Jul 17, 2012

The Best Way to Help Your Child Learn (and Enjoy) Filipino

It's ironic that, considering we are all Filipinos, a lot of us consider the Filipino subject in school to be a difficult one. It's our own language, for crying out loud. Why does it have to be so hard?

Well, here's what I think: Filipino is hard because the curriculum and textbooks were designed with the presumption that the readers already understood Filipino. So the expectation is higher than what the average learner can actually achieve.

Why? Because the sad truth is, the average learner does NOT know Filipino -- at least, not the kind of Filipino that you expect them to study in school. They know the shallow, adulterated street Filipino. Show them a closed door and they will say it is "sarado," which I think is a corruption of the Spanish word "cerrado." Will any of them say it is "nakapinid"? Are any of them familiar with that Filipino synonym? I wouldn't bet on it.

No shortchanging, please

So how do we help our children learn and enjoy Filipino? Let's expose them to the language in an enjoyable manner -- by giving them high quality Filipino books!

When I say "high quality," I mean books that have beautiful pictures and, most importantly, purist language. Too many so-called Filipino books I see in stores nowadays shortchange us by incorporating English words into their supposedly Filipino translations, or they use ordinary Filipino language.

Now I'm not saying that exposure to everyday Filipino is useless. If your children are hardly ever exposed to the Filipino language in your household, and they can't even compose a five-word-long Filipino sentence, then exposure to everyday Filipino may be just what they need.

But if your kids already speak and comprehend everyday Filipino, what's the point in exposing them further to it? It's time to level up!

Top-quality Filipino storybooks

This year, our homeschool Filipino curriculum is composed entirely of reading Filipino stories from Filipino books published by the best publisher of Filipino books I've found so far: Tahanan Publishing. For our lessons, we got "Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang," by Severino Reyes; "Ginto Habihan," which is an anthology of Palanca Award winners; and "12 Kuwentong Pamasko," a Christmas story anthology.

We started reading "Mga Kuwento Ni Lola Basyang," but we stopped after one story because (1) the Tagalog was very deep and the kids had a bit of a hard time, although they still enjoyed it very much, and (2) some of the stories were rated Parental Guidance (PG). Severino Reyes, apparently, did not design this book for four-year-olds!

(How deep is the Tagalog, you may ask? And exactly how much did my kids enjoy it? And what makes me say the stories were rated PG? And at what age can you let your children read it by themselves? Find out in my book review of "Mga Kuwento ni Lola Basyang," by Severino Reyes.) 

Gintong Habihan also used deep Tagalog, but less often. It was lighter reading for the children -- and it was not PG at all (and yes, they still enjoyed it, ha ha). And gently, they were getting exposed to Filipino words, becoming familiar with the true sounds and spirit of the language, which made it easier for them to decode meanings from context.

I believe that as my kids get to read more beautiful Filipino stories, they will learn that Filipino is something that is fun and beautiful, not something that is difficult and boring. Then, perhaps, when the time comes that they have to study "Ibong Adarna" and "Florante at Laura," it will not feel like drudgery. Maybe they will even savor the experience, as the authors of those wonderful Filipino classics had meant their work to be savored and enjoyed.

DISCLOSURE: This is not a paid post. The author has received no compensation in any form from anybody to write this article.

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