Precy enjoys helping others learn to speak and appreciate the Filipino and Ilocano language. She also writes about Filipino culture.
If learning how to speak Filipino/Tagalog is on your bucket list, but just the thought of how and where to start is overwhelming, just begin with something that interests you the most and go from there—or you can also just start with the basics. Words used in daily conversations are a great start in learning Tagalog, as they're easier to remember and you'll get to use these every day.
But first, let's tackle the difference between Filipino and Tagalog, since many find this confusing. You have probably heard "NagTatagalog ka?" instead of "NagFifilipino ka?" Filipino is the official language of the Philippines, which evolved from Tagalog, a language spoken in Manila and nearby areas—this is derived from the word taga-ilog, as ilog means river and taga-ilog means "from the river" or "dwellers of the river," the people who originally spoke Tagalog. Although Tagalog and Filipino are considered two different languages, keep in mind that the official language, Filipino, is based in Tagalog and Filipinos use these two interchangeably.
Let's eat now.
Kain na tayo.
Have you eaten?
Kumain ka na?
I'm already home.
Bahay na ako.
Starting your day with a "Good morning" in Filipino/Tagalog is a great way to practice with the basics. Filipinos even have a greeting specifically used during noon time, which is the third on the table below.
Time of Day Greetings
Yes/No/Maybe in Tagalog
These three are probably some of the first words to learn in Tagalog. Maybe you've heard of oo which means yes and hindi which means no. There are two words used in Tagalog to mean maybe, these are baka and siguro.
The Cardinal Directions in Tagalog
Driving around and sightseeing is fun—until you get lost. And although it looks like it might not be necessary to learn the cardinal directions, since all you need is to ask for help, it will still come in handy. Imagine asking for help and you are told sa hilaga, or sa silangan. Find out what these cardinal directions are on the table below along with the intercardinal directions. I also included a video I made below for pronunciations.
Condiments and Spices in Tagalog
Condiments are something we can't live without. From fish sauce to soy sauce, here are other names of condiments in Filipino/Tagalog.
Of course nouns will be present, and these Filipino nouns are the most common. You will likely hear these nouns (or mga panggalan) every day, so they are a good start to learning some nouns in Filipino.
Mga is placed before a noun in Filipino/Tagalog as a way to to pluralize Filipino nouns or pangngalan. Mga sipilyo means toothbrushes. Mga puno means trees.
Start describing those nouns above with these most common Filipino/Tagalog adjectives. Adjectives are called mga pang-uri, and below are 25 common and simple adjectives in Tagalog.
Connecting an adjective and a noun is done by adding -ng at the end of an adjective ending in a vowel. For example, look at the first adjective on the table below and the first noun on the table above: magandang tahanan means a beautiful home. Poging lalaki means handsome guy. For adjectives ending in a consonant, na is used instead. Malawak na lupa means a huge land. Mainit na inumin means hot drink.
Different honorifics are used in Filipino to express respect, and it helps indicate relationships. There are Filipino honorifics between siblings and family members, kuya and ate are two examples. Kuya is used to address an older brother, ate is used to address an older sister. Both are used with or without the person's name. Ate Precy is an example with the older sister's name.
Relatives such as the siblings of parents are also addressed in Filipino as auntie and uncle. A grandfather is addressed as lolo, and lola means grandmother. There are even honorifics used for non-relatives before their names, such as the neighbors. I used to addressed our neighbors back in the province Mang Goreng and Aling Mher. Mang is used before the name of an older male that isn't a relative and aling is the female counterpart.
Kitchen and Eating Utensils
Continue learning even while preparing food at home and even over breakfast with these kitchen and eating utensils. If you noticed, there are many Spanish-derived words too like kutsara, tasa, platito and plato.
Don't forget to learn how to say the days and months in Tagalog, as these will always come in handy, especially when scheduling appointments and planning your to-do list for the week.
Months and Days of the Week in Filipino
Parts of the House
These tables of Filipino/Tagalog for beginners wouldn't be complete without having the parts of the house in Filipino/Tagalog, so here they are below. These are easy to remember as well.
harapan ng bahay
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Audrey Hunt from Pahrump NV on March 28, 2021:
I'm going to start working on Tagalog a little bit at a time. You've presented a helpful tutorial Thank you.