How to teach Filipino to an English-speaking child

My son is an English-speaking 7-year old currently in Grade 1. I am trilingual. I can speak English, Filipino and Chinese. My husband is an extremely well-versed English speaker and writer. It should not be surprising to you to know that my son developed above average English language skills but is not very good in Filipino. This is not entirely uncommon as I know many mothers who face the same challenge of teaching Filipino to an English-speaking child. I would like to share some of the strategies I used to help my son catch up with his Filipino. So far, may of these techniques worked.

1. Filipino Mondays – Declare that on Mondays (or any day you wish), everyone in the house will speak in Filipino. This will be a challenge to households where English is the primary mode of communication. However, practicing speaking and listening will definitely improve your child’s vocabulary and improve confidence in using the language. Encourage your household help to speak in Filipino as well. This strategy uses the social learning theory of education in teaching language.

Bilingual Handouts

2. Make Bilingual Picture-Word Handouts or PowerPoints – To increase your child’s vocabulary in a fun and non-threatening way, you can prepare printed handouts or PowerPoint presentations with pictures and words using both Filipino and English. Why put both Filipino and English? This is actually an application of learner-centered theories on how we learn. We learn better if we connect new knowledge with existing knowledge. If your child is already familiar with the English words, it will be easier for them to learn the Filipino counterpart. Use their prior knowledge in introducing new ones.

Bilingual Story Books

3. Read Bilingual Books – There are many cheap and high quality bilingual story books in National Bookstore. Publishers like Adarna House, Lampara and Anvil offer bilingual books in Filipino and English. These books are beautifully illustrated and has age appropriateness advise. I strongly suggest buying the simpler books at the start and gradually buying more complicated stories. My son really enjoys reading these books. I let him read the English and I read the Filipino. After some time, we switch roles.

4. Play “Let’s Translate”! – Play a translation game where you challenge your child to translate an English sentence to Filipino. You can keep score and give rewards later on. Make it fun.

It is very challenging finding good Filipino teaching materials in stores. After searching for a good word book, I only found one in the market. This book is by Fran Ng. It is far from perfect but I bought it anyway.

We must really be creative in finding other means of teaching Filipino to our children. I hope these ideas were helpful to you. If you have other ideas, do share them with me as well.

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