Tagalog Project – Update #1

By Magalhães (Own work (own picture)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

By Magalhães [Public domain], Image Source

If you’re a part of my Language Surf Club, then you know from my newsletter that I want my Tagalog project to be my most transparent language project to date.

So here’s update #1.


For the video, I used a script to help me. I read the line, looked at the web cam, said the line, and–when appropriate–acted the words out. I can say, though, that I know all the greetings and polite words by heart, except maybe “Ikinagagalak kong makilala ka” and “hanggang sa muli,” since those trip me up.

Of course, in two weeks, I learned more than these 30 or so words and phrases, but I filmed these because getting these down pat was my first objective.

By the way, I’m going to work on improving the sound quality. My birthday is coming up, so maybe I’ll ask Birthday Santa for a better camera with an external mic. I’ll also do my best to make these videos a little more engaging than me speaking into a camera. No promises; even this little video took a couple hours to film and edit.


My learning routine has been a hodgepodge. I’ve been following the template from Language Master Key (the basic routine, not the 21-Day Language Blast).

No, that’s not a line to get you to buy my $5 book. That’s really just how I study. I need flexibility or else I’d never maintain interest from week to week. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to force myself to get in 30 minutes a day of free listening. I’m getting closer to 20 right now, with about an hour to 90 minutes of total studying a day.

I’m using several different resources. When Tuttle Publishing heard about my project, they were kind enough to send me a ton of Tagalog books, which I’ll review in depth later.

Every day looks something like:

  • Studying – Working through the books Easy Tagalog and Elementary Tagalog, or working through the US military’s headstart2 course.
  • Active listening/Speaking – I’m using Pimsleur as my main active listening activity, which is a slight variation from what’s recommended in LMK. I’m also watching “Easy Tagalog” videos on YouTube and playing around with listening while reading the subtitles and translations.
  • Free listening – I’m listening to lots of Tagalog music and watching the cartoon “Shin Chan.” I’m also listening to the podcast from Tagalog Juan, which is good for sneaking in more exposure, even if a lot of it is in English.

Also, I’m using flashcards to help retain the content from my studying materials.


I think I’m on track. I’m not quite attacking this with the intensity I did when I started studying Spanish, and I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the relative lack of Tagalog media? But I’m staying consistent and developing some good habits.

It’s tough starting over with a new language from scratch. Fortunately, there’s a lot of English and Spanish influence. For instance, the Tagalog word for “nurse” is “nars” and the word for “lawyer” is “abugado,” so it’s pretty easy to remember a lot of stuff right off the bat.

On the other hand, the word for writer is “manunulat,” so some stuff feels completely new. (But that’s part of the fun, right?) Also, it seems like every other “pure” Tagalog noun starts with “man-,” so I get mixed up all the time.

One day I got really frustrated with my performance during a Pimsleur lesson. But I reminded myself that I shouldn’t expect myself to be perfect and that experience should tell me I’ll get the hang of this stuff if I just stick with it. So I brushed myself off and stroked my bruised ego and started over the next day.

Oh, and I said a couple words to Mom on the phone in Tagalog and she understood me, so that’s a good sign.

Wrapping Up

I can see the long road ahead of me, and it’s daunting. Perhaps the best thing about starting a new language is that I’m reminded the journey is the destination. I learn languages as a means to an end, but I also learn languages for the sake of learning languages.

The feeling I get? It’s that of starting a really long, multi-year jigsaw puzzle. If I focus on the big picture, I’ll lose steam, so instead I concentrate on putting together the pieces in front of me.

  • http://lahijadelsol.com/ Cat Ramos キャット ラモス

    Congratulations, Ron! Magaling ha! :)
    OMG, Crayon Shin-chan XD So I guess this means you have met “Carmen”?
    I used to teach Tagalog to my American boss and we used this book called “Mag-Tagalog Tayo”. It is more colloquial/less formal, which means he can use the phrases right away — he likes making chitchat with random baristas and security guards.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Thanks, Cat! Hahaha…yeah, Carmen cracks me up. I only understand about 20% of the words (if that), but when Shin-Chan drops the pizza toppings-side-down on the floor, and Carmen comes in screaming at him after she eats a slice, I don’t need to know the words to understand what’s going on. …brings me back to my childhood…lol…

      I’ll have to check that book out. Sounds perfect for beginning stages.

  • http://allthetongues.hol.es/ Roman Shinkarenko

    Do you employ speaking to yourself? Benny’s method includes everyday chatting by italki, and it’s like “bribing your way to fluency” (applicable to those with money to spare, that is; and I’m a green-eyed envy, that is). Well, you have the main ingredient for everything: consistency.
    I see Tuttle Publishing has a lot of faith in your project. And I’ve read that you get to keep your reviewer’s copy.
    I have a request: Please write about your understanding of Tagalog vs. Pilipino.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Yeah, I chat with myself all the time. LOL. I should probably write about that, since it’s a staple.

      When I was studying Spanish, it was a little difficult for me finding language exchange partners. It seemed liked one of the sites I went to was almost like a dating site. But I persevered and found a couple people who helped me a ton. Just knowing that you’re comprehensible (or not) is a great confidence boost/reality check.

      Great request. I’ll write about that in my next update. I didn’t realize until recently that my mom’s “native” language was Waray Waray. She had mentioned it, but really, I had always heard references to Tagalog growing up. She’s fluent in something like 4 or 5 Philippine dialects, which I now understand is quite an accomplishment.

      • trav

        Hi Ron,
        Thanks for sharing your experience. I just finished part A of the pimselur conversational Spanish. I got it from the library…gotta watch my pennies. Do you have a Skype/chat Spanish group that beginning Spanish learners can join? Like a virtual meetup (set time/day) but free lol.

        • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

          Hi, Trav! Great idea on the library. I do that with Pimsleur courses whenever possible. I don’t have any Spanish group, but you might be able to find some posting on the forums at iTalki, Fluent in 3 Months, or Duolingo. Those places all have active forums with people who might be interested (or might know of a group that already exists). Good luck!

  • Bryan

    Sometimes I think Pimsleur is designed to make people frustrated. I remember wondering why (and getting really frustrated) I couldn’t get the main topics in a Pimsleur lesson in one pass when I first started Spanish.

    I had to remind myself often that there isn’t anything wrong with doing a lesson twice (or 3 times on my dumb days haha). Usually the second pass through a lesson helped the material stick.

    One tip that worked well for me when I was just starting Spanish was finding the Pimsluer transcripts online. Then, playing the lesson through while having the transcript in front of me. I know it goes against how Pimsleur does things but seeing/hearing the new words and phrases helped me a lot.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      I really appreciate hearing about your experience. I’m probably going to make it standard practice to do each Pimsleur lesson twice and expect that it’s going to take me a little longer.

      And yes, some of the stuff is a little too much. In Tagalog, there are “ang” and “ng” markers (long story). These markers, pronouns, and verbs change position and form depending on sentence type and what’s being emphasized in the sentence.

      It’s easy enough in one sense, but a lot to keep track of as you keep building on your sentences.

      I also don’t want to depend on Pimsleur too much this go around. I got the first 15 lessons for free, and I’m on the fence about whether I want to do more than that. I still think it’s a great program, but I kind of want to experiment with other strategies. I can always come back to it later if I want to shore up some skills.

  • Adam Pearson

    I made it up to lesson 5 in Teach Yourself Tagalog years ago. What got me? Infixes. Yuck.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      I haven’t got that far yet, but I think I know what you’re talking about. Pimsleur started messing me up with:

      “Gusto kong kumain ng kanin.” <– I want to eat rice.
      "Kanin ang gusto kong kainin." <– Rice is what I want to eat.

      Kumain turns into kainin based on the emphasis in the sentence. Smiling and nodding at this point…

  • http://www.teenjazz.com/ Shannon Kennedy

    So impressed with your first video! Sounds really great. Best of luck as you continue.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Thank you! That’s very kind. I hope I keep making progress. :)

  • http://lightonspanish.com/ Jorge Sivit

    Hey Ron, that video sounds great! It seems you really are on track.
    And I think it’s a good idea to remind that the journey is the destination; enjoy it! Looking forward to the next update!

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Jorge, thank you so much. I really appreciate it! Today I really felt like it’s *just* beginning to come together.

  • http://fluenthistorian.com/ Natalie

    Yay! This is exciting. Keep it up.

    • http://www.languagesurfer.com/ Ron G.

      Thanks, Natalie! :)