Learning Tagalog

Dec 17, 2023

My experience of growing up in England with a mixed Filipino-English household was natively speaking English but knowing a basic assortment of greetings and things (and rude words 😂) in Tagalog. So until now, my ability to understand and speak it wasn’t entirely non-existent but was also still very limited. I knew some random words like tubig (water) or tinidor (fork), phrases like halika dito! (come here!), kain tayo! (let’s eat!) or being asked at Filipino parties as a kid Marunong ka bang mag-Tagalog? (Do you know how to speak Tagalog?) - and replying Kaunti laaaaang! (Only a little!). 😅

This year I decided to start learning properly and I’m really glad I did! Here are some of the things I’ve been doing to help my learning.

having 1:1 lessons with a language tutor

Booking a language tutor was my starting point, and helps keep me consistent in learning and practicing. I’ve found it also helps me in having structure to my learning and not getting overwhelmed in where to start. My tutor is from the Philippines itself and I’m really enjoying learning from her. I usually book a package of 5 x 45 minute lessons and they are reasonably priced IMO! I do 1 lesson a week (sometimes 1 bi-weekly during busy periods).

I found my tutor and book lessons through the iTalki platform (they have lots of different languages on there) - I also have a referral link where if you purchase $20 in credits we can get an extra $5. ✌️

My lovely friend Frankie is the founder of Salve Tutoring which also offers flexible, online personalised language tuition. She’s super passionate about what she does so for anyone interesting in learning Spanish, Italian, French, Portuguese, Russian, German, or English - check her and her team out! ✨

digesting what i’m learning

physical notes

I’ll take some rough notes during my lessons and at somepoint between them I’ll do some ‘neater’ summary notes in a dedicated physical notebook. (I like the Rhodia dotBooks)

I like to make them in a way that makes sense in my brain with different coloured highlights for different parts of the word/sentences, adding little drawings or even translating memes hehe


digital notes

I also have have a lil note in Apple Notes where keep a list of different words and phrases I’ve come across in conversations/books/social media etc. I have a widget on my home screen so it’s easily accessible.

Some of my favourites so far:

  • Ang ngiti mo ay nakakahawa - your smile is contagious ☀️
  • Kaya mo yan! - you can do it! 🙌
  • Naniniwala ako sa iyo - I believe in you 😌
  • kilig - to have butterflies in your stomach 🥰
  • gigil - the feeling of cuteness aggression (like when you see something so cute it hurts) 😤
  • malaya - free / independent / liberated 🦋
  • lumikha - to create something 🪄
  • sulit - worth it ✨

using AI

I find ChatGPT can be useful in explaining concepts that I’m finding a bit more difficult to get my head around, like some grammar rules and sentence structure; I made myself a custom GPT for Tagalog learning. You can do things like asking it to generate exercises around a certain topic, converse with it to practice written dialogues and help with new vocab etc. It has DALL-E enabled for creating visual aids but it’s pretty hit and miss 🥲. I don’t think it’s always 100% correct either but I think it’s pretty cool to explore as a language learning aid!



I wanted to learn Tagalog to connect more with my Filipino family, and I’m really lucky to be able to practice speaking with my lola (grandmother). At this stage I’m not always able to understand the full sentences but usually there are words that I’m familiar with that my brain ‘hooks’ onto and I’ll get the gist of what’s being said. It’s a nice feeling being able to understand more!!

(I’ll also talk to my cats in Tagalog sometimes lol)

language immersion

I enjoy listening to Filipino artists - learning wise it’s more passive (so I’ll have music on in the background whilst I’m doing something else or driving etc) but it’s nice being exposed to the language more in a different format! There are podcasts with ‘comprehensive tagalog’ which can be used for language immersion too.

Some artists I like:

  • Lotti
  • Ruby Ibarra
  • DENY
  • Dom Guyot (he also has a song called Mayari 😎)

filipino artists

other resources

  • The Tagalog for Beginners book is the main reference I use in lessons with my tutor.
  • tagalog.com is a nice resource too; I mostly use their Tagalog Dictionary, which also available on the App Store. I like the app version cause it’s super easy to look up words I’m curious about or not sure on. They have a good variety of example sentences and audio pronunciation as well!
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