Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Raising FILIPINO-Speaking Children

August is not just World Breastfeeding Month. For the Filipinos, it is also Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Month). 

When I gave birth to my first child 8 years ago, my husband and I made a decision to raise her as an English speaker.

Our mistake was in thinking that in order to raise an English-speaking child, she should not be exposed to any language other than English. (What were we thinking?) We instructed the yayas not to speak to her in Filipino or in any local dialect. All the educational materials (books, DVDs) that she was exposed to were also in English. We reasoned out that she will eventually learn Filipino when she starts mingling with the other children in school.

Not knowing any better, we repeated the same mistake with our second daughter C.

It was a wake up call when I heard my then 5-year old daughter sing "Bayang magiliw, Perlas ng....what's that word again?" And we're talking about the same girl who knew the entire lyrics of Camp Rock's "This Is Me".

What have we raised? Mga banyaga sa sarili nilang bayan. (Foreigners in their own country.)

As a result of our folly (and I can't even claim the folly of youth), we now have an 8-year old girl who has to double her efforts in preparing for her Filipino class. My 6-year old daughter hardly understands, much less speak, Filipino.

Our situation is not so peculiar. Other Filipino families are experiencing the same problem. Friends have posted in FB videos of their children singing what sounded like the Philippine National Anthem. Well, the melody sounded like it's Lupang Hinirang but the lyrics were definitely not those of our anthem! And just in case you're wondering, I also have a similar video of my daughters singing our national anthem, or what sounded like one.

Having realized our error, we introduced three important changes in our household. Hopefully, the Filipino adage, "Huli man daw at magaling, naihahabol din," will hold true for us.

1. We started talking to our children in Filipino. We assumed that our children will learn Filipino from their friends and classmates. Big mistake. Most, if not all, of my children's classmates are also English-speaking kids.

We experienced difficulty at the start especially with our second child. Whenever I talked to her in Filipino, she would just stare at me as if she didn't hear anything. I had to translate everything in English. But our efforts paid off. While C is still having a hard time talking in Filipino, she could now at least understand a little Filipino.

I and my husband have also been talking to our 11-month old baby B in Filipino and in English.

2.  Make learning Filipino words fun. Our family loves to play "I spy with my little eyes something that is..." Instead of doing this in English, we started doing it in Filipino. And so I spy became "Ang aking mga mata ay may nakikitang...ano ito?" This is actually more fun than merely saying chair is upuan.

3.  We began buying Filipino story books and read them to/with our children. In my previous post, I mentioned that my husband and I are trying to raise readers. Unfortunately, while we do have lots of children's books in our home, almost all of them are written in English.

So we started buying children's books that are written both in Filipino and in English. I usually let my children choose the stories that they like. And unlike the books written by foreign authors, the books by Adarna, Lampara, Hiyas and other local publishers are relatively inexpensive. Here are some of the Filipino story books my children like:

This is a 2-in-1 book. Aside from learning Filipino,
my second daughter C also learned the importance of
sleeping early.

This book introduces problem-solving
and how to count in Filipino.

I like Dr. Gatmaitan's stories. This one illustrates a father's love
for his disabled daughter. It actually made me cry. 

When my first daughter chose this, we had a discussion on the
difference between fiction and non-fiction. And then she asked me,
"What's fiction in Filipino?"

(Picture taken from Adarna's website)

My daughter F just bought this book from her school's book fair yesterday. This book "reminds us that children who grow up with two parents in one home are raised and loved no differently than those who have two homes." (From Adarna's website) And should you need to discuss the sensitive topic of separation in a manner that children can understand, reading this book is a good starting point.

What about you? Is your child having problems speaking in Filipino? What have you done to help your child? Please share some tips.



Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...