Spanish for Filipinos: Tips to Learn Spanish

While they say a language is best taught during childhood, there’s really no age limit when learning a new language. In fact, experts say that studying languages has health benefits, such as delaying and preventing possible dementia in later stages of life.

Also read: Why Filipinos Should Also Learn Spanish Aside from English

For Filipinos, I can say Spanish is one of the foreign languages we can learn easily. There are 2 main reasons why. First, thanks to thousands of Filipino words loaned from Spanish, Filipinos have the edge in mastering the Spanish vocabulary. Actually, a lot of Filipino words mean the same in Spanish. Second, Spanish and Filipino word pronunciations have similar characteristics such that words are spoken simply the way they’re spelled, with very few silent syllables, and not very nasal (unlike French and German, for example).

Also read: Filipino Phrases Borrowed from Spanish that You May Find Amusing

While I've just said that Spanish is easy, there are some habits we, Filipinos, need to unlearn and other habits that we have to practice more. I listed some of them, hoping to help you if you've decided to learn it or have been studying it already:

Do not be afraid to ask

Filipinos are very timid. We have questions in mind, but we don’t ask it out loud. We tend to compromise to get the answers on our own, but that isn’t the best way out all the time.

Spanish, for example, is very particular with tilde, a symbol used to provide stress in word pronunciation. Although we also have this in Filipino language (remember malumay, malumi, mabilis, maragsa?), we hardly use the symbols paiwa (`) pakupya (ˆ), and pahilis (ˊ) in everyday writing. Perhaps this is why Filipinos find it tricky how tilde works, but with the attitude of Filipinos, we don't ask questions.

When in doubt, ask a question. That's a general rule in learning a language, even in Spanish. Never keep a question to yourself. What if something you thought was right is wrong all along just because you didn't ask? It might remain wrong not until you ask to check if it’s correct or not.

Commit mistakes, and learn from them

Before you can master a language, remember that mistakes are part of the way. It's very expected, so don’t feel down if you'd be corrected by someone. Don’t get ashamed, even with the small mistakes. Remember that you’re still learning but you'll get there, for sure!

If you’re learning Spanish through an academic institution, the classroom is the best avenue to commit mistakes. The teachers are there to correct you. Meanwhile, if you’re self-studying Spanish, try your best to talk with the natives. Speaking with them helps you absorb the native accent, which is something that you might not be able to learn if you’re only reading or using an app to learn Spanish. Don’t feel intimidated that you aren’t as fluent as them. Instead, feel proud that you’re trying to speak their language (and may even know more languages than them!).

Stay away from memorizing

Filipinos tend to memorize everything, a habit that we got from the memorization-driven learning system in the Philippines. When you memorize all the time, you get stuck at what the learning material says, thus learning becomes limited.

In Spanish job interviews, for example, some Filipino applicants memorize the interview questions and its corresponding answers instead of practicing how to confidently respond in an interview. The chances are, if the question changes or gets rephrased, they get lost because they just memorized.

Instead of memorizing, try to think and answer straight in Spanish. When you read a sentence, for example, avoid translating it in your mind because it only delays your comprehension and response. This takes time to master, but it would help a lot to start the habit early.

Write as often 

Writing helps you master spelling in Spanish. As mentioned, since Spanish orthography consists of tildes, it makes the structure a bit different from Filipino or English grammar.

Also, writing helps you master the gender of nouns, another aspect of Spanish language that’s hugely different from Filipino or English. There may be a set of rules on gender of nouns, but sometimes, these rules don’t apply. It would be better to get familiarized with it.

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference

Tip: When answering fill-in-the-blank or multiple choice type exercises, rewrite the entire the sentence instead of just writing the answer. It’s a good way to recall Spanish words as you write them. The idea is similar to muscle memory in sports: when you write often, your brain remembers and recalls it easily.

Using usted / ustedes is a similar idea with using po in Filipino

In Spanish, there are 2 ways to address a person: the formal and informal way. Knowing its difference particularly helps you conjugate the verbs correctly. As general rule, the formal way is used when talking with someone you give respect to or someone you don’t know. The informal way is when you speak with people you are close to, such as friends, siblings, and other people you know very well.

In Filipino grammar, it’s a similar idea with the use of po, a Filipino word attached before or after the subject pronoun that expresses respect. Similar to usted / ustedes, po is used when speaking with someone you give respect to.


SpanishDónde vasDónde usted va
FilipinoSaan ka pupunta?Saan po kayo pupunta?
EnglishWhere will you go?
Notice that from informal to formal, the subject pronoun changes as the verb changes too. This applies to both Spanish and Filipino, thus making them a lot similar compared to English.

Do you have other tips to Filipinos who are learning Spanish? If you're a Filipino learning Spanish, what struggles do you face in studying Spanish? 

Shelly C. Dimaculangan was a language translator in the Philippines. She finished AB Journalism at University of Santo Tomas in Manila where she took her first Spanish classes. After college, she continued learning Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 

If this blog has given you helpful information, or has inspired you in any way, a little amount would help me maintain it!

Spanish for Filipinos: Tips to Learn Spanish Spanish for Filipinos: Tips to Learn Spanish Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 12.8.18 Rating: 5


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