Are you a parent who worries about your child’s inability to speak, or even understand, his native tongue?
You’re not alone.
A lot of parents and teachers talk about students’ inability and reluctance to speak Filipino. Tutorial centers for the subject abound, and students’ Filipino grade usually blights an otherwise outstanding report card.
I’m one of those parents. My kids speak mostly English, and when we speak to them in Filipino, they would answer: “Ayoko po.”
It’s a funny-not funny situation that I have thought about quite a lot over the years. We have experimented with different methods. In fact, I’ve already written several articles about it.
The tips I shared here three years ago were quite helpful. This time, though, I have another one for you all.
The first step is…
Sometimes, we focus on the results and forget the basics.
The first step to teaching kids to speak Filipino better is building comprehension their understanding of the language.
And how do we accomplish that? It’s actually easy: you expose your child to lots and lots of Filipino words. Grammar and speaking will follow.
Reading aloud books (picture books for younger ones, longer chapter books for older kids), enjoying Filipino poetry, and singing praise and folk songs will help unlock vocabulary words that will make them more comfortable in using the language.
Easy? You bet. You can do it.
In order to ease your child to grow in understanding Filipino, pick up a book and just read through it as slowly as you need to.
Here’s an easy way to do it
- Read even just one page a day. For novels for older kids, a chapter a week (in one read-aloud session or more) would be great!
- Ask your child to tell back in his own words – in English or Filipino – what you read. Depending on his level of comprehension, you can read one sentence at a time, going longer as you go along.
- Some kids love to draw. Ask your child to draw a scene from what you’ve read. Don’t dictate how they’ll do it. It’s not a problem if your child wouldn’t draw.
- Before continuing the book on the next reading day, ask your child to recap what he remembers from your last reading.
As you do this over and over through different books, you will see your child’s comprehension of the language grow. As he advances, you can ask him to retell in Filipino, even for just one sentence.
Here are some of the Filipino books that we’ve enjoyed reading (and planning to read) with our children and which helped them grow in understanding our language.
All are available at our online children’s bookshop.
1. Picture Books
Picture books are not just for little ones. If you feel you need to start with really simple books, go ahead and check out the books below.
We enjoy a lot of Filipino books, but here are our favorites:
- The books on The Learning Basket’s Guides to Enjoying and Learning from Philippine Children’s Picture Books. These are FREE TO DOWNLOAD guides to help parents engage with their kids using Philippine published books. Some of the books are written in English but most are in Filipino; just choose the Filipino language ones.
- Fun Filipino Books for Babies, Toddlers, and Beginning Readers – Click here to go to the list!
- Dog Trilogy: Si Pilantod Ang Asong Tatlo Ang Tuhod, Si Jack Ang Asong Kaaway ng Mga Bulaklak, Si Botbot Ang Asong Kulubot – Nominated for the National Book Award for Children’s Literature, these books are fun and about Filipino values. Click on the titles to go to the shop page!
2. Folk Songs
Singing folk songs is a great way to get some Filipino words rolling in kids’ tongues.
- Bahay Kubo – A picture book of the classic folk song
- Antukin – A collection of lullabies in different Filipino dialects
- Pagtulog Na Nene – A Hiligaynon lullaby, if your mother tongue is not Tagalog
3. Riddles, Proverbs, Poetry
- Mga Bugtong at Salawikain Para sa Bagong Henerasyon – Fun riddles and proverbs
- May Tiyanak sa Loob ng Aking Bag – A collection of poems in Filipino featuring the unique and interesting culture of Filipino children
- Buwan, Buwang, Bulawan
4. Short Novels / Short Stories for Older Kids – Note: You should still read these aloud to them!
- Anina ng Mga Alon – Anina is a Badjao, growing up in the company of the sea. Like a friend, she knows its songs and moods by heart. Learn about another distinct culture in the Philippines.
- Owl Friends (Filipino Edition)– A beautiful tale of friendship between a lowlander and an Aeta that will give you an opportunity to talk about prejudices
- The Secret (Filipino Edition) – A tale of suspense and courage in a convent where young schoolgirls stay to survive the Second World War
- Birdflight (Filipino Edition) – A rich novel that not only introduces the young reader to environmental issues and to the beauty of the many birds that make the Philippines their home, it also tells a story of friendship, unity and courage
Reading familiar stories is great in increasing comprehension because the child will already have a basic understanding of the story.
- Odysseus and the Cyclops (Bilingual flip book) – Mined from the ancient treasure trove of Greek mythology
- The Trojan Horse (Bilingual flip book) – Mined from the ancient treasure trove of Greek mythology
- Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang – The three volumes of this series feature the stories popularized by Lola Basyang / Severino Reyes in beautiful old Tagalog
5. Philippine Classics
It’s never too early to start reading the classics. Though most students in the Philippines are introduced to the following titles in high school, you can actually start reading the original stories in the elementary years. Click here to read how to do it!
Yes, it’s frustrating and a bit of head scratcher why a lot of Filipino kids are struggling with speaking their native tongue.
One more piece of advice? Just start now. Pick a book, cuddle your child, and read.
A little bit of reading everyday or every week is better than not doing it at all.
Reading consistently will expose your child naturally to the language, building his skills in understanding and speaking.
If you’re looking for a particular book…
Just ask us! We would be happy to help you find the right book for your child.
Oh, and always check our shop for new uploads. You’ll never know what treasure you’ll find on our pages.
Mariel and Sanne