Taglish: the combination of Tagalog and English, is my current language of practice. Filipinos begin studying English in elementary school, therefore it is a common second language. My host family speaks very good English as does my work counterpart. However, working in the field with fishermen and traveling throughout Romblon fluency in Tagalog is invaluable. Usually as soon as I say “Magandang umaga” meaning “Good Morning,” Filipinos are impressed and think that I am fluent. I then remind them, “Conti lang Tagalog” meaning “Just a little.”

While I am certain that my own language mistakes are abundant and amusing, (my accent never ceases to bring smiles) in helping Filipinos practice English there are some common errors that are equally amusing for me.

There is no gender differentiation of words in Tagalog. Meaning that the pronoun “siya” can be used as he or she. And your husband or wife is simply introduced as your “asawa.” This causes confusion in English yielding he’s introduced as she’s and vice versa. One occasion that stands out in my mind was when a male gym teacher was introduced: “Sarah, meet the wife of our neighbor.” In the States a husband would likely be offended to be introduced instead as a wife, however here such mistakes often go unnoticed.

The more concerning issue is that in many schools, teachers are also making such grammar errors when modeling English sentences for students. Therefore besides working in Coastal Resource Management and secondary benefit of my working in the Philippines is exposure to grammatically correct English for those Filipinos who cross my path. Even so I consciously alter my English when speaking with Filipinos, taking care to speak slowly, use simple vocabulary, and to carefully enunciate each syllable of each word, a courtesy most Filipinos also take when speaking with me in Tagalog.

My host brother Andrew is an employee at PhilHealth. Recently, I visited the office and gave a spontaneous Taglish presentation on Ecosystems and Human Impact.
My host brother Andrew is an employee at PhilHealth. Recently, I visited the office and gave a spontaneous Taglish presentation on Ecosystems and Human Impact.

2 thoughts on “Taglish”

  1. Great post! I am still working through the Rosetta Stone for Spanish right now…sometimes it reminds me of you learning Tagalog (or Taglish, I guess haha). Second languages don’t come easy, but at least you are exposed to it every day in the Philippines, which is awesome for forcing you to learn. Do you think you will be fluent by the end of your trip? Or is there still too much English being spoken around you that you won’t ever be completely immersed?

  2. Tagalog fluency is my personal goal!! I have Tagalog tutoring class twice a week and I use the language as much as I can. Of all Peace Corps countries, the Philippines program has one of the lowest ranking language scores among volunteers (they test us on language at various points during training). Basically because if you do not take initiative it is easy to avoid. For education volunteers it is very difficult to practice because their days are spent teaching in English and modeling our language. However with my Coastal Resource Management work I am surrounded by Tagalog all the time (my coworkers are aware of my resolution). If they talk among themselves I understand very little, but I’m improving. There is also a second local dialect that Filipinos here will typically use if speaking to each other. I do not understand it at all, however when I start a conversation in Tagalog they will simply switch over. Good luck with Spanish!! I will join you on any future South American adventures after I finish the Peace Corps, so much to see and do!

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