It’s not surprising that in this day and age, more and more Filipino families choose to raise children with English as the basic language used at home. While it may be true that being able to speak fluently in the universal language will be very beneficial for our children in terms of confidence, competitiveness, and comprehension, it is also equally important to impart them with knowledge and love for our own language, which is Filipino. After all, they are in the Philippines, and aside from it being a topic on nationalism, they will always find it useful one way or another. Plus it’s such a beautiful and romantic language–definitely too good to pass up! If you’ve already got yourself an English speaking little human, fret not, as it only takes a few tweaks in your household and routines to teach them our beloved Filipino language.
Just as how it was when they still couldn’t utter a single word, exposure is one of the factors our kids eventually learned how to speak. As they say, the more you talk to them, the more they learn. In the same way, if you expose them further to the Filipino language in your everyday conversations while using gestures as you did when they were still babies, they will eventually have a better grasp of the different words and their corresponding meanings.
Preschool Teacher and a Preschool Managing Partner, Teacher Rosanne Araneta, suggests having one consistent source of the language for better understanding and categorizing of words in a child’s brain. For instance, Mommy will speak in pure English, while Daddy will speak in pure Filipino. Given this, according to her, it is important not to put the two languages together such as “Did you eat na?”, because eventually it will be difficult for the child to categorize or file the words that are Filipino and English when he/she grows up.
Make every moment a teachable moment. Teaching language (or anything for that matter) doesn’t always have to be in a formal set up. You may consider translating whenever possible, such as when you see a white dog, you can go, “Look, that’s a white dog! In Filipino you say, Iyon ay isang puting aso!”. Eventually moments like these, according to Teacher Rosanne, get filed in a child’s memory bank, and when they eventually need to use the words, their meaning will be clearer since learning wasn’t forced, rather it was more of a pleasant experience for the child.
Children love stories, and learning can be better absorbed when they are doing something they enjoy! Tap into their creativity and imagination and make reading books in Filipino as exciting and fun as how you would read them in English. You can also re-tell stories you’ve heard when you were still a child, such as the famous myths our grandparents used to tell us when we were much younger. Not only will this be fun to listen to, but it will also give them a glimpse of our Filipino culture.
Music is such a fun and entertaining way to learn anything. Sing different Filipino songs in different beats and explain the meaning of each of the songs to your child. Don’t limit yourself to educational songs too, as there are a lot of beautiful Filipino songs they can sing along to and that can help them understand the language better as they learn to appreciate Filipino words more.
Studies have shown that a child’s brain can absorb the most information between the ages of 0-6 years old. With this, don’t underestimate your child’s learning capabilities and take advantage of introducing two or more languages at that age. Use it in daily conversations to keep it natural and fun.
With all these, you should also never forget that your mood and attitude towards learning a new language (and learning in general) is very important. Show love and appreciation for the Filipino language, and it will eventually rub off on your child and keep him/her motivated to learn and speak it too.