Buwan ng Wika (Week of the Philippine Language) falls on the month of August in the Philippines, so I thought of writing something about my country’s National Language — Filipino. When we just came to Winnipeg, one of my worries was my children will not be able to communicate to other kids, as both of my son who was 4 years old and my daughter who is one at that time knew very few English words.
When my son started schooling here in Winnipeg, I had the chance to talk to the school speech-language pathologist (sorry I cannot remember her name) and told her about my worries on my son’s adjustment since English is not our first language. She then explained to me that I should not worry and she even encouraged us parents to use our first language or native tongue when talking to our children at home. According to her, it is good if my children will still understand and speak our native language.
Well, I will not deny that after a few years of living in Canada, my kids rarely converse in Filipino, however, we still see to it that even if they cannot fluently speak in Filipino at least they still understand it. So like what I said, in celebration of the Buwan ng Wika and to show my patriotic side (insert wink here) and love for my country and our national language, let me share with you some tips on how I encouraged my children to speak in Filipino. I got some of these ideas or practices from some blogs and articles that I read from various websites when I was still trying to home school my children during pre-school.
Some of you may be confused why I put “Filipino” in my title but upon reading, you would see that I also referred to our native language as Tagalog. To be honest, the inter-relationship between Tagalog and Filipino have led to a lot of debate and misunderstanding. For the benefit of my readers who are also confused, let me try to explain this in the best way I can. Tagalog is the basis for the Philippine national language and is the native language of the Tagalog ethnic group who live in the provinces of Central and Southern Luzon, including Manila, the capital of the Philippines. In 1897, Tagalog was declared as the Official Language by the first Constitution of the Philippines. Filipino, on the other hand, was proclaimed by the 1987 Constitution to be the Philippine National Language, though it is still based in Tagalog, it is labelled as Filipino to acknowledge the incorporation of loan words from other languages, including languages of Americans and Spaniards who once colonized the Philippines. “Western” letters such as f, j, c, x and z ere included in the official Filipino alphabet.
I know a lot of you have heard that “children’s minds are like sponges,” and I guess a lot of you have proven this to be true. This is why, I really believe that if we want to teach something to our children, we should start early, the best time to teach children another language is during their early years which is between the ages of 6 months old to 6 years old. Most of the times, both my husband and I speak to our three children in Filipino, if there are instances that they need to ask something or they want something and they tell it to us in English, we’ll pretend that we didn’t understand and ask them in Filipino what they want and we’ll pretend that we didn’t understand them until they say it in Filipino.
Another way of encouraging them to learn Tagalog is by letting them watch Filipino movies and shows. Since I started working full time, I am unable to watch TV that much but I didn’t cut our subscription to TFC (The Filipino Channel), every time, I have the chance to watch shows that I know will interest my children, I watch with them and explain to them the scenes or dialogues that they did not understand.
Just recently, we have adapted a new practice at home – Tagalog Thursday. A few years ago, I read in an article (I didn’t write down the title and the author) in Smart Parenting website about this mom who designated Thursday as a day for their whole family to be extra-conscious about speaking Filipino. Though we encourage our kids to speak our native tongue in the house every time, it is a good idea to designate a certain day that they need to speak more Filipino words, and I noticed that during these days they exert more effort to speak in Filipino (though in exchange they have designated Friday as French Friday where Dad and Mom need to learn at least one French word, oh well, this is another story, I guess).
Of course, there’s no other better way of encouraging our children to love our country’s native language than to set a good example to them, my husband and I, ALWAYS speak in Filipino whenever our kids are around. Our concern is not just to focus on letting them learn our language, it is also our intention to inculcate to our children to love our home country and everything about it and to be proud to be a Filipino (by heart). This is why we tell them stories about life in the Philippines, how we grew up and what are the things that we love about our country.
Even if my children are raised in a foreign country and in fact one of them is even Canada-born, my husband and I would like to teach the love for our home country to them. And if you’ll ask me, this is what each Filipino parents living outside the Philippines must teach their children. After all, there will still be a time that you will go back to the Philippines with your children for a visit or to even stay there for good, for sure, it will be a good sight for you as a parent to see your son or your daughter confidently communicating to our kababayans (fellow Filipinos).
During grade school, I remember how each Buwan ng Wika, we are reminded of our (Philippines) national hero, Jose Rizal’s reminder, “Ang hindi magmahal sa sariling wika, daig pa ang hayop at malansang isda.” (He who does not love his own language is worse than an animal and smelly fish.)
Encouraging our children to continue to speak Filipino will never confuse our children at all, in fact, communicating to our kids using our native language helps to develop and maintain our child’s knowledge of our first language. If they can speak English (or the language of the country that you are in) and still understand and speak Filipino, we are able to provide our children the gift of bilingualism.
The Difference Between the Languages of Tagalog and Filipino by Frederick Alain Docdocil, www.bakitwhy.com. Accessed August 4, 2014.