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Why Filipino as an Academic Subject is More Difficult to Learn Than Conversational Filipino

Filipino Alphabet

Filipino Alphabet

Easy as Pie?

How hard could it be to learn your own native language? Not much, right? Apparently not! This is what my children are finding out for themselves as they plunge head-on with their Filipino subjects only to discover they are not quite the same as our everyday Filipino conversation.

Learning to Speak Filipino at Home

Filipino children learn to speak the language quite easily and naturally. In households like ours where the Filipino language is used daily in almost all instances except in occasions where it is necessary to speak in a foreign language such as in English, fluency and mastery is attained in a considerably short time. Learning is generally effortless and often happens from mimicking sounds and intonations as done by adults.

Reading Filipino text presents no exceptional difficulty since words are pronounced as they are spelled. English is a more complex language where we have to contend with long and short sounds of vowels, irregular spellings, and varying pronunciation. Conversational Filipino is simple, relaxed, and learner-friendly.

At home where everyday learning occurs

At home where everyday learning occurs

Learning Filipino in School

Learning the Filipino language as a subject in school is entirely different. The rules that have to be observed in producing a strictly grammatically-correct paragraph can prove to be quite a challenge even for adults like me who have supposedly gone through at least 15 years of formal schooling. This is because the Filipino language taught in school is more formal and has to conform with the established guidelines in relation to its status as the national language of the country.

My children would often ask me why sentence construction has to be made a lot more difficult than our regular conversation would entail. Come to think of it, the "difficulty" is actually just comparable to learning the English language except that we have had more exposure to the English language as a means of instruction. Filipino only represents one subject taught in the vernacular. At least one other subject previously known as Social Studies is now being taught in Filipino. Actual experience would show that the shift in the language of instruction appeared to have made the subject harder than it was during our time mainly because of the lack of proper Filipino translation for many words associated with our history.

In school where formal learning is required

In school where formal learning is required

Actual Usage of the Filipino Language

In view of the big difference in style, tone, and construction between the academic Filipino and conversational Filipino, we find ourselves limiting the use of the former in school work and other tasks requiring the use of formal and technically-correct Filipino. We use the latter when talking with our family, friends, and the people we meet everyday. It would take considerable efforts on the part of the institution assigned with the development of the Filipino language to reconcile everyday learning with institutional learning.

Where Learning Happens

At home...

At home...

...or in school

...or in school


Caoimhe Ylagan on September 17, 2016:

Thank you for this, now i can use this for my research.

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on April 08, 2013:

If you wish to cite this particular article you can use this:

Teresa Martinez

Please let me know if you are referring to my personal blogs.

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frances on April 05, 2013:

hello, ma'am i find your blog really useful, how may I cite you on my thesis? thank you

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on September 29, 2012:

The lack of worthy reads in the Filipino language is a fact although I am not sure about the primary reason for this. Sometimes I am inclined to believe that there is not enough motivation for Filipino writers to produce one. Quality English-language books are many because the market and the purposes for which its contents can be applied are wide. A well-written book in the Filipino language usually ends up as a literary masterpiece at the most . In as much as there will be no one else to do it for us, our government should provide the right platform and environment within which an excellently written Filipino-language newspaper, magazine, or book will have more use for Filipinos aside from literary appreciation.

nenabunena on September 28, 2012:

Learning formal Filipino ins school is no different than Americans/British students learning formal English in school. Conversational Filipino is really slang Filipino, notice how quickly slang gets infused in our languages on all levels of society compared to english that purposely looks down on slang? The reason why many Filipino students suffer there is because we have no literary tradition. Think about it, there are plenty of english books, aside from noli, el fili, ibong adarna - the ancient classics - what is there for any of us to really read? The prestigious & credible newspapers are all in english, the tabloids are in filipino.

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on May 10, 2012:

The Filipino alphabet now is indeed different from what was taught before because of the inclusion of several letters from the English alphabet not previously included such as Q, X and Z. The general idea is to have one Filipino language but like in all good things, challenges have to be faced and overcoming the difficulties of learning the "official" Filipino is one of them.

Eldz Manila on May 10, 2012:

I'm at a loss... This modern Filipino alphabet is different from what I learned in school (ages ago hahaha). It's a non-issue, conversational Filipino will always be easier to learn because of daily use as opposed to academic Filipino. Is there a need for two Filipino languages?? I sometimes wonder....

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on May 09, 2012:

Tagalog was the original choice of the National Language Institute to form as basis for the formation of the national language. The latest Constitution purposely omits this fact so as to recognize the contribution of other existing regional dialects to Filipino, the national language.

Brian Schwarz from Washington, DC on May 09, 2012:

Thanks for the clarification! I had a roommate in college who spoke Tagalog, and I was very interested in the Spanish words infused in the language.

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on May 09, 2012:

Filipino is the national language of the country while Tagalog is one of the many local dialects in the Philippines specifically in the Luzon area. However, most will agree that Filipino is largely based on the Tagalog dialect.

Brian Schwarz from Washington, DC on May 09, 2012:

So what is the difference between Filipino and Tagalog?

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on May 09, 2012:

Glad you think so, thanks.

Teresa Martinez (author) from Philippines on May 07, 2012:

Thanks. Articles such as this allow everyday experiences to be shared, hopefully to be useful to others as well.

Brian Schwarz from Washington, DC on May 07, 2012:

I love learning languages and I found this to be very insightful. Thanks for sharing!

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