Learning the language

Which language? How?

Learning the language

A big part of integrating into a new society as an expat is learning the language. Even a few basic phrases will help daily communication.

Which language to learn

Even though English is the second official language of the Philippines, many expats find that learning even a few phrases of Tagalog or a regional language will get them far. Filipinos will appreciate your effort and remember that many Filipinos with a low level of education won’t speak English well, if at all.

Tagalog is probably one of the most useful languages to learn as it is spoken in Manila, the capital, and the national language Filipino is basically identical to it. Another language is Visayan, not an official language, but is spoken in most of the central part of the country. It includes Cebuano and other indigenous languages found in this region. Of course the language you chose will depend on several factors; where you live, who you are communicating with most and why you want to learn.

If you live in Cebu for example, your best bet would be to study Cebuano or Visayan. If you live in Cebu but work in Manila most of the week, maybe Tagalog is for you. Daily communication in shops, bars, hair salons etc. will be carried out in whatever language or dialect is spoken in that city or town.

There is a mix of English and Tagalog commonly spoken called ‘Taglish’, it’s not official but is used daily by many Filipinos.

How to learn

Once you have decided which language you wish to study there are various methods for learning it. There are several quite expensive books available for self-study in Tagalog. Resources for other languages in the Philippines are hard to come by, there seems to be no books with audio for Visayan for example. There are a lot of online resources and websites dedicated to teaching Tagalog, though less for the other languages.

One good resource is to ask fellow expats for tips on good tutors. Alternatively, contact a local high school and ask if one of their English teachers would be willing to teach you in the evenings or at weekends. The cost of a tutor generally isn’t high, around $5 an hour.

Most TV shows are in Filipino and you can find newspapers that aren’t in English as well. Use these resources to practice listening and reading as much as possible.

Further reading

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