Review: Tuttle Tagalog Materials

When I started out with my current Tagalog project, I approached Tuttle Publishing. They specialize in Asian-themed books, and since Tagalog is an Asian language, they seemed like the right people to talk to.

So they sent me some stuff to review–that is, free swag. And not just one book, but several:

My desk got a little messier.

My desk got a little messier.

It’s difficult finding good Tagalog materials out there, so I already liked Tuttle for providing professional quality materials teaching this less commonly taught language. And since I’m not a robot, I can’t help but be really appreciative for the free stuff I got.

But at the end of the day, I would recommend all of these materials without hesitation to Tagalog learners.

I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each book so that you can decide which is best for you.

Elementary Tagalog: Tara, Mag-Tagalog Tayo!

By Jiedson R. Domigpe and Nenita Pambid Domingo

I had been really looking forward to this one. The book (whose subtitle means “Come On, Let’s Speak Tagalog!”) is popular in Tagalog learning circles. Stephanie at To Be Fluent swears by it, and I can see why.

It’s written in a classic textbook style, pretty much what you would find in an introductory course at a university. In fact, I believe it’s often used for that purpose. The book contains a CD with the audio of the dialogue, as well as an optional workbook. As a modern foreign languages textbook, it has several familiar characteristics:

  • Content that builds upon itself and increases in complexity from one chapter to the next
  • Vocab lists
  • Dialogue
  • Grammar explanations and charts

It’s a great book. The content is solid and the explanations are clear. But if I’m being honest, it hasn’t had as big an impact on my studying as I had anticipated.

I had been intending to use it as the base of my Tagalog studying. But there just weren’t enough dialogues and drills in the lessons for my personal taste. A lot of the instruction felt passive, which is probably just right for a teacher who can use the tool as part of a class, but not great for someone like me who doesn’t have an instructor to talk to or a classmate to practice with. Admittedly, though, the accompanying workbook definitely helps make the material more engaging.

Again, this is definitely still a great resource. I’m going to use it as reference material and maybe revisit it again when I get a little farther along.

(Link to textbook and workbook)

Easy Tagalog: Learn to Speak Tagalog Quickly!

By Joi Barrios and Julia Camagong

While Elementary Tagalog seems geared for the university student, this book seems intended for the self studier.

It’s a compact book, at a slim but still substantial 256 pages, with an accompanying CD containing the dialogues. It has a lot of the same features that Elementary Tagalog has, including vocab lists, dialogue, and grammar explanations.

The difference, though, is that Easy Tagalog goes lighter on the grammar explanation and the style is a little breezier. It reminds me a lot of the Teach Yourself series of books.

One thing I really liked were the Manga-style comics. Every chapter has at least one comic containing a dialogue, and it’s just nice to get some visual stimulation (and fun) mixed in with the studying.

The pace of instruction is a little fast. If this were the only book you were using, you might get frustrated because after a week you’d be like, “Wait, okay, now I’m lost.” So I ended up going slow with this book. After finishing a chapter, I’d put it down for a couple days and study from another source before coming back. That worked out really well.

(Link to book)

Tagalog in a Flash, Volume 1

This “book” (it has an ISBN number) was a nice surprise. It’s a set of 448 flashcards containing common words and expressions.

I’m not using them as intended, though. That’s because I discovered that each card doesn’t just contains a vocab word, but also a bunch of phrases I can learn.

For example, the back of the card for the Tagalog word wala has the English definition: none, nothing. But it also has four sample phrases:

  • Wala ako. – I don’t have it.
  • Wala akong pera. – I don’t have money.
  • Walang anuman. – No worries; you’re welcome.
  • Walang pasok bukas. – There’s no school (or work) tomorrow.

448 vocab words? More like 1,792 realistic phrases. And while I like to learn from phrase books, it’s nice to get some phrases that are centered around vocab words, rather than around phrase book chapters.

Ironically, I don’t use the flashcards as flashcards, but instead make my own flashcards using the sample phrases. So far, this has been really effective.

There’s a booklet with some very brief Tagalog grammar explanation, but I wouldn’t use these flashcards as a substitute for a self-study course or textbook (not that I imagine anyone was planning on doing that).

(Link to flashcard set)

Wrapping Up

I got spoiled when I was studying Spanish and German. There was so much stuff out there that I could pick and choose.

The scarcity of Tagalog materials out there really makes me appreciative for Tuttle’s books. The books are basic, and there’s nothing flashy about them, but they get the job done.

Students can–and will–get a lot out of them.

  • Roman Shinkarenko

    It’s all fine and dandy, but what is the quality of dialogs? Do characters seem like people with sense of humor or are they just androids?
    One more advantage of review copies – IMVFAPWO the publishing house has in its interests to send them in the best possible condition.
    My blog: (recently had a comment dryout).

    • Ron G.

      The dialogues seem appropriate for a beginner’s course. With the carefully selected vocab, it’s somewhere between “natural conversation” and “android conversation,” but is fine for its purpose. For both books, they speak a little fast, but I could understand them (with help from the book).

  • Red/

    Out of curiosity, apart from study books for which few resources are available, how for continuing to immerse in the language in the time coming?
    Is it possible to find articles, radio, books with enough choice in the variety of subjects?

    • Ron G.

      That’s been a challenge too, honestly. I’ve been able to find stuff on YouTube, and have been listening to Filipino radio stations on TuneIn. I know stuff is out there, but it takes some legitimate effort to find it…unlike with Spanish or German, where I could find everything on the first page of a Google search.

      Also, even if I do find stuff–like newspapers–it’s too much for my current level.

      But I’m finding more and more stuff (and bookmarking it) so it’s starting to add up, and my proficiency is going up slowly, so eventually I’ll be able to use more of the materials that are out there.