Tagalog In Taiwan

10275984_504666069679843_4914453046523361642_nSo a couple of months or so ago I found myself becoming increasingly interested in learning Tagalog. As you know, Chinese is my primary target language, and I moved to Taiwan for language immersion. My secondary target language is Italian. Learning two distinct languages at the same time seems reasonable, but what about a third? Can I manage three languages at once?

I honestly don’t know, and I’m reluctant to proclaim Tagalog is my tertiary target language, because that just seems a little crazy. But I have been listening to the Pimsleur audio lessons, which you can still download for FREE! And I bought some books on Tagalog grammar. And I’ve been exploring Tagalog learning resources on the internet. So the evidence seems to suggest that I am, in fact, pursing Tagalog.

Well, several weeks ago a serendipitous Tagalog moment presented itself as I was enjoying some afternoon tea in a local cafe. Two women at a nearby table were speaking Tagalog! And, what was thrilling to me, was that I clearly recognized the language as Tagalog. While I couldn’t understand more than a few pronouns and yes / no, I could identify the speech as unequivocally Tagalog.

I approached the women and said good afternoon in Tagalog, and immediately asked in English if they were speaking Tagalog, just to confirm. We chatted for a bit, agreed it would be fun to meet up again, and exchanged contact information. I’m so excited to have two new native Tagalog speaking friends in Taiwan!

But despite my enthusiasm and excitement, the relationship between Taiwan and the Philippines is complicated and not always amicable.

I’ve heard many Taiwanese people make negative, racist or hostile remarks toward the Philippines, which they justify with the May 2013 incident where a Philippine Coast Guard opened fired on a boat in waters between Taiwan and the Philippines, unapologetically killing a Taiwanese fisherman. When I visited the Philippines briefly last December, quite a few Taiwanese acquaintances asked why I would want to go there in a tone of disdain.

In some ways this unfavorable attitude is paradoxical because Taiwan relies on cheap Filipino immigrate labor to work in factories, construction, fishing or domestic work like caregiving for the elderly. Quite often, these workers are college educated and have professional careers back home in the Philippines, yet choose to work in Taiwan because they can earn more money here. They are almost always fluent in English. In fact, one of the Filipino women I met in Taipei speaks fluent English, Chinese, Arabic, and Tagalog. Wow!

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8 Comments

  1. Relationships between neighbouring countries are always “complicated”. Good to hear you’ve found some new pals. I need to find myself some Portuguese people. Wish me luck 😉

  2. I think it’s great that you’re putting effort into Tagalog, and that you ventured to use it when you had the chance. In the US, Tagalog is the fourth most widely spoken language and the third most widely spoken in California. So I think it’s really important here. Good job!

    • Yes! It is widely spoken, which is a plus. It certainly makes learning it easier when there are native speakers available to chat with. And living in Taiwan provides a unique opportunity because as Americans and Filipinos, we are all “foreigners” here, so we have the shared experience of being outsiders to the dominant culture. It’s been fun comparing notes and hearing my Filipino friends’ perceptions of Taiwanese culture!

  3. It really worries me that people are still discriminating each other based on race and nationality. My ideal world is where everyone accepts a global citizenship and not restrict their beliefs based on one nation only. Good for you for trying to learn different languages. I am born Filipino, and it always fascinates me to discover non-Filipinos wanting to learn Tagalog.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I agree, discrimination is a disturbing phenomena, and yet it seems rather pervasive throughout the world. Tagalog is a beautiful and interesting language. I’m really enjoying learning it!

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