Metro Manila · "Marunong ako mag Tagalog" - Learning Filipino (Philippine Language)

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August is "Buwan ng Wika", the National Language Month. Megacitizens.com gives you some hard facts about the Filipino language, information on where to learn it, and a list of essential of and phrases to survive in the Megacity.

Most Filipinos in Metro Manila are rather fluent in English, and even tricycle drivers understand enough to bring you to your destination. Nevertheless, there are at least two reasons to learn some Tagalog/Filipino. For one, communication in English can get more complicated deep in the province. But more importantly, Filipinos are amazed when foreigners show the slightest effort to talk in the local language. With a casual 'Salamat', 'Kumusta?' or 'Hay naku!' you easily get appreciation and make new friends in the Megacity. 

Modern Tagalog or Filipino, the national language, is just one of more than 180 languages and dialects spoken on the archipelago. It is composed of the classic Tagalog language used in the area around Manila, with many Spanish and English words incorporated. The grammar structure is very different from European languages, but in the end not too hard to understand. The spelling is quite easy, as most words are pronounced just the way they are written.

Tagalog Language Courses

The main obstacle in learning Tagalog, however, is that you don't really rely on it in everyday-life. It is therefore highly recommended to take a language course. The teacher (and classmates) will judge your progress and thus support your self-discipline in learning.

Berlitz operates three language centers in Metro Manila (Makati, Greenhills, Shangri-La Mall). They offer private classes and group classes for four to six students. Visum Language Institute is a language school in Alabang offering Tagalog classes of either 15 or 30 hours. You can also find private language teachers that teach you at home or via Skype etc. Rates start at around 400 Pesos per hour. Just look for Filipino/Tagalog lessons on websites like sulit.com.ph or language-school-teachers.com.

If you want to learn Tagalog by yourself, we recommend the book 'Tagalog for Beginners' by Joi Barrios (Tuttle Publishing, $19.95). It comes with a lot of exercises, a CD to ensure proper pronunciation, and useful 'Culture Notes' on Philippine customs.

Basic Vocabulary

The first few words for you to impress the Filipinos:

Hi, How are you? Kumusta ka?                                                                                     
Good morning Magandang umaga
Good afternoon Magandang hapon
Good evening Magandang gabi
I am Maria Ako si Maria
I (don't) understand (Hindi) ko naiintindihan
My gosh! Hay naku!
You are beautiful Ang ganda mo
Thank you Salamat
You're welcome Walang anuman
I love you Mahal kita
Go away! Alis!
How do you get to [insert place]? Paano pumunta ng [insert place]? 
Right  Kanan
Left Kaliwa
Go straight Diretso 
Up  Taas
Down Baba
Stop, please Para Po (in public transport)
How much?  Magkano po?
Here’s my fare Bayad po 
Delicious Masarap/Sarap 
I want/I like Gusto ko
I don’t want/I don’t like Ayoko
Sorry   Pasensiya na po
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Na-gets mo ba? Filipinos highly appreciate it when foreigners use polite phrases in Tagalog, like "Magandang umaga" and "Maraming Salamat po". But if you really want to blend in with the locals in an informal setting, you should learn some Pinoy slang.