Tuesday, November 23, 2010

What Was the First Language You Learned?

A few days ago, my husband was having a conversation with my brother, a father of three young kids. Brother said that nowadays, kids were getting tutors to teach them--get this--Filipino! Apparently, kids nowadays speak English as their primary language and flunk their Filipino subjects. Even my pamangkins, who don't go to Big Schools yet, don't speak a word of Tagalog!

Hamil and I are trying to figure out how to keep this from happening to our own (future) kids. I reasoned that the first language I learned was Filipino, and I only really learned English in school--yet I ended up being an editor. So speaking to the kids in Filipino can't be all bad, can it? What is up with this current trend of teaching kids to speak only in English? I don't understand it. Am I missing something? Most of my friends are bilingual (with a few being trilingual, growing up in families with Spanish roots) so it can be, and has been, done. I excelled in all language subjects--English, Filipino, and Spanish. (Math? Don't even ask.) Never mind that some people make fun of my Tagalog sometimes (hello, Mello!). At least I can speak it relatively well.

So the plan is for me to speak to future Tamils (as my niece likes to call our future kids) in English, and for Hamil to speak to them in Filipino. I've gotta research a bit on this, of course, but I think this might help our kids become fluent in both. We're Filipinos, for crying out loud. We should be able to speak our own language!

I noticed that most of the blogs I follow, whether from the Philippines or abroad, are in English, and this got me thinking--was it the first language y'all learned? If you're bilingual, how did you learn both languages? And are you equally proficient in both? What do you teach or plan to teach your kids?


  1. Growing up, my mom spoke to us in English and ordered for my dad to speak to us in English, as well, but he never did. (hahahaha) So he spoke to us in Filipino and mom spoke to us in English. Your plan, therefore, will work! And now, I think I will copy your plan because I think it's embarrassing how some Filipino's can't speak our Language, but it's not nice also when people can't speak fluent English.

    Anyway, when we get foreigners in the clinic, my assistant freezes. She will run to me, "Doc English eh", and it's not nice how some people are scared to talk when they're in front of foreigners.

    who cares, this is our country! Make them feel uncomfortable, right? hahahahahaha!

  2. I'm all for learning English--hey, it got me a job, right? Haha. And it is of course incredibly useful, perhaps more useful than Filipino. But it makes me sad lang when people forget their own language.:(

    "This is our country!" Many other countries around the world would agree--nandito kayo sa bansa namin, kayo ang mag-adjust! Haha

  3. I think your plan will definitely work! I have a cousin in the US who did something similar to your plan and her daughter turned out to be very good in speaking Filipino even if she grew up in the US. My parents talked to us in Filipino while growing up, and we only learned English when we started going to school. I think my sibs and I speak English quite well, but that might be because we went to good elementary schools. I agree with you on letting them foreigners adjust while they are in our country! After all, we do all the necessary adjustments when we visit their country as tourists!

  4. I'm Cebuano, so it's a whole different story altogether. :) Filipino is already my third language next to English, and even if my family has lived in Manila for more than a decade now, my Tagalog is still funny.

    I want my future kids to speak Bisaya as well, so good luck to us with that. We'll probably have to get a Bisaya nanny. :)

    All of my friends' kids speak English as a first language, I think it's because my friends make them watch only English cartoon channels such as Nickelodeon, Disney Channel, etc. They don't have Batibot kase, hehe, I think this was how I learned Tagalog. But Batibot will be airing again starting this month, I hope the new version will be as good as the one we grew up with. This will be a big help in teaching children Filipino.


  5. Tisha, I caught your blog from Casey's (Sweet Talk) site.

    Anyways, growing up my mother spoke to us in tagalog, and my dad spoke to us in english..
    but when we left the Philippines in 1987 when I was 9, it was all english from then on. I forgot how to speak the language, and I have a hard time understanding tagalog when I visit the Philippines.. (which is truly pathetic, and sad)..


  6. I think kailangan talaga gamitin sa bahay ang Filipino (or Cebuano!) para masanay. You can learn English sa school, sa TV or movies, and by reading a lot.

  7. Dea, my dad wouldn't let me watch Tagalog stuff before either, but I did get to sneak in a bit of Annaluna.:D

    Wil, ah, so you're the Wil she often mentions in her blog. Totally understandable that you don't speak it now--my cousins are the same. It's kind of sad when Filipinos who've lived in their own country all their lives don't speak it.

    So Lei, you learned Filipino/Cebuano first?

  8. Ahaha!! surprise surprise, there's a Wil in the comments, lol! Anyway, I often blog in English coz it kind of attracts more foreign viewers for the blog. But I definitely speak Tagalog all the time, except for work-related matters. We weren't brought up to speak English at home but yes like you I excelled in languages too and I am always interested in learning profound Tagalog words. ;)

  9. Hello there! Tagalog (or Filipino)was the first language I learned. I was born and raised in Laguna. I got the hang of English partly (hehe!) from school but for the most part I learned from reading lots and lots of books. I noticed the same thing like you did when I became a grade school teacher almost four years ago. The Filipino subject was not a priority in the school I worked for and honestly, I was a little sad about it, specially when I was assigned to teach the subject to the 7th graders, and I found out that I had to use the 3nd graders' learning materials because these were appropriate for their Filipino aptitude at that time. No problem with English being used, since this can be very useful in the long run. Still, I'm hoping that teachers and parents could balance. :)


Oh, so sweet of you to drop a line!:)