Learning Tagalog For Beginners: #1 Completely Free Guide

learning Tagalog for beginners

Do you want to study Tagalog, but you’re completely stumped as a beginner? If you need help finding the best guide to learning Tagalog for beginners, you’ll be surprised that this one is entirely free. We’ll unwrap the basics of Tagalog grammar, misconceptions, and where to use your new-found knowledge of the Tagalog language.

Although lingua franca means a universal language, its true purpose is to be a common language that different native speakers of a country adopt. Lingua franca sometimes has branches that stem off due to usability, relevancy, or practicality. This language exchange and growth is typical in countries like the Philippines due to its geographical nature. It may also result from historical and political changes influencing that country’s national language.

With Tagalog and Filipino, you’ll notice that they have similar spelling or look for phrases and words. These identical words are called cognates. Yet, a Filipino word may have a different Tagalog pronunciation or spelling. While conversing with native speakers, you might find yourself struggling and will try to speak English eventually. But we will also correct those learning mistakes and teach you a few words and proper Tagalog sentence structure to follow.

Finish your Tagalog learning journey and become a master of the Philippines’ native language with this completely free guide!

Learning Tagalog For Beginners: Basic Misconceptions

Ready to learn Tagalog fast? Hold on; we got a secret for you! While we think that our listening comprehension may not pick up Tagalog words right away, we might be limiting ourselves. Many techniques can be confusing, and most of the time, we’ll focus on the mistakes rather than going along with the language.

The first and most essential part of learning a new language is never to stop, even if you’re making mistakes. Being too conscious about grammar notes, rules, and other minor vocabulary words you’re not really sure how to say will distract you from actual language acquisition. So, let’s clear out the basic misconceptions you might encounter in a Tagalog course or when you try to speak Tagalog fluently.

Tagalog Is A Hard Language To Learn

According to the Foreign Service Institute of the US, Tagalog is a fairly complicated language with over 1,100 hours to be proficient. In reality, it’s an easy language since it has many loan words in English, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Malaysian, and Indonesian. For example, the words jack en poy (jackenpon), tansan, and toto are derived from Japanese but are well-known Tagalog words. You might not even know it, but boondock (bundok or mountain in English) is actually derived from Tagalog!

Once you’ve mastered the sentence structure formula, roots, and affixes, you’re good to go!

Learning Tagalog For Beginners Misconception Tagalog And Filipino Are The Same

Tagalog And Filipino Language Are The Same

Suppose you’ve been learning Tagalog for quite some time now, only to find out that Filipino is the national language of the Philippines. Don’t panic; many Filipinos speak Tagalog, especially if you’re visiting Luzon and Visayas. But many Tagalog speakers from Mindanao will still understand what you’re trying to say. That’s because Tagalog and Filipino are mutually understandable.

What’s the difference between Tagalog and Filipino, then? Yes, Tagalog and Filipino languages aren’t the same. Tagalog is more of an archaic, deep language derived from Spanish vocabulary. However, Filipino is a standardized Tagalog form. Its key features are mixing other Philippine languages like Cebuano, Visayan, and Kapampangan and retaining loan words from other countries.

I Don’t Have Filipino Friends, Why Should I Learn Tagalog?

Did you know that Tagalog is spoken worldwide? With over 40 million speakers, a significant percentage of you’ll have a Filipino friend in your city. Especially most Filipinos are now living in Hawaii, Guam, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, London, New Zealand, Australia, and the United Arab Emirates. There is an enormous influence that Filipinos are bringing to the world, so if you’re interested in learning their language for either business, relationship, or just wanting a meaningful friendship, you should know where to start speaking Tagalog.

You can Memorize Tagalog Without Effort

Yes, there may be times when technology will ease people’s ability to improve their reading, writing, speaking, and listening abilities. There’s no hiding the fact that multilingual people have an advantage over others. However, effort, time, and dedication are still crucial in mastering a foreign language. It may even take years to really master it. Remarkably, people whose syntax, phonology, and language family trees are very different from the Austronesian languages may have a hard time studying their pronunciation. So, sticking to an intensive lesson that can still be fun even when you learn independently is best.

Where To Start Learning Tagalog Language

What made you interested in learning Tagalog? Is it because it’s a wonderful lush country with beautiful beaches and mountains? Or is it a special someone you’ve met along the way? If you want to speak Tagalog or even visit the Philippines, you’ll need where to start studying it.

For beginners, it’s best to check Tagalog movies that use the modern Tagalog alphabet and sentence forms. You may even pick up the natural way of speaking while you try to mimic how they talk. If you’re into literature, try reading poetry, prose (short stories), or Tagalog proverbs, and you’ll find deeper cultural aspects, traditions, and societal issues that Filipinos faced during those times.

You can also look for a Tagalog Filipino dictionary with an English translation. Although books are not much of a priority nowadays, it’s still best to have a handy dictionary while traveling. Alternatively, you can also listen to podcasts that will be easy to listen to while you’re on the go.

Basic Tagalog Grammar Explanation

Tagalog is not a complex language to pick up. Although it ranks in the same difficulty as Hebrew, Greek, Polish, Thai, and Vietnamese, it has similar grammar rules to English. Want to improve your Tagalog skills? Here are some basic grammar explanations and tips for applying in your Tagalog conversations.

Tagalog Alphabet Writing

The Tagalog alphabet branches from the Latin alphabet and is not really hard to memorize. Although old/deep Tagalog uses the extra letter Ñ, the modern Tagalog alphabet also has added Nga alongside Ñ for a total of 28 letters.

Is there a distinction between Tagalog writing with Filipino writing? For example, check out these two similar sentences:

  • Kumusta ka? How are you? (Tagalog)
  • Kamusta ka? How are you? (Filipino)
  • Ikinagagalak kitang makilala I am pleased to meet you. (English)

Notice how Kumusta becomes Kamusta from Tagalog to Filipino? One point in learning Tagalog is how the language changes letters when adapting to another language. You’ll also see modernized words in Filipino business culture due to the necessity of a uniform vocabulary that every Filipino can understand, even if their native language is Cebuano, Hiligaynon, Ilocano, or Maranao.

Learning Tagalog For Beginners Root And Affixes

Roots And Affixes In Tagalog Words: What Are They?

Root words are the base form of a verb. However, many sentences need to put affixes or panlapi in Tagalog. Similar to English, adding affixes (prefix, infix, or suffix) in Tagalog will change the meaning of a sentence. These affixes are mainly intended for verbs, but Tagalog also uses affixes for nouns or adjectives. Depending on the sentence’s focus, these affixes can be used anytime they want to express a change, especially if it’s a verb that indicates tenses.

Here are some examples to look at:


gabi (night)

  • ka+ gabi kagabi (last night)

hapon (afternoon)

  • ka + hapon kahapon (yesterday)


Tawa (laugh)

  • ta /um/ awa Tumawa (laughed)
  • g /um/ abi Gumabi (to become night/evening)


When added to a root word, several suffixes become an imperative form of the verb.

Linis (clean)

  • Linis + an = Linisan (to clean)

Luto (cook)

  • Luto + an = Lutuan (to cook)

However, it becomes another noun denoting place or location when used for nouns.

Palay (rice grain)

  • Palay + an = Palayan (rice field)

Kain (eat)

  • Kain + an = Kainan (restaurant/canteen)

Circumfix (Ka + word + an)

Kaarawan (birthday)

  • Ka+ araw (day) + an

Karamdaman (illness)

  • Ka + ramdam (feeling) + an

Repeated affixes

Sometimes, a Tagalog root word can be repeated to form another meaning.

  • araw-araw – daily/every day
  • gaya-gaya – immitation
  • gabi-gabi – every night
  • palu-palo – war dance made of sticks

Basic Tagalog Sentence Structure

When you write a Tagalog sentence, it has the Subject-Verb-Object pattern. Sometimes a Tagalog conversation may start with an adjective or an adverb or may include modifiers.

Let’s take a look at this basic Tagalog sentence in the present tense:

  • Ako ay kumukuha ng isang pagsusulit.
    I am taking an exam.

Ako (I am) in this Tagalog sentence is the subject, kumukuha (taking) is a verb in the present tense, and isang pagsusulit (an exam) is the object.

Still confused? We’ve got more explanations and sentence examples that you can try studying. Learn Tagalog sentence structure with our new killer guide packed with updated information on four types of Tagalog sentences.

How To Apply Tagalog Words And Phrases You’ve Learned

To learn Tagalog fast, you must also know when, how, where, and why you’ll use these words daily. Do you have a list of vocabulary you want to listen to? These written phrases won’t be fed to you like a computer works. You need to use these languages to become fluent actively. But don’t forget that learning a new language should be fun and exciting.

Know Why You Want To Learn Tagalog In The First Place

It’s a thought that you might have at this point. But it would be possible if you still need to figure out why you want to learn Tagalog. Sure, it is an exciting language, and there are many ways to find Filipino friends. But what is the benefit of knowing Tagalog for you? Not to worry, many language beginners like you and me will come to a point where we’re not sure what to do next.

But, learning a new language benefits you in making your curriculum vitae better. Maybe you want to be a translator or work in the political field. Or you just want to have better communication and speech skills. It’s up to you how you’ll motivate yourself and your end goal.

Look For Native Filipino Friends

The real practical decision to make your vocabulary flourish and even retain it after a long time is speaking to native Filipinos. Having a native Filipino friend is the best option when you want to become fluent in Tagalog in less than six months. You’ll be forced to really think directly in that language.

Besides, you can skip paying thousands to get an intensive Tagalog course. Instead, Tagalog speakers will teach you root words and even Tagalog slang. Filipinos are eager to help anyone interested in learning about their culture, specifically if these people are willing to speak Tagalog and learn new words or simple phrases.

Learn Tagalog By Yourself

You can learn Tagalog by yourself, and it’s easy to do it! We recommend Pimsleur when listening to native speakers first. Pimsleur is the perfect app if you want to listen to a lesson about Tagalog pronunciation or practice speaking with high-quality audio files.

As a new language learner, try making your own flashcard decks where you can use the technique called Systematic Repetition System (SRS). You can also use memorization devices, like Mnemonics, Verbal repetition, or Gamification, with apps like Duoling or Ling to speed up your process. You will never know the wonders of these methods unless you try them yourself!

Other Ways To Memorize Tagalog Phrases And Sentences

What’s a better way to earn a second language than reading more practical conversations that you can find via short stories? A conversation between two Filipinos with beginner (A1) Tagalog will be a great way to see vocabulary used for basic sentences. You can also look at groups or communities on social media eager to communicate in pure Tagalog.

If you’re not into social interactions, you can try more apps, read blogs and articles, and even test yourself with an online placement test from universities or websites.

Learn More Tagalog With Ling

Complete beginners will most likely look for the best teacher, class, private tutor, YouTube video, a language app, or learn Tagalog by themselves. But there’s always a solution without sacrificing the quality of your Tagalog lessons.

With Ling, you’ll not just have a gamified app to make the lesson fun and interactive, and you’ll also speak Tagalog fluently with a memorization technique.

What are your final thoughts about this topic? Are you still waiting for the right time to learn Tagalog or Filipino? Do you want to go to the Philippines and speak to many Filipinos? Here’s your chance to download Ling on your iOS or Android device. You can even learn the correct pronunciation for nakakapagpabagabag (worrisome) and even discover 60+ more foreign languages.

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