Just being able to banter with your ‘suki’ at the market and buy a few items using simple Filipino is immensely rewarding and a lot of fun. But too many expats I know personally have lived in the country for decades and can barely speak ten works of the local lingo. Apart from missing out on so much going on around them, it is also a little arrogant, perhaps even rude, to expect the locals to make allowances for you because you refuse to learn the language. Well you don’t have to be a language master, you just need simple fluency.
There Is A Lot Of Help Online
There are literally hundreds of web sites that offer help on learning foreign languages. Most have something to sell, but there are more than enough that are crammed full of good advice on ways to learn a new language. I won’t recommend one or two here, better you do your own searching and find something that makes sense to you. The good news is there is a ton of help out there, including native speakers willing to tutor you for free in exchange for your help with their English studies.
You can also get just about any word in any language translated in seconds, online. Whereas single words are not usually a problem, phrases and sentences can be. The more words you give the translation tool, the more bizarre some of the translations can be. For example:
‘I need to know where I can buy underwear?’ is translated into Tagalog as ‘Kailangan kong malaman kung saan maaari i bumili ilalim?’ and Cebuano as ‘Ako kinahanglan nga masayud diin ako makahimo sa pagpalit sa underwear?’ If we translate the Cebuano back into Tagalog, the Tagalog version now becomes ‘Dapat kong malaman kung saan maaari kong bumili ng underwear’, which translated back into English is; ‘I should know where I can buy underwear.’ The point to be picked up here is that you can’t rely 100% on free online translation tools as they can easily change the entire context of the sentence around, from question to statement in this case.
Aim For Simple Fluency
The objective for any beginner is simple fluency, which means achieving the ability to communicate effectively, it does not mean ‘mastery’ per se. Nor does it mean knowing every word in the vocabulary or all the rules of grammar. In the example above I would simply ask (in Tagalog) “Saan underwear?” once inside a department store such as SM. On the street I would ask where’s the mall, as in “Saan SM?” In Cebuano it would be “asa SM”, then “asa underwear?” It is not cheating to use the English words for SM and underwear as they are widely known and used, even by locals with very little English. ‘Saan’ is ‘where’ in Tagalog and ‘asa’ is the Cebuano equivalent. Knowing just those two words, or one in each language, helps me achieve practical fluency, as in effectively communicating. As abrupt as this conversation may appear, you can always flesh it out with pleasentries such as “Kumusta, asa SM, palihug?”. ‘Hello (Tagalog/Cebuano) where is SM, please? (Cebuano). When they tell you, either thank them with ‘salamat’ or the more casual and colloquial, ‘sige’. Surely, that has to be so much simpler than trying to remember “Ako kinahanglan nga masayud diin ako makahimo sa pagpalit sa underwear?” I know, if you learn the root word and suffixes and prefixes you can build your sentences… but we are talking simple fluency, basic language ability and not making it all so hard we toss it in before we have a chance to remember half a dozen words. Ok di ba? Sige na!