Teaching English to my Filipino Nieces and Nephews

- June 13, 2016

blackboard English Many Filipinos speak English well enough to get by. Some are fluent. Some of my nieces and nephews, of the ones living in my compound, speak very little English. I know why some speak it better than others, but I don’t know why some speak very little. I can only guess.

My wife, Josie, has tasked me with teaching the basics to the ones who can barely get past “yes” and “no”. I have a plan, but it’s disjointed to say the least.

Teaching English on Saturdays

The school year started today. While some of the children think the school week ends on Friday, they have another think coming. I’ll be teaching English for at least an hour every Saturday morning. It’s more likely to stretch into two hours once they get into it.

Since they all have varying levels of fluency in the language, my job is to give them a stable foundation to work with. The beginning days are going to be the toughest.

Gender Language

Their native language, Tagalog (or what passes as Tagalog), is gender-neutral. If I wanted to specify a sister, I’d have to say kapatid babae, which translates to “female sibling”.

Most of them, and that includes the adults in my compound, screw up the genders when saying things in English. They’ll use “he” instead of “she” and “she” instead of “he”. They’ll also use “him” instead of “her” and “her” instead of “him”. Some confuse “my” with “your”. One sister-in-law offered to clean her own house if I paid her 100 pesos a day. Why the heck would I do that?

Remembering English Lessons

Since I don’t have any training in education (though I was an occasional teacher in the military), it’s going to be a challenge. I don’t mind because it’ll give me something productive to do with my time. I have to draw some grade school and high school English lessons from the recesses of my feeble memory, but I think I can handle it.

A few years ago, I was asked to apply to teach English as a second language (ESL) at some place at the freeport zone. I declined because I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of traveling back and forth, especially since the pay would probably only offset my travel and eating expenses.

I don’t mind teaching anyone anything (as long as I know what I’m doing), but it can’t make things inconvenient for me. I’m retired and I don’t need to work, that four-letter word I’m no longer fond of.

Teaching Assistants

I’m not exactly fluent in Tagalog. Why? Because I don’t have to be. I have a 15-year old niece and a 10-year old nephew who speak good English and I’m going to be looking to them to back me up when I can’t translate certain things.

I never thought I’d reach this stage. In terms of fluency, I mean. I write in English but I speak in “Taglish”, a combination of Tagalog and English that’s a lot like the combination of Spanish and English called “Spanglish”. I can get by conversationally, but I still prefer my native language.

English is Necessary

It’s not necessary for low-paying labor jobs, but for anything elseā€¦ I’ll put it this way: The opportunities greatly multiply when you’re fluent in English. I can’t name every type of employment where it greatly benefits a person, but call centers and retail establishments in the tourist areas come to mind immediately.

When it comes to competing for a job, college experience is almost always required. If one of the people competing for it speaks English better than the rest, that person will be the most likely person to get hired.


Categories: Education and Employment


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