Help kids learn Filipino

Help kids learn Filipino

By Daisy Jane Calado | Illustration by Roc Verdera

For a country to truly progress, nationalism must be fully exercised in words, thoughts and actions. Unfortunately, using the Filipino language as a functional language, which is expected to come naturally, isn’t as easy as it seemed. A lot of children have developed an aversion to learning the Filipino language. Here are some of the possible reasons why and how to correct these notions:

1. A suspect could be the dislike toward the language, which might have resulted from the manner in which Filipino is taught in schools.

In most cases, Filipino is presented in a scientific approach which follows a sequence of grammar rules based on the parts of speech. It is very important to learn grammar as it allows you to speak and write appropriately. However, for children who are just starting to learn the language, it is still best to immerse them with the significance and relevance of learning the language through communicative strategies.

Tips: Allow children to learn enough words before introducing grammar concepts. They need to know at least the basic colors, numbers, a few nouns as well as the common shapes. Make sure that engaging activities which integrate grammar lessons are presented to the children.

2. Filipino should be made relevant and functional at home or in their immediate environment.

Language is learned best through practice and repetitive use. It is therefore very important for parents and educators to model the proper use of the language. When children use the language to communicate on a regular basis, the language becomes part of their regular experiences. As a result, they will speak and comprehend with ease.

Tips: Eating Filipino foods can be a good venue to introduce some Filipino words and concepts. Simple sentence structures in Filipino which follow patterns that are easy to comprehend must be given to the kids. One can also introduce Filipino games like piko (hopscotch) and patintero. These games will not only expose them to Filipino terms. They will also immerse them in Filipino values like bayanihan.

3. Children need to be given opportunities to use and practice the words learned.

Young learners would benefit from a vocabulary-centered instruction as they develop confidence in speaking and comprehending the language when they have enough words to work with. Vocabulary games, riddles and poetry reading are just some of the activities which children can get interested in.

Tips: Engage children in role playing or scenarios. Initially, they may be given scripts. Then, they may fill in some parts of dialogue. Eventually, they can make their own simple scripts about given topics or scenarios.

4. Filipino literature should be made available for all ages, especially young kids.

There is a wide variety of Filipino literature available in book stores. However, there are very limited resources for the beginning learners. It is unfortunate that the amount of reading materials we have in learning English and other languages is relatively more than what we have in Filipino. Oftentimes, foreign books can be bought at a lower price as compared to the locally made ones. Maybe the government can look into this issue and allot a bigger budget on the production of quality books written in Filipino.

Tips: Authors must be encouraged to keep writing learning materials in Filipino. This way, children will have more materials to read and appreciate. At present, several publishing houses like Lampara and Adarna promote stories which are bilingual. Their books also expose children with Filipino concepts and cultural representations.

Teaching children to appreciate the Filipino language has paved the way for us educators to develop proven strategies to get children engaged in learning. The sequence of the lessons must follow a spiral approach. In using this approach, kids get to utilize previously learned words to understand and construct more complex sentence patterns. Integration of materials with cultural associations is also beneficial for content integration. Having this combination allows children to have a venue to apply what they have learned from previous learning sessions. As they are exposed with authentic Filipino reading materials, they get in touch with their roots, with their heritage. In doing so, their language learning experience becomes exciting and relevant.

Daisy Jane Calado has been an educator for 15 years. A strong advocate of the Filipino language, she has developed several Filipino programs for schools. She heads as center director of Readplus, a reading intervention and enrichment center in Greenhills, and handles undergraduate and masters classes at the University of the Philippines Open University. She is also a mom to an eight-year-old boy and a 10-month-old baby.