My child speaks more English less Tagalog

We always get those nosebleed jokes.

My daughter’s first language is English. Not a few people asked us why we didn’t train her to speak Tagalog, our mother tongue. Some even bashed us for not doing so.

We did not intentionally plan to teach her to speak English. It just happened. At the time she started talking, we were unconsciously talking to her in English, reading her English books, while also allowing her to watch ‘Early Learning Videos’ - which are all English.

I mean, how do you do “Close-Open” or Wheels on the Bus or peek-a-boo in Tagalog?

She showed early signs of a really good comprehension of the language. And we realized she responds better when we use English. By age 4, she’s already conversational at it.

We were easily encouraged to keep it that way. For a family living overseas, mingling with various nationalities, and probably staying here for the long run, I think we have a valid reason.

Does it make her less Filipino? 

First, it is highly unfair to measure kids by anything. They are kids for a reason.

Aside from place of birth, nationality is largely defined by race and ethnicity in which language is a big attribute. I think, speaking less Tagalog just makes her, “less Tagalog,” but still 100% Filipino.

Does it matter?

We’re not really bothered. We want her to also learn Tagalog. I think being bilingual is beautiful and smart. It was just a matter of prioritizing her love language over land language.

When she’s about 5, we started talking Tagalog more often. It was a struggle in the beginning. Slowly but surely she’s getting the context of what we’re trying to say, until one day, she showed great desire to learn and adapt Tagalog at a higher level.

One way we thought could help us in this regard is to put her in a Filipino school. It wasn’t a breeze though. She became more confused and impatient struggling to understand grammatical elements like panghalip, pantangi, pambalana, panaguri, I mean c'mon! The pressure from the academe didn’t help much.

Despite the stutters, her desire to learn the language remains high. She practices with us every day. She loves to sing Tagalog songs too. She admires kids who speak fluent Filipino. For her, mastering Tagalog is a prestige - a high contrast to our childhood wherein we thought kids who speak English were elite. Today, she celebrates with joy every time she completes a sentence.

Today, if you talk to her in basic Tagalog, she will understand you and might eventually respond to you in Tagalog as well.

I'm proud she is delighted to embrace the language. For me, it doesn’t really matter what language you started them into. When they grow in a language of love, learning the vernacular is just a matter of time.

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