Tagalog is one of the most widely spoken Filipino languages, mostly because it's one of two official languages in the Philippines. In this article we've laid out everything you need to know about learning Tagalog. It doesn't matter if you're new to language learning, or if you already speak several foreign languages, you've come to the right place. Enjoy!
What is the best way to learn Tagalog?
Let's start with the basics. What's the best method to learn Tagalog?
There aren't a lot of great courses or apps that were created specifically for learning Tagalog (most Filipino courses are converted from courses for Spanish, French, or other languages). Filipinopod101 is one of the best and most comprehensive resources for learning Tagalog.
The lessons in Filipinopod101 are set up as podcast episodes, and podcast seasons are essentially mini Tagalog courses. Each lesson is uses a real conversation between two Tagalog speakers to teach you Tagalog grammar and vocabulary. You also hone your listening comprehension skills, given that the lessons on the app and site are audio based.
The podcast lessons are sorted in five levels ranging from absolute beginner to advanced learner. Just to give you an idea how massive Filipinopod101 is, there are over 300 lessons in the first level alone! Lessons cover everything from grammar to vocabulary lists, and even talk about family, music, geography, and film.
Each podcast season features two hosts you act as your personal Tagalog teachers. In the lower level lessons the hosts speak and explain the material in English. Sometimes they even breakdown sentences one by one.
As you progress you'll notice they speak English less and less, and use more Tagalog in their examples. They do a great job of keeping things fun and entertaining, while also teaching you Tagalog as effectively as possible.
In addition to the podcast episodes (of which there are hundreds), Filipinopod101 also has pronunciation training guides, lessons on reading Tagalog, vocabulary cheat sheets, a Tagalog to English dictionary, an in-site flashcard system, and a whole lot of other great content.
If you want to learn Tagalog, you won't find a better program than Filipinopod101. It's first on our list because it's simply the most comprehensive language learning program for Tagalog we've found. What to know the best part? Filipinopod101 offers a free lifetime account, which gives you access to some of their podcast lessons and most of their learning resources (think of this as a free version of the site). You will need premium paid access to use the full library of lessons (starting from $4 per month). Filipinopod101 is available as a site and an app.
Pimsleur Tagalog (Filipino)
Pimsleur is an audio course and app that uses a trademarked question and response method to teach you a foreign language. Pimsleur trains your brain to speak and think in Tagalog by recreating the sensation of talking with a real native speaker. Pimsleur is made up of 30 minute lessons which use audio recordings. In each lesson you are taught a series of words and phrases.
Then you are asked to answer and ask questions in Tagalog. You have a limited time to respond before the correct answer is given. This adds a little pressure, making the experience more exciting, but also training your brain to think in Tagalog without translating into English.
Pimsleur also focuses a lot on pronunciation. Often you learn new words and phrases syllable by syllable. The curriculum points out difficult sounds, and provides tips on how to form your tongue and mouth to pronounce them correctly. Learners with also know when they here a sound that is similar or identical to one in English.
Though Pimsleur is primarily an audio language course, there is also a reading portion as well. Reading Tagalog isn't as challenging as languages with different alphabets (or in the case of Chinese no alphabet!). Suffice to say, Pimsleur will give you the basics you need to learn how to read in Tagalog.
When it comes to learning to speak Tagalog conversationally, Pimsleur is easily one of the best options out there.
Italki is a website and app with a searchable database of language teachers from around the world. On Italki learners can purchase what are called Italki credits, and use them to book private classes with a professional teacher or tutor. The classes happen on video chat (usually Skype). There are over 80 Tagalog teachers available on Italki from places as diverse as Manila and the United Kingdom.
Each teacher follows their own method of teaching, and provides learners with all necessary learning materials (this includes pdfs, documents, video, photos, worksheets, course books, etc). Tutors may or may not provide their own learning materials. Whether your goal is to reach fluency or simply know enough Tagalog to get around, you will find a teacher that matches your learning style.
Italki also has many useful free features. The most valuable is their language partners feature. You can search through the profiles of other users and find a native Tagalog speaker who is looking to tighten up his or her English, and setup a language exchange with them. There's also a public forum where you can ask Filipinos for help translating or pronouncing difficult words. If you're serious about learning Tagalog then you should definitely check out Italki.
*With a purchase of $20 or more. After you complete your first lesson 10 free Italki credits will be addde to your account.
Is it worth learning Tagalog?
Is Tagalog Filipino?
Tagalog (also known as Filipino) is one of two official languages in the Philippines (the other is English). There are over a hundred different languages native to the Philippines. In fact only about one in four Filipinos speaks Tagalog as their first language.
In the past the Philippines were not an independent country. Instead they were a Spanish colony and then an American territory. After World War Two the Philippines gained independence, and sought a national language that wasn't a colonial one. Tagalog was chosen as an official language, and not without some controversy from native speakers of the other Filipino languages.
In an effort to help encourage the use of the Tagalog language, the name was changed to Filipino. So yes, Tagalog is Filipino. Just remember that it's not only language spoken in the country.
Learning Tagalog for travel
If you are a native English speaker, you should have no problem getting around in the Philippines (remember that English is the second official language). So you don't necessarily need to speak Tagalog in order to travel in the Philippines.
That being said, even knowing a few words in Tagalog is likely to garner a warm reaction from locals. In almost any country people respond well when foreigners take the time to learn their language. That's probably even more true in the famously sunny culture of the Philippines. Filipinos will appreciate and be more friendly to an English speaker who took the time to learn Tagalog.
Filipino is a global language
There are large immigrant populations of Tagalog speakers around the world, especially in North America and the Middle East. You might be surprised when and where speaking Tagalog will come in handy.
Family, love, and heritage
A lot of people who learn Tagalog as a second language, do so because they have a some kind of personal connection to the language. Many learn Tagalog to connect with close or distant relatives, learn about their cultural heritage, or better communicate with a significant other. These are among the most valuable reasons for learning any foreign language. Even knowing a word here or there can be endearing those you love.
Learning for work
If you do any business in the Philippines, then learning Tagalog might be worth while if you're lucking to connect with the people you do business with.
Learning just for fun
Some people learn Tagalog because it's fun. Learning a foreign language can be reward enough in and of itself. Tagalog is also so closely tied to Filipino culture, that it's hard not to enjoy learning it. Something of the fun and warm aspects of the Filipino people carries over into their official language.
Is Tagalog an easy language to learn?
If you're a native English or Spanish speaker, Tagalog will be a comparatively easy language to learn (especially when compared to Asian languages like Chinese or Japanese).
Because the Philippines were once a Spanish colony, a lot of Spanish words have made their way into the language. If you have any background in Spanish, then you'll have a head start in the vocabulary department. English has also played a significant role in the Philippines (don't forget it's also an official language of the country). Many English words pop up in Tagalog. In fact English is often used outright in Tagalog, to the point where Filipinos often speak Taglish, a local mix of the two languages.
With so much influence from both Spanish and English, it's not that hard to get your point across when you speak Tagalog, even if you're a beginner in the language. You can always refer back to English or Spanish words, and chances are whoever you'll talking with will figure out what you're trying to say.
Filipino grammar rules
Compared to English and Spanish, the Tagalog language structure does have some peculiarities when it comes to grammar. For starters there very few prepositions in Tagalog. The word "sa" is one of the most commonly used prepositions. Tagalog doesn't have a word which means "to-be", which is likely to feel strange to both English and Spanish speakers. Instead verbs take on a time (past, present, future), by adding an infix.
Nouns also turn to adjectives when adding "ma". For example the word "ganda" (beauty) becomes "maganda" (beautiful). This makes it easy to learn adjectives once you learn the noun form. Tagalog words are easier to remember because there are clues hidden in the word structure. Once you realize this, learning vocabulary isn't as hard.
One great thing about learning Tagalog, is that the language is written the same way it's spoken. This makes learning reading and pronunciation a lot easier. Also most letters in the Tagalog alphabet have a similar pronunciation to their English counterparts. The two exceptions are Ñ and Ng. Note that Ñ is similar to the Spanish Ñ.
The hardest part of Tagalog pronunciation will be speaking at speed. While many of the sounds won't be new to you, their combinations will be. You will need to take some time to train your tongue to say Tagalog words quickly, like native speakers do in real life conversations. At first you may miss a word completely when listening to native speakers. Understanding rapid speech is always challenging at first, but it's nothing a bit of practice can't solve.
In the Philippines maintaining harmony in the group or community is very important. Filipinos tend to be less individualistic than your average American. This is one reason why Filipinos come across as so inviting and open to foreigners. If you're in the Philippines and you're trying to learn Tagalog, you will receive a lot of help and encouragement from the people around you. This is a huge benefit! It also makes language learning more fun, and in a way easier.
Where can I learn Tagalog for free?
If you want to learn Tagalog for three there are several options. The first and most obvious resource is Youtube. You can find a bunch of useful videos on common phrases, pronunciation, and even grammar there. Here a few useful links to some great channels:
There's also online language exchanges. As I said before Italki has one, but there are also other popular sites such as My Language Exchange and Speaky. There's even a similar language exchange on an app called HelloTalk worth checking out. On these sites you can connect with Tagalog speakers who want to improve their English, and start sharing tips with one another, as well as practicing together. This makes for a fun, free, and effective learning experience.
Also remember that Filipinopod101 features some free podcast lessons and a bunch of useful tools for learning Tagalog. Every month they release a pack of new free learning materials like cheat sheets, pdf guides and more cool stuff.
Common Tagalog phrases
Here's a list of basic phrases so you can speak Tagalog while traveling in the Philippines. Use these to get around, or to strike up conversations with locals. We've included 50 Tagalog words and phrases here. It's not all the vocabulary you'll need, but it's definitely a great start.
1) Hello! – Hello! or Kumusta!
2) How are you? / What’s up? – Kumusta ka?
3) I’m fine. And you? – Ayos lang ako. Ikaw?
4) Please. – Pwede ba.
5) Thank you. / Thank you very much. – Salamat. / Maraming salamat.
6) You’re Welcome – Walang anuman.
7) Goodbye. / Bye. / See you soon. Paalam. / Paalam. / Kita-kita na lang.
8) Cheers! – Kampay!
9) Excuse me. – Excuse me.
10) I’m sorry.- Pasensya na.
11) What’s your name? – Ano’ng pangalan mo?
12) I’m… / My name is… / I am called… - Ako si… / Ang pangalan ko ay… / Ang tawag nila sa’kin ay ....
13) Nice to meet you. – Masaya akong makilala ka.
14) Where are you from? – Taga saan ka?
15) I’m from… - Taga … ako.
16) I’d like to introduce my friend/wife/husband. – Gusto kong ipakilala ang kaibigan/asawa ko.
17) How old are you? – Ilang taon ka na?
18) I’m… years old. - … na ako.
19) What do you do for a living? – Ano’ng trabaho mo?
20) I’m a/an… - ... (Just state the job)
21) What do you do for fun? / What are your hobbies? – Ano’ng ginagawa mo para maglibang? / Ano ang mga libangan mo?
22) I (don’t) like… - Hindi ko gusto ang …
23) Yes. – Oo.
24) No. – Hindi.
25) Do you speak…? – Nagsasalita ka ba ng …?
26) I (don’t) understand. – Hindi ko maintindihan
27) I speak a little… - Nakakapagsalita ako ng kaunting …
28) I (don’t) speak… - Hindi ako nakakapagsalita ng …
29) Could you please speak a little slower? – Pwede ka bang magsalita ng mas mabagal?
30) Could you write that down? – Pwede mo ba yang isulat?
31) Could you repeat that? – Pwede mo bang ulitin yan?
32) How do you say…? – Paano sabihing …?
33) What does… mean? – Ano ang ibig sabihin ng …?
34) What time is it? – Anong oras na?
35) It’s (five) o’clock. – Alas (singko) na.
36) How much? – Magkano?
37) I would like… - Gusto ko ng …
38) Can I pay by credit card/debit card? – Pwede ba akong magbayad gamit ang credit card/debit card?
39) Here you go. – Heto.
40) Could I see this/that one? – Pwede ko bang makita ito/ang isang iyon?
41) What time do you open/close? – Anong oras kayo nagbubukas/nagsasara?
42) Do you have this in small/large/medium? – May ba kayo nito ng maliit/malaki/medium ba kayo nito?
43) Do you have anything cheaper? – Mayroon ba kayong mas mura?
44) It’s too expensive. – Masyadong mahal.
45) I’ll give you… for it. – Ibibigay ko siya sa’yo ng …
46) Where can I exchange money? – Saan ako makakapagpapalit ng pera?
47) How much for a first class/second class/economy ticket to…? – Magkano para sa first class/second class/economy na tiket papuntang …?
48) A one-way/return ticket to… please. – One-way/return ticket nga papuntang … please.
49) Here’s my passport. Heto ang pasaporte ko.
50) What time does the bus/train/plane/ferry from… arrive? – Anong oras dadating ang bus/tren/eroplano/ferry galing …?
Tagalog is a beautiful language full of history. Even if English isn't your native language, or if you have no experience in Spanish, You shouldn't have too much problem learning Tagalog. At first, nuances of grammar and vocabulary will seem difficult, but with some practice and a little patience you can reach fluency.
Use this guide to help you learn the language and speak Tagalog today! There's no reason you can't reach your learning goals!