Learning Filipino with songs and games

We wanted Mateo to be bilingual — fluent in both English and Filipino — but he ended up being lopsidedly better in English. There’s a lot of reason not to feel bad about it, but still not enough to not learn our national language.

His strong English language preference comes from YouTube, Netflix, spending his early years in Singapore, and perhaps my aversion to code switch when conversing with him. Now that we’re here in the Philippines for good and with him starting formal school this year (if not for COVID he would already be a regular school boy by now), it’s time to level up our Filipino language skills.

I still think that learning is best when it is made fun (and simple to follow), so we avoided formal lessons. Here are the things we do to make him love and learn Filipino.

1. Filipino “Ikaw at Ako” board game

Mateo loves board games. One of the things I made for him was a DIY board game where he could answer and share things about himself. I originally made it in English (because that was our default learning language) then made a Filipino version so he would know how to answer the question, “Anong pangalan mo?” Admittedly, I had a difficult time doing the Filipino one (there’s even a chance that one or two sentences were poorly constructed).

We shared the free downloadable board game here. Original post here.

2. No prep pseudo-“Simon Says” Filipino body parts

This one follows the concept of the “Simon Says” game without waiting for Simon to say the instruction.

We play it anywhere, quickly and without much hassle. Some of the instructions I give him are the following:

  • Ipikit ang iyong mga mata.
  • Hawakan ang iyong tenga.
  • Ipakita ang iyong mga ngipin.
  • Hawakan ang iyong ilong.
  • Halikan ang aking pisngi.
  • Ipakita ang iyong ngiti.
  • Tumalon.
  • Sumayaw.

That list is non-exhaustive, but basically I wanted him to learn body parts and some action words in Filipino. It is a game and a fun way to learn the language. Eventually, he got good enough that we were taking turns giving instructions.

3. Watching Tagalog-dubbed anime

Screen time is not exactly bad if done in moderation. As he learned a lot of English through Netflix or YouTube, he’s now learning Filipino through some Tagalog-dubbed anime. He’s done with Hunter x Hunter, and now he’s watching Ghost Fighter.

I told him that Ghost Fighter is also in Netflix as Yu Yu Hakusho but in English, and I’m happy that he prefers to watch Eugene and the gang.

4. Listening and watching Filipino songs

He is just starting to learn how to count in Filipino. It may appear bad that he already knows up to thousands or ten thousands in English and still struggling in Filipino, but he actually preferred to learn counting in Ilocano first instead.

I cannot speak Ilocano (just understand it), so I relied on YouTube to teach him counting (here’s the link to the video that taught him maysa, dua, tallo…). Now we’re also relying on YouTube for the Filipino version. Here’s the playlist that I made, which includes some really old videos because those are the counting songs that I know.

Eight (or nine?) months since going home for good, he now occasionally talks to me in Filipino, albeit with a twang. All good, I’m happy with his progress. That he embraces and loves learning it is already a big win for me. Maligayang Buwan ng Wika!

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