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Raising my kids to speak Tagalog is tough but important

I read and listened to Ericka Cruz Guevarra's report about how some culture is lost when a child does not learn the parents' native language.

For Some Filipino-Americans, Language Barriers Leave Culture Lost in Translation by Ericka Cruz Guevarra
Imagine not being able to communicate with your own family. Not because you live on opposite sides of the country, or because your aunt doesn't use Facebook. But because you don't speak the same language. That's the reality for some in the Bay Area's large Filipino-American community. Ericka Cruz Guevarra reports that for some Filipino-Americans, never learning their family's native language has left some things lost in translation. (Read more)

As a kid who left the Philippines after third grade (my sister completed the second grade), it was very important to me that I not forget my tagalog.  I don't remember my parents ever saying I had to speak tagalog.  But my dad always preached "Knowledge is power" and knowing two languages was better than knowing only one.  I was also very nationalistic before I left the Philippines for the USA.

It helped that my parents spoke to my sister Joy and me in tagalog.  There weren't any Filipino shows on television nor any video tapes to rent.  I do remember playing our cassette tapes of Basil Valdez, Cinderella, Sharon Cuneta and, yes, Yoyoy Villame!

By the time Joy and I were in high school though (by this time we had moved to California from Chicago), the tables had turned -- our parents spoke to us in English.  Joy and I could still speak tagalog but we had somewhat of an Americanized accent.  We had many Filipino friends, but most of them didn't speak tagalog.  Unknowingly, our tagalog declined through our teenage years.

I wasn't really conscious that my tagalog was "Americanized" until I took a year off from UC Davis after freshman year.  After spending 9 1/2 weeks in Chicago, I vacationed in the Philippines from December through June.  I got to experience once again Simbang Gabi, Sen├íkulo and other traditions/fiesta in between.  I also got conned by a taxi driver into paying a much higher fare; he knew I was a balikbayan due to my accent.

My childhood friends didn't give me an easy time when it came to my accent.  They would tease me when I spoke Taglish.  That helped.  By the time, returned to the USA, my tagalog was back in form.  No taxi driver will ever con me again.

After I got married, I told my wife that she needed to teach our children tagalog. (To be continued...)


According to the most recent U.S. Census data, only about half of the 1.4 million Filipinos in California speak Tagalog, Ilocano or Visayan.

Listen to Ericka Cruz Guevarra's report:

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