspects of the language.
Difficult aspects of grammar in Tagalog
Tagalog has its share of grammar peculiarities (if you're a native English speaker). Your learning program shouldn't shy away from them. Here's a few of the concepts a course will have to help you learn...
English sentences follow a specific word order: Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). This means in English, the subject is followed by the verb which is then followed by the object (The boy throws the ball).
Typical informal Tagalog follows a Verb-Subject-Object (VSO) word order. So the example of the boy throwing the ball would look something like this in Tagalog: Throws the boy the ball. There will be some other grammatical elements at play when speaking Tagalog, which this English example doesn't show.
Suffice to say using a different word order can be jarring for a first time language learner. And the grammatical differences don't stop with a VSO word order.
Tagalog can also use a SVO word order, along with grammatical markers (separate words which denote grammar), but this will sound pretty formal to native speakers.
A closer look at some of the most commonly used Filipino verbs
Verbs in Tagalog will take on different forms depending on how they're used in a sentence (this is called conjugation). Verbs will change according to tense (past/present/future), similar to some degree to English. However Tagalog verbs also change form according toward their grammatical mood (something we don't have in English).
Two examples of grammatical mood in Tagalog include: indicative (when the subject at hand is accepted as fact to the speaker), and potential (used when an action is not known to have happened at the moment the speaker is talking).
We don't really want to get into the nitty-gritty of Filipino grammar here. Just know that there are some serious difference between how Filipino and English verbs work.
It teaches the language holistically
Reading, writing, speaking, and listening
There are four skills sets when it comes to language learning: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. A great course will incorporate all four (or at least 3, as it's difficult to substitute speaking with real native speakers).
A holistic approach to language learning is important because one skill set will reinforce the others. You're much more likely to retain words you read, write, hear, and say; than words you simply try to memorize from a chart or book.
Using all four skill sets also makes language learning a lot more exciting. A great example is grammar. Throw a heap of words lists and grammar rules in front of someone and their eyes are likely to glaze over. Give them the opportunity to see vocabulary and grammar in actions through listening, speaking, reading, AND writing;...they're a lot more likely to enjoy the language learning process!
Our tops picks for best Tagalog learning program
From $4+ per month
15+ minutes a day
Filipinopod101 features audio lessons in a podcast format. Each episode (aka lesson) is built around a Tagalog conversation between two native speakers. Each lesson is hosted by English speaking hosts who help breakdown new grammar and vocabulary, and point out how they are used in the lesson's featured conversation.
The site also provides additional resources such as lesson transcriptions in English as well as in Tagalog, slow audio playback, an in-site flashcard system, and even video lessons.
Filipinopod101 is one of the most comprehensive learning tools out there for Tagalog. The site offers a free trial, so you can try out its premium features before making a purchase.
30 minutes a day
Pimsleur is probably the second most popular language course behind Rosetta Stone. Pimsleur is largely audio based and is specifically designed to develop your conversational skills.
Pimsleur recently released a major overhaul on their curriculum, and they now offer a new app based version of their classic course. True to the Pimsleur method, the Filipino course consists of thirty minute audio lessons. Each lesson uses a unique and effective question/recall/respond technique to help you develop conversational skills in the language.
Pimsleur is an active approach to learning. You can't simply turn on the audio and let it play in the background. You will be required to respond in Tagalog from the very beginning. Pimsleur is the only audio based course that comes close to approximating real life conversations with native speakers.
The course also features a reading comprehension component which helps students get comfortable with reading in the language too.
The only down side of Pimsleur is that there are only two levels of Tagalog available (a total of sixty 30 minute lessons). For a monthly subscription of $14.95 per month you will get access to all of the Tagalog lessons available on Pimlsuer. There's also a one week free trial available through the link below.
$4+ per hour (varies between teachers)
30 minute or 1 hour lessons
An intro video from one of Italki's Tagalog teachers.
Italki isn't technically a learning program, but it's such a powerful language learning resource that we had to include it on this list. Italki is an online market place that connects language learners with language teachers for one-on-one language classes via video or audio chat.
Each teacher provides his or her own curriculum/approach to the language. Professional teachers supply learning materials and give assignments and exercises (if desired). Informal tutors don't provide structured materials but are available for conversation practice. There are over 50 Tagalog teachers offering lessons on Italki
It addition to paid lessons Italki also have some useful free resources that anyone can use. These include a public notebook where you can write journal entries to be corrected by native speakers, a language learning blog published by teachers, and a language exchange where you can connect with native Filipino speakers who are looking to improve their English!
*with a purchase of $20 or more. After your first purchased lesson a credit of $10 will be added to your account
4. Rosetta Stone
15+ minutes a day
Rosetta Stone is the biggest name in language learning. Their method is a zero translation approach, which uses photos and audio to teach you a foreign language. By and large the course does a good job of teaching basic vocabulary and grammar.
However if you're looking to go past the basic Tagalog phrases and vocabulary than Rosetta Stone might not be the best choice. Currently there are only three levels of Tagalog available, and with zero translations and no grammar explanation, trying to surmise the meaning of a sentence using only staged photo can get frustrating.
Still, there are still many language learners who swear by Rosetta Stone. At the very least their courses provide you with the opportunity to get your feet wet in the Filipino language.
5. Conversational Filipino for Beginners (Udemy Course)
Up to you
This highly rated Udemy course teaches the essential words and phrases that you will need to have basic conversations in with native speakers in the Philippines.
The course features handouts, review notes, and quizzes to help you remember and retain what you learn. By the end of the course you should be able to interact with your environment, describe your background, and tackle common everyday situations all in Tagalog.
The course isn't big on grammar, but it is a solid primer to the Filipino language.
Well that concludes our list of the top learning resources for the Filipino language. I hope you found this list helpful. Remember that learning materials and programs are important, but the essential factor to language learning success is you. Consistency, determination, and fun go along way!