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Why I Made Sure Filipino Is My Daughter's First LanguageFor this mom, teaching Filipino as her daughter's first language was a deliberate decision.by Dahl D. Bennett .
For young mom and lawyer Patricia David-Molina, teaching Filipino as her toddler’s first language was never a choice but a given. “It never became a dilemma for [me and my husband] whether to use English or Filipino because growing up, we spoke only Filipino at home, and our English turned out all right.”
Her daughter Ishie, now 2 and a half years old, is fast learning to pronounce big Tagalog words and phrases like “kabila” or “wala nang laman” correctly, and Patricia couldn’t be any prouder. “My husband and I just agreed to speak to our daughter in Filipino. He is Cebuano, so sometimes he injects some words in Bisaya, but our daughter never got confused. We just talk to her like an adult.”
Benefits of learning Filipino first
Apart from growing up in a home where everyone spoke Filipino, Patricia also saw the benefits in her nieces. “I have a cousin who taught her daughters Filipino first at a time when almost everyone I knew was speaking to their children in English at home. Her daughters were able to relate to us very well and were able to learn English in school even though they only speak to them in Filipino. Now, her daughters are fluent in both English and Filipino,” she says.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Patricia adds the observation that some kids who are fluent only in English tend to have lower grades in Filipino subjects.
In a country where English is often taught as a child’s first spoken language, Patricia’s daughter was bound at some point to meet kids her age who speak only in English.
“There was one time when a mom brought her toddler to our office. My daughter said something [to her daughter] in Filipino and the toddler asked her mom what my daughter said. Instead of translating it, the mom just told her daughter, ‘She’s still a baby.’
“It makes me wonder why instead of just translating the Filipino word in English, she just made it appear that my daughter was saying something in the baby talk when it was a Filipino word. Is there something that makes them feel inferior about their child learning Filipino words?”ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Learning English in school
The importance of learning English doesn’t escape Patricia, but she is confident that her daughter will have the right exposure once she goes to school. In fact, she says this early, Ishie is already picking up English sentences on her own from just watching cartoons and YouTube videos even without them saying these things to her.
Patricia’s concern lies in making sure her daughter can communicate with people from all walks of life. “I would like her to appreciate English academically and be able to apply it to relate to others but not in a way that will hinder her from interacting with others. Filipino is the medium used when riding the tricycle, buying groceries, or taho from the taho vendor. She can interact more when she is speaking in the same language as the people we deal with day to day,” she explains.
Developing street smarts and nationalism through language like English, learning to speak proper Filipino also has a significant impact academically on the child. “Filipino is still a major subject up to now, and it reflects on their grades. This will have an effect on the child in the future not only academically, but also socially and psychologically as s/he will have the tendency to become more streetsmart if s/he speaks in his/her native tongue,” Patricia says.ADVERTISEMENT - CONTINUE READING BELOW
Patricia also believes that using Filipino as her daughter’s first language will contribute to her sense of nationalism. “It would unconsciously allow her to trace her roots and go back to our history as Filipinos. This would contribute to her sense of nationalism and will not make her lose her identity as a Filipino.”
For moms who have started their children on English and find it a struggle to teach their kids Filipino, Patricia recommends speaking to them in Filipino like an adult, and everything will come naturally.“I started by speaking Filipino in phrases to my daughter, and now she can tell stories in Filipino just by listening and repeating the words I say. Repetition is perfection.”
We have so many good Filipino books. Check a few we love for kids 3 years and below here.
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