Tagalog as Our Primary Language at Home

It was a typical MRT ride for me and while the train was cramped with people chatting, there was a group of people that caught my attention - not only because they were loud or their topic was interesting, but because of their grammar. Yes, I'm that mean. I'm no expert in the language, in fact I have my own flaws - a lot of them. But how this people used the language wasn't left unnoticed by my critical ear. You see, they were a family - a couple travelling with their preschooler daughter. As I listen to their conversation (which was loud by the way, as if they really wanted other people to hear them), I learned that the little girl did not seem to understand Tagalog. The parents were the ones who were conversing with the child and asking the little girl to respond. I spotted several errors in their grammar and there was an instance when they repeatedly asked the little girl to respond using their incorrect use of the prepositions. At the back of my head I was thinking, if this child does not understand Tagalog and is learning English incorrectly, I wonder, what will the future be for her?

 Image courtesy of Stuart Miles, at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hubby and I initially decided to teach Little V two languages. We wanted our son to get ahead of the pack (like most parents!) and thought that we can do that by speaking two languages at home - Tagalog and English. We tasked our then nanny to speak to Little V in Tagalog while Hubby and I will use English. Quite frankly, I did not do my task very well. I use English at work and I find speaking in Tagalog at home was a drawn line as if saying, "a day's work is done." So most of the time I speak in our native tongue when our son was around. 

Fast forward to the day I became a stay-at-home mom, I found it easier to communicate with my son when I use Tagalog. Probably because he's used to the language. This also made it easier for him to befriend people from all walks of life. He was able to talk to security guards, gardeners, neighbors, kids, friends and families. These kids and adults did not hesitate to start a conversation with him because he was very talkative in Tagalog, a language people in Manila are most comfortable using.

I also had the opportunity to talk to a number of nannies at our community who were taking care of kids who don't understand Tagalog. They have mentioned that their alagas have experienced being bullied by classmates or cousins because of the language barrier. There were also some experiences from other parents where they expressed difficulties teaching Filipino language to their kids whose first language is English. Is it time for me to focus on Filipino?

My husband and I were both born from typical Filipino families living in Manila. Parents from both sides came from the provinces who started their families here in the metro. We grew up not speaking English at home but we were immersed with books, newspapers, and TV programs that were in English. We, including our siblings,  all turned out OK in our chosen fields and have good grasps of the English language. We thought, our son can learn the English language even if we don't use it as our primary language. So we decided to use Tagalog.

We have and are still using Tagalog as our primary language at home. It has become easier to explain to Little V concepts now that he understands Tagalog better than English (except for some medical or scientific terms. Haha!). But this did not stop him from learning English. The materials that we use in homeschool, books, songs, videos, and shows that my son watches from Disney channel are in English. We've also adopted an approach where we speak and translate the language for him. Most of the time, he asks what a certain phrase or sentence (he heard from a show or we read from a book) means in Tagalog . Now that he's four, we are amazed that he can speak both languages.

What language do you use at home?


  1. I grew up in Baguio where it is uncommon for households to have English as the primary language. I may speak fluent conversational Filipino but I have a hard time using the formal version of the language. I found that I am able to express myself a lot better in English than I do in Filipino, especially when I am mad :P and it has already been a custom in our family to use English as the first language and the rest will just come secondary. I talk to my son in English as well. :)

    1. Hi Liz! :) Good for your baby. I still think English should be learned by everyone as it is used universally.

      I have a friend like you who raised her daughter using English since that's their first language in the family. I believe that any language would benefit the learning process of a child as long as it's used properly and consistently. And the community where the child is plays a major role. :)


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