Filipino language course starts with an important lesson: don't call it Tagalog

A course is teaching Winnipeggers of all backgrounds to speak Filipino including people from the Philippines who can’t speak the mother tongue of the country.

Adult beginners excited for opportunity to learn language of their loved ones, their heritage, local community

The course is for beginners and has students from all walks of life. (Travis Golby/CBC)

Vicky Cabrera starts her class with an important lesson and conquers a common misconception about the national language of the Philippines.

"Many of them thought it's Tagalog but actually it's not Tagalog, it's Filipino because Tagalog is one of the dialects," Cabrera explained.

Cabrera is teaching a course on the Filipino language to a fresh crop of adults eager to learn. The class started Tuesday night at Tec Voc high school.

The students in the course are beginners who don't know how to speak Filipino — some are from the Philippines, others like Kevin Richard are married to someone who has the Filipino language as their native tongue and want to be able to communicate in it together instead of using English.

"I just want to be able to learn more about her language, her culture, be able to relate to her parents and family more," Richard said.

Cabrera didn't waste any time and got right to teaching the basics Tuesday nights to her 25 new students. She even had a mini-lesson on Filipino slang.

But she started her class by explaining the confusion around Filipino and Tagalog, saying Filipino is the national language of the Philippines but is based on Tagalog.

Student learning so she can talk to family

Johsa Manzanilla is one of the students in the course. She was born in the Philippines, came to Canada as a child but cannot speak Filipino.

"Often if I try, sometimes my family will make fun of me because I have an accent and sometimes I use words completely incorrectly so I just want to improve a little bit more."

At 32, she decided if she could speak French, she should be able to speak Filipino too.

The Manitoba Association of Filipino Teachers is sponsoring the class to promote a better understanding of the language among adults.

Cabrera said students should come away from her course with a good grasp of the language they can use to make everyday connections or in the workplace or at home.

The course is focusing on listening and speaking and has 12 sessions and runs until June 26.

About the Author

​Austin Grabish landed his first byline when he was just 18. He joined CBC in 2016 after freelancing for several outlets. ​​In 2018, he was part of a team of CBC journalists who won the Ron Laidlaw Award for the corporation's extensive digital coverage on asylum seekers crossing into Canada. This past summer, he was on the ground in northern Manitoba covering the manhunt for B.C. fugitives Bryer Schmegelsky and Kam McLeod, which attracted international attention. Email: