New Language Mission: Speak Tagalog (Filipino) in 2 months

It’s time for the first language mission of 2011!

I am actually hoping to work on four new languages by September, so this is going to be one hell of a year, and I hope you’ll subscribe and read along to get some tips for your own language missions :)

So, in a few short hours I’ll be flying to the Philippines. I’ve never been there before, and as always in my travels, I’m being as spontaneous as possible in plans for what I’ll be doing while in the country.

My vague plan is to spend a few days in Manila and then figure out when there where I’d like to spend the rest of my time to best see how to get to know the Philippines, and Filipinos themselves, in my own way.

Conversational Tagalog

And of course, while there I will be learning Tagalog (a.k.a. Filipino) as the official first language mission of 2011!

Right now everything I know about the language is what I have read in its Wikipedia entry, but by the end of February I am hoping to be able to reach a conversational level of the language.

“Conversational” (as opposed to fluent) is quite hard to define, so I will simply say that I’m aiming for the same kind of level that I reached in Hungarian in two months, which you can hear me speak (with subtitles) here. This basically means that I want to be able to spontaneously and comfortably converse with natives about non-complicated subjects, but I’ll still hesitate when speaking and perhaps need them to speak slowly for me.

Why only 2 months?

Yes, I know this doesn’t agree with the blog title, but I already have a different language mission that may be even more interesting planned for March.

This will be a good chance to “dip my toes” into the language and culture and decide if I want to come back later to continue improving my level.

What made you choose Tagalog?

As explained in the site FAQ, I don’t travel to learn languages. I learn languages to travel, i.e. to greatly improve my travel experience.

My decision was only location/culture based and not influenced even slightly by linguistics. I have met many very friendly Filipinos and heard fantastic things about the country so I’d like to discover it first hand, in immersion style as I usually like in my travels.

The fact that it is an Asian rather than European language, hard grammar points or easy other aspects of Tagalog/Filipino compared to other languages are very poor reasons to “pick” a language in my opinion. If you don’t have other solid motivation to passionately learn a language, then unless you are a language nerd (nothing wrong with that!) I can’t see how you could make useful progress quickly.

The best reason to learn a language is because you intend to use it.

My motivation to learn Tagalog will be entirely for the purposes of enhancing my experience communicating with Filipinos.

Language Hacking Guide update (including Tagalog)

There are many things I do to rapidly progress in my abilities to communicate in a language. Most of it is of course speaking from day one, the many ways I do so being the theme of the Language Hacking Guide. A non-spoken aspect of this involves reading in the target language, so I of course had the guide translated to Tagalog :)

Since I wrote the book, I obviously know what it says pretty well, so I’ll be applying the Stone of Rosetta concept of using the native written form of a target language for a particular text and knowing its English translation, to help me progress. I know a few readers do this with other books available in multiple languages, like Harry Potter and The Little Prince, and I’m glad to see them doing it with my book too!

As well as Tagalog, this week I’ve included several new full translations of the contents of the Language Hacking Guide (provided as PDFs, ePUB for iPad/iPod etc., mobi for the Kindle (when the language’s script is supported) & printable versions) that I’m adding to the set, bringing the total translations of the entire guide to 19 now. All written by natives of course. The ones in bold are the new ones as of today:

English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Chinese, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Dutch, Irish, Czech, Vietnamese, Arabic, Hindi, Romanian & Tagalog.

I’ve also confirmed that the Japanese translation will be in the next update in a few weeks. The Japanese translator was recommended to me by Khatzumoto from

I was hoping to include the Russian one in this update, but its inclusion has been delayed until the next update too. All updates are free to those who already bought it of course!

So if you’ve got a New Year’s Resolution to learn a language, then now may be the best time to get your copy of the Language Hacking Guide! :) Maybe like me you’ll be trying to read it in your target language (using the English or other as a reference) to get you into the feeling of immersion quicker ;)

Theme for next weeks: Skepticism

As always, I’ll end the mission with a video of me speaking the language. If possible, I’ll try to make videos earlier to show how I’m making the transition and progressing, and I’ll be writing regular updates on twitter and Facebook from the country about my travels as always.

I hope the transparency of these missions shows you that yes, I really am learning the language! ;) It will indeed be a struggle, but my focus on optimism will help me progress faster, so you can bet I’ll be sharing that with everyone from the perspective of this new language!

Those who have been reading the blog for a while will know that I tend to have themes for the posts. Last year for example during the German C2 exam mission I brought attention to the inefficiency of study-based learning, and during the Hungarian mission I wanted to get rid of this silly idea of hardest language.

These next weeks, among other things, I’ll be talking about the importance of being skeptical towards promises given by so many courses or strange learning methods, and will answer typical questions I get about what I talk about on this blog, since some things I say also require skepticism before acceptance.

As an engineer, I have to look at things practically and logically and I feel this really gives me a huge edge in learning languages, travelling efficiently and generally getting the most I can out of life!

So read along, join me while learning your own new language and share your thoughts in the comments below or show this post to your friends on Facebook!



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