What Filipinos Have to Unlearn When Studying Spanish


While they say learning a language is best taught in childhood, the truth is, there’s really no age limit on when to do it. As adults, we can still welcome the thought of studying a new language. In fact, experts say that studying languages has benefits to the human brain, particularly on delaying and preventing possible dementia in later stages of life.

For us Filipinos, I can say Spanish is one of the foreign languages we can easily learn. There are 2 main reasons why. First, thanks to thousands of Filipino words loaned from Spanish, the Filipinos can take this advantage to master Spanish vocabulary. As you can see, a lot of Filipino words mean exactly the same in Spanish.

Second, Spanish and Filipino have similar characteristics in the pronunciation, such that the syllables are spoken almost the same as its spelling and the diction is less nasal, unlike French or German as examples. 

Having said that Spanish is easy, there are some habits that Filipinos need to unlearn though. I believe there are learning styles we have to focus on and practice more. I listed some of them, hoping to help my fellow Filipinos who are learning Spanish or may be interested to study it. This is from a perspective of someone who learned Spanish from scratch, and I want to convince everyone that Spanish is a language that Filipinos should learn too.

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

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, thinking that's the right way out all the time.

Spanish orthography, for example, is very particular with tilde, a symbol used to provide stress in word pronunciation. While we also have this in Filipino (remember malumaymalumimabilis, and maragsa?), we hardly use the symbols paiwa (`) pakupya (ˆ), and pahilis (ˊ) in everyday writing. We usually just learn how to pronounce Filipino words by mouth and repetitive listening. So when the struggle with pronunciation gets in the way and we don't ask questions to clarify it, our shyness as Filipinos adds to the difficulty. 

When in doubt, ask a question. That's a general rule in learning a language, even in Spanish. Never keep a question to yourself. Come to think of it: What if something you thought was right is wrong all along just because you didn't ask? Then it would remain wrong 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 expected, so don’t feel down if you'd be corrected by someone. Don’t feel ashamed even with the smallest mistakes. Remember that you’re still learning and your mistakes are valid. 

If you’re learning Spanish in 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 and 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 you may even know more languages than them!). 

Stay away from memorizing

Filipinos love to memorize, a habit that we got from the memorization-driven learning system in the Philippines. When we memorize, we just rely on what the learning material says alone, thus it limits the room for growth. 

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

Do not memorize. Think and answer straight in Spanish. When you read a sentence, for example, avoid translating it to Filipino or English in your mind, as it only delays the comprehension and response. I know this may take time to master, but it would help a lot to start this habit early.

Write as often 

Writing helps you master spelling in Spanish. As mentioned, since Spanish orthography consists of tildes, it makes the structure more complex and detailed than Filipino or English. 

Also, writing helps you remember the gender of nouns, which is another aspect of Spanish language that’s hugely different from Filipino or English. There may be a set of rules or patterns on Spanish gender of nouns, but not all the time. Still, it's best to be 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 can really help you conjugate the verbs correctly. As general rule, the formal way is used when talking with someone you give respect to (like an elderly, a boss, etc.) or someone you don’t personally know. The informal way is used to 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 the tone of respect. Similar to usted / ustedespo is used when speaking with someone you give respect to.


ESA dónde  vasA dónde usted va
FILSaan ka pupunta?Saan po kayo pupunta?
ENWhere 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.

Are you a Filipino learning Spanish? What struggles you often encounter? Do you have other tips to learn Spanish better? 

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. 

What Filipinos Have to Unlearn When Studying Spanish What Filipinos Have to Unlearn When Studying Spanish Reviewed by Shelly Viajera Travel on 20.8.20 Rating: 5

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