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If learning Tagalog isn’t on your radar as one of the most helpful languages to speak, it should be. More than 50 million Filipinos speak Tagalog as a first or second language, and the standardized form of Tagalog, called Filipino, it is the national language of the Philippines. There are twenty-two million speakers of Tagalog in the Philippines, with large populations who speak the language in Canada, Guam, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom. In the United States, more than 1.6 million people speak Tagalog, making it one of the most widely spoken languages besides English. According to research, it is the fifth most commonly spoken non-English language in American households, ranking just behind Spanish, French, Chinese, Hindi, and French.
Tagalog can be incredibly approachable for the average learner simply because it adapts quite a bit of vocabulary from both English and Spanish. The language is part of the Austronesian language family and is influenced not only by Spanish and English, but also Chinese, Malay, Arabic, and Persian. It’s important though to differentiate Tagalog from Filipino. While the language can sometimes casually be referred to as Filipino, it is not the same language. Filipino is the standardized version of the Tagalog adapted from dialects spoken around Manilla and injected with a heavy dose of Spanish and English vocabulary.
Rosetta Stone has developed an approachable Tagalog curriculum that will help you jump start your language learning, teaching words and common conversational phrases in a contextually rich environment. Your Tagalog lessons are shaped by everyday situations like conventional greetings or ordering in restaurants, packaged along with audio and visual cues that will help your brain make deeper connections to the language and get you speaking for yourself.
What Is the Tagalog Language
Tagalog belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family, and while some might suggest this makes it more difficult to learn for English speakers, that’s not the case. Speakers in the Philippines are some of the most fluent English speakers in Asia, and many English words have found their way into Tagalog. Although the spelling may be different, you’ll discover much of Tagalog vocabulary mimics English words such as television, computer, aid conditioner, and refrigerator. Even words for common modes of transportation like taxi, bus and airport are pronounced the same in Tagalog as they are in English.
Here are a few other words in Tagalog that should look familiar.
Many of the English vocabulary words you find in Tagalog are the result of half a century of American control of the Philippines. There is also quite a bit of Tagalog that is derived from Spanish and is a leftover of over 300 years of Spanish rule. This includes words like kabayo from the Spanish word caballo (horse) or libró, which is also the Spanish word for book.
Learning Tagalog vocabulary is reasonably straightforward for English and Spanish speakers due to borrowed words or cognates, but there are some differences in Tagalog that are important to note. While names and nouns are some the easiest linguistic features of the language, Tagalog also uses VSO (Verb-Subject-Object) order and has pretty complex grammar rules, such as difficult verb conjugations.
Rosetta Stone encourages learning vocabulary and grammar in context rather than memorizing word lists or drilling yourself on verb conjugation tables. Dynamic Immersion®, the unique methodology that is the backbone of the Rosetta Stone language-learning program, teaches Tagalog in 10-minute, bite-sized lessons that allow plenty of time for review and practice before moving onto the next concept. The secret to having real-world conversations in Tagalog that don’t follow a script is to focus on learning the language, not the just the words.
Learning Tagalog for Beginners
There are quite a few things that make Tagalog an attractive language for beginners. In addition to similarities in vocabulary, Tagalog is a non-tonal language with a relatively small number of sounds that make a difference in word meaning. It has five vowels and 18 consonants with syllables that follow a simple structure. Most syllables are either open, meaning they end in a vowel, or in /m, n, ŋ/. Nouns also don’t vary based on case or number and just a few, mostly the ones borrowed from Spanish, are gendered nouns.
Rather than focusing on the structure of the language, beginners should seek to become comfortable with the pronunciations and sounds of Tagalog first. Stress falls on either the last or the next to the last syllable of words and is accompanied by a lengthening of the vowel. Once you’ve become familiar with the basic sounds, you’ll learn more complicated concepts gradually as you scale towards become a confident Tagalog speaker.
The entire purpose of learning a language is to be able to speak it, and that’s where the focus on pronunciation in lessons from Rosetta Stone really pays off. In every Tagalog lesson, you’ll have the opportunity to practice and get instant feedback on your pronunciation with TruAccent®. This patented speech recognition engine compares your accent to that of thousands of native Tagalog speakers, allowing you to fine-tune and adjust your pronunciation so you can learn to say it like a local.
How to Learn Basic Tagalog
Learning a new language doesn’t have to be intimidating. Rosetta Stone gets learners speaking Tagalog from the very first lesson, using an approach that scales naturally to help you learn to thrive in real-world conversations with native speakers.
As you begin learning Tagalog, there are a few tips to keep in mind to ensure you develop a successful language learning approach in tandem with your Tagalog lessons.
1. START WITH COMMON TAGALOG CONVERSATIONAL PHRASES
Once you’ve learned the basic sounds and letters of the Tagalog alphabet, it’s important not to get lost in trying to memorize massive vocabulary lists. Instead, focus on learning some common conversational phrases in context. Here are a few you can begin to add to your repertoire for everyday situations you might encounter.
Ano po ang pangalan nila? (What’s your name?)
Ang pangalan ko po ay … (My name is…)
Magandang umaga po (Good Morning)
Magandang hapon po (Good Afternoon)
Magandang gabi po (Good Evening)
For beginning Tagalog learners, Rosetta Stone supplies a handy Phrasebook built into an award-winning mobile app that helps you quickly reference the most commonly used conversational phrases.
2. SPEAK TAGALOG DAILY
There is no better way to get comfortable with a language than to speak it. Optimally, language learners should strive to fit Tagalog lessons into their schedule once a day, even if it’s just for a few minutes. Rosetta Stone makes this convenient with 10-minute bite-size lessons that sync across devices so you can learn Tagalog anytime and anywhere. Additional features like Stories or Audio Companion make it easy to enrich your Tagalog lessons with different content that fits your busy schedule and learning style.
3. MASTER TAGALOG COGNATES FIRST
Tagalog incorporates many vocabulary words from other languages, including English, so you can instantly beef up your vocabulary by identifying similar words or cognates. Focusing on similarities can be encouraging for beginners who feel overwhelmed by the sheer scope of learning a language. Even if the words look different in Tagalog, they may have a similar sounding pronunciation that’ll feel familiar.
4. FOCUS ON TAGALOG PRONUNCIATION, NOT PERFECTION
One of the most common mistakes beginning language learners make is being overwhelmed by grammar rules and complex sentence structures. Successful language learners know that the focus of learning should always be to understand and be understood by native speakers. That’s why learning how to pronounce a handful of common conversational phrases like a native can be more helpful than knowing thousands of vocabulary words or being able to recite the specific conjugation of a verb. The goal is to know how to speak confidently and to be comfortable interacting in Tagalog.
What’s the Best Way to Learn Tagalog?
Many online sites advertise the ability to learn Tagalog in just a few lessons or in fast, easy approaches that emphasize gamification. Even if it were possible to pick up a few Tagalog phrases quickly online or through free apps, it would be difficult to speak the language with any degree of confidence using these methods alone. Although you won’t have to learn a different alphabet or writing system, Tagalog has a complex morphology or structure, and the grammar can become a major stumbling block if you don’t start by building a solid foundation with a comprehensive language learning program.
If you want to accelerate your language learning, there are a few ways to pack more Tagalog into your daily schedule. Experts agree our ability to learn a language has to do with the amount of time we devote to it, coupled with access to a quality language learning program like Rosetta Stone that emphasizes pronunciation and contextualized learning.
Here are a few ways to get more out of your Tagalog lessons.
LEARN TAGALOG TONGUE TWISTERS AND PROVERBS
Tagalog tongue twisters, riddles (bugtong), proverbs (salawikain) and sayings (kasabihan) are prolific and can help you pick up nuances of the culture. Try this one on for size:
Minekaniko ng mekaniko ni Monico ang makina ng Minica ni Monica.
Monico’s mechanic mechanically fixed the Minica of Monica.
WATCH TAGALOG FILMS
Filipinos have a rich and vibrant cultural history in visual arts, and you’ll often find Tagalog film entries at popular film festivals. Watch them with the subtitles turned off to pick up inflections you’ve never noticed before in Tagalog pronunciations.
LISTEN TO MUSIC IN TAGALOG
OPM, or Original Pilipino Music, are songs composed and performed by Filipinos and are popular globally. In fact, many of the mainstream singers you know and love have Filipino roots, including Bruno Mars, Apl. De. Ap., Arnel Pineda, Charice Pempengco, and Lea Salonga.
WATCH FILIPINO VLOGGERS ON YOUTUBE
YouTube is filled with great language learning content, and that’s especially true when it comes to Tagalog. There are many Filipino vloggers with popular channels you can subscribe to that will help you can learn more about how Tagalog is actually spoken in day to day conversations.
The Benefits of Learning Tagalog
Being bilingual has proven advantages, both in terms of expanding professional opportunities and providing personal enrichment. Learning another language can have a surprising effect not only on your beliefs about other cultures but also about yourself. Many language learners express delight at realizing that it’s never too late to start learning a second language.
At Rosetta Stone, learning a language is a journey and not a destination. Here are just a few reasons Tagalog makes the journey worthwhile.
LEARNING TAGALOG CAN EXPAND YOUR PROFESSIONAL OPPORTUNITIES
Many multinational and global companies have Filipinos in their workforce or operate an office in the Philippines, so being able to speak Tagalog is an incredible business asset. The tourist industry in the Philippines is also booming, so knowing the language can be an advantage if you work in the hotel or service industries.
TAGALOG HELPS YOU TRAVEL WITH CONFIDENCE
The Philippines and other nearby islands are attractive and economical tourist destinations where knowing Tagalog will definitely come in handy. While there are other languages and dialects spoken throughout the islands, most Filipinos understand and speak Tagalog.
LEARNING TAGALOG CAN HELP YOU UNDERSTAND OTHER LANGUAGES
Tagalog vocabulary borrows quite a bit from Spanish, English, Min Nan Chinese, Malay, Sanskrit, Arabic, Tamil, Persian, Kapampangan, and other Austronesian languages so learning some Tagalog may make picking up these other languages easier. The rising dominance of Chinese, Korean, and Japanese economies may make learning other Asian languages particularly useful.
Try Our Award-Winning App
Surround yourself with Filipino whenever, wherever with the Rosetta Stone app.
Download a unit and knock it out on the train or a flight. Select a 5-10 minute lesson and sneak it in while you wait in line or for your ride to show up. And explore dynamic features, like Seek and Speak, where you can point at an object in the real world and get a translation.
The best part? You don’t have to choose between app or desktop. Both come with your subscription and sync, so you can switch between devices seamlessly.