I once shared in this blog how I encouraged my three children to speak in Tagalog, our native language. I do not have anything against those fellow Filipinos who cannot speak our language, in fact, I have friends who live in other countries and have children who cannot understand or speak Tagalog. I also know children who live in the Philippines but cannot even speak the language. It may be hard to believe but I guess this is because there are certain demographics in the Philippines (mostly in Manila) where children were raised to speak English as if it is their first language, hence their brain are trained to think and speak in English.
I totally respect those parents who chose to let their kids use English as their first language, for sure they have their own reasons. But, I will not lie in saying that I feel disappointed every time I encounter Filipino children who do not speak or understand even a single Filipino word, most especially if they were born in the Philippines.
My children cannot fluently speak Tagalog, but I am proud to say that if you talk to them in Tagalog, they will understand you and they can converse in Tagalog, they know how to use “po” and “opo.” We do not practice our Tagalog Thursday anymore, because we talk to them in Tagalog every day of the week. They watch Filipino series with me every night, we also watch their favorite Filipino celebrities’ movies that are shown here in Winnipeg, lately they have been talking to their their Lolos (grandfathers) and Lolas (grandmothers) through video chat and they are able to carry out a conversation with them in Tagalog. Though, they normally talk to each other in English, my husband and I always make sure that whenever we speak to them, we speak to them using our mother tongue and we require them to answer in Tagalog as well. In that way, they can practice speaking the language often.
Just recently, I met someone who has been living here in Canada for more than 20 years, she was in her grade school when her family moved to Winnipeg. She could speak and understand Filipino because according to her they speak Filipino at home. She has 2 kids who are both teens, both her children cannot speak nor understand Filipino. According to her, she and her husband do not see the necessity for their kids to learn the language. They for sure have no plans of going back to the Philippines and they rarely visit, they feel that there’s no use for their children to learn Tagalog.
Like what I said, I respect parents like her. Each parent, has their our own ways when it comes to raising their children and they have their own reasons in letting their children do certain things. As for me, even if my children do not have any plans of living in the Philippines in the future, I still choose to let them learn our native language.
There are researches that suggest that bilinguals are smarter, accordingly, they are better at problem solving, they have better memories and are more skilled at multi-tasking. Who would not want that for their children? My 3 children are all enrolled in a French immersion school, that being said, I can claim that they not only speak in English and Tagalog, they are also learning to speak French. But raising multilingual kids is not my only reason for making my children speak in Tagalog, it’s not just about them becoming smart or successful, but it is more on letting them understand where their father and I came from.
I will not deny that I feel proud whenever someone praises my kids for knowing how to speak Tagalog, whenever they look at me with awe, I smile at them and tell them that I have reasons for doing such. That is true, I have my reasons for encouraging my children to speak in Tagalog, I want to share them in this article:
I want my kids to always remember that they are Filipinos. There’s no other best way to remind my children that despite becoming naturalized Canadians, they will always be Filipinos at heart and they will remain “Pinoys” forever. As I have mentioned in my Encouraging my Kids to Speak in Filipino post, my intention in making my children learn our native language is to teach them to love our home country and everything about it. By speaking the language, I want them to still remember that they should always be proud that they are Filipinos, because that is what we really are. I always tell them that leaving the Philippines for Canada doesn’t mean that we have turned our back from our home country, I am and will always be proud that I am a Filipino and I want my 3 children to also take pride that they were born by Filipino parents.
I want my kids to have good understanding of what other Filipinos around them are saying. Winnipeg is home to 56,400 Filipinos, which makes it the third city in Canada with the largest Filipino community by total population. It is for this reason that since 2012, Tagalog is recognized as the second-most common mother tongue in Winnipeg. With the big Filipino population it impossible for my children not to see or meet Filipinos in most places that they will go. If they understand and speak the language it will not be difficult for them to converse with our fellow Pinoys. I always bring them to most Filipino community events that I go to, I don’t want them to be in a position where everyone around them are talking and having fun while they are left wandering how should they react or how are they able to join the conversation. I’ve also met a lot of Filipinos who have been here in Canada more than half of their lives and are still comfortable using Tagalog because they are not very fluent in English nor in French. I remember an incident where I have to help an older Pinay in communicating to a customer service personnel in a government office and I felt really good after she and her husband thanked me for that small gesture, when in fact, it felt that I did that for my parents. If my parents would be in that situation, I will really appreciate if someone will do what I did. Hence, I want my children to also be able to do that in case they will be in a situation where a fellow Pinoy will need a sort of interpreter and that will not be possible if they don’t understand and speak the language.
I want my kids to learn and understand about the Philippines and its culture. I believe that our own language not only helps us to communicate to each other, it also helps us understand and appreciate our country, our culture and even our upbringing. By letting my kids learn the Filipino language, they are somehow given a form of connection with our heritage. Even if they did not grow up in the Philippines they still carry with them a distinctive characteristics of a true-blooded Filipino.
I want my kids to confidently speak in Tagalog and talk to our folks and people from home. I am a self-confessed Lola’s (Grandma) girl. I grew up listening to my Lola’s stories about how she grew up, what is life like during the Japanese colony and how she and my grandfather met each other and end up together. If you’ll ask me our grandparents’ stories are the best stories to listen to. I must admit, before we visited to the Philippines in 2017, my 3 children seldom talk to my parents-in-law over the phone or through Face time. After saying their his and hellos, they will slowly sneak out because they don’t really know how to keep the conversation. Call me crazy, but before coming to the Philippines, I specifically told them that they need to learn to speak in Tagalog if they want people back home to talk to them. While we were in the Philippines, every time my in-laws would talk to them in English, I will tell them that the kids will understand them if they speak to them in Tagalog, true enough, after almost 4 weeks of speaking to everyone in Tagalog they learned new Tagalog words and became comfortable speaking the language. The kids can now speak with their grandparents (through Face time) even for an hour, they happily relate to their 2 pairs of Lolos and Lolas without worrying if they will understand each other’s stories.
I want my children to have a sense of belongingness and to gain friends who will really understand them. For children like mine who are growing up in a place outside the country that they are ethnically from, it can be expected that they will struggle “to fit in.” Though, Canada is a country that prides itself on diversity, it is unavoidable that children, especially the newly-arrived ones will feel that the cultural differences somehow set them apart from other kids. The schools greatly encourage its student to foster diversity to avoid this, however, it is still an advantage if they have friends in school with whom they can share something in common. It can help them feel connected if they know that someone around them can speak the same language that they speak. Aside from that, there are certain things that are better understood when delivered in your own language. I remember how my daughter will sometime tell me how she and her friends in school will share to one another how the ways their Filipino parents discipline them or how their moms or dads will say things in a manner that only Filipino kids would understand. Sometimes they will laugh at a joke or story and they will try to explain it to their other friends but no matter how much they try explaining it in English, their friends cannot really get it.
Update, August 6, 2021: This article was selected for inclusion in the Buwan ng Wika campaign of the Educational resource publisher Twinkl
Filipino Canadians, Wikipedia. Accessed June 4, 2018
Tagalog is 2nd-most common mother tongue in Winnipeg, CBC News. Accessed June 4, 2018