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How hard do you think learning Tagalog is?

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Author Photo by: itsneiacard
Jun 06 2020, 11:01pm CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
How hard do you think learning Tagalog is?
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Author Photo AMBoy Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 07 2020, 12:08am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Much harder than it gets credit for (at least for a native english speaker). It has some fairly unique (for modern times) characteristics that bend and break your mind before you begin to understand them. I'll let others elaborate on the details.
 
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Author Photo akosikoneho Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 07 2020, 12:50am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Yeah its pretty hard for a lot of reasons. First, the grammar is inherently different from English. English is a typologically fusional language that is borderline analytic. Analytic languages don't really have moving pieces to their words. English says, I go, he goes, I went. The verb changes a bit. In a true analytic language, nothing changes. I go. I go already. He go. She go. Not nice aspect (unwholesomeness). Similarly you can say things like un-whole-some-ness or anti-dis-establish-ment-arian-ism which is characteristic of Tagalog that is typologically agglutinative (like glue or gluten, things stick together like legos).
 
The verbal system is difficult for English speakers since we have a borderline analytic (verbs are simple and don't change much) system. Similarly Tagalog has "focus" also called "aspect" or "voice". This is similar to having cases for nouns (like Russian or german), but on the verb instead. The verbs are a real ballache for most English speakers.
 
Thirdly, there is a huge vocab under the surface and it is hard to actually acquire any of it. Tagalog has several layers of vocab. The oldest being native Tagalog or Kapampangan words. The next oldest being Malay and Sanskrit words (wika, mukha, dokha). Then Spanish loans, and finally at the top in the most informal register new English loans. Unless you do the frequency lists here (based on pretty formal Tagalog) and read lots of news, you won't encounter much of the formal Tagalog/Malayo-Sanskrit words. The Spanish and English loans are at the most common spoken register so they are easy to learn.
 
Lastly, everyone speaks English. Even people who don't speak English, speak English better than most Tagalog learners speak Tagalog (ouch, sorry for the reality check guys). A day laborer with no education working construction who says he doesn't speak English, can still probably speak English and communicate better than he thinks he can. You will find a lot of speakers attempt to accommodate you by using more English words which makes conversation easier (their goal is to communicate, not teach you for free) for both parties, but stunts your overall vocabulary.
 
English speakers and Chinese speakers tend to sound like cavemen in Tagalog. Ako gutom ako gusto punta sa tindahan para bili foods! The same stereotypes in teleserye fil-chi Tagalog applies to most foreigners too ; )
 
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Author Photo Bituingmaykinang
Jun 07 2020, 2:06am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
The conjugation system can be very complex. If you think Spanish verbs are quite complicated, think of Tagalog as "on steroids". Not only that, you'll have to use the correct pronoun or else, you mess up the meaning.
 
Example:
 
Kinain ko - I ate (something)
Kinain ako - I was eaten
 
Ako and Ko are both "I" (although ko can mean my), but they don't function the same
 
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Author Photo AMBoy Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 07 2020, 9:14am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Lastly, everyone speaks English. Even people who don't speak English, speak English better than most Tagalog learners speak Tagalog (ouch, sorry for the reality check guys). A day laborer with no education working construction who says he doesn't speak English, can still probably speak English and communicate better than he thinks he can. You will find a lot of speakers attempt to accommodate you by using more English words which makes conversation easier (their goal is to communicate, not teach you for free) for both parties, but stunts your overall vocabulary.
 
Yeah I'd say the average and maybe a slightly below average Filipino can communicate and express themselves in English far better that most foreigners will EVER be able to do in Tagalog. It's not fulfilling for any one to have a few broken tagalog sentences passed off as some kind of deep conversation, nothing is gained trust me. If ones sole purpose for learning is "connect with the wife's family better" I'd say maybe think again as you probably don't understand the massive investment of time and energy it will take to get there, and really to what end? There are probably better ways to connect with them that don't require you taking on this fight. My excuse is that I'm a lifer and hope to remain here until I die which I'm hoping will be at least another 40 years from now but even then it's hard to justify sometimes. I really don't want to be one of those guys who has lived here an eternity and still don't know Tagalog. Also strange is that I think some guys are learning Tagalog when their wife's actual language is Bisaya. What a shame to put in all that effort and still not understand what shes saying...
 
@akosikoneho
 
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Author Photo Bituingmaykinang
Jun 07 2020, 12:58pm CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
^Based on the posts I read at the Reddit Tagalog sub, a lot of foreigners/learners overestimate how good their Tagalog is. They think because a native understands them, their Tagalog is very good forgetting that natives are parsing their Tagalog and deciphering what they mean. Some learners even insist that Taglish is the only casual/conversational Tagalog. Tagalog comes in many forms, including swardspeak/gay lingo.
 
Becoming near-native fluent in a short time (less than 5 years) is possible, but that requires very extensive immersion into the culture. Sadly, this is less common.
 
Extensive immersion was a reason why Rafe Bartholomew gained near-native fluency without taking 10 years. He basically hang out with Filipino basketball players and Filipino basketball fans during his time in the Philippines.
 
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Author Photo primesgenato
Jun 08 2020, 5:05am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Instead of explaining how easy/hard Tagalog is, I can give you a relative scale of Tagalog's difficulty level compared to other languages I've studied. I'd say Tagalog is almost as hard (or easy?) as French.
 
From easiest to hardest languages I've studied
Malay
Tagalog
French (only slightly harder than Tagalog)
English
Thai
 
If you haven't decided yet to learn Tagalog, I say go for it. It's not that hard. Despite the difficulties other members have posited, Tagalog has some positives like consistent pronunciations (no tones, or irregular pronunciations BS), Latin alphabet (a big plus IMO), predictable verbal patterns (despite having a large number of them), etc.
 
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Author Photo akosikoneho Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 08 2020, 5:11am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Instead of explaining how easy/hard Tagalog is, I can give you a relative scale of Tagalog's difficulty level compared to other languages I've studied. I'd say Tagalog is almost as hard (or easy?) as French. From easiest to hardest languages I've studied Malay Tagalog French (only slightly harder than Tagalog) English Thai If you haven't decided yet to learn Tagalog, I say go for it. It's not that hard. Despite the difficulties other members have posited, Tagalog has some positives like consistent pronunciations (no tones, or irregular pronunciations BS), Latin alphabet (a big plus IMO), predictable verbal patterns (despite having a large number of them), etc.
 
@primesgenato
 
The idea that French is some how more difficult than Tagalog baffles me.
 
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Author Photo primesgenato
Jun 08 2020, 5:18am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Slightly harder, I said. Like gender for nouns, pronunciations, etc. I'm Singaporean, if that makes any difference.
 
There's a reason why French is a Category 1 language for difficulty, while Tagalog is Category 2. So I'm not alone in this perception.
 
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Author Photo akosikoneho Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 08 2020, 5:19am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Okay... I see you are some flavor of Singaporean. Which means Singlish, some flavor of Chinese, some flavor of Indian (Usually Tamil), or some flavor of Malay is your native language. I can see as a non native English speaker having problems with French. Category two languages under what metric? FSI states that Tagalog is category IV which would place it just barely behind Chinese-Japanese-Korean and Arabic for a native speaker of American English.
 
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Author Photo AMBoy Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 08 2020, 5:20am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
@primesgenato I don't get it, it being a cat 2 proves the assertion that Tagalog is harder to learn than French. (higher the number the harder).
 
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Author Photo primesgenato
Jun 08 2020, 5:22am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
My mistake. You're right. Chinese is Category 4 I think cos it's harder.
 
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Author Photo akosikoneho Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 08 2020, 5:28am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Don't forget that the FSI takes reading-writing into account. All cat 5 languages have funky scripts. Arabic (doesn't write most vowels). Chinese (need some 3k hanzi for basic literacy and 10k hanzi for advanced literacy). Japanese (some 2k standard kanji and some 1k used non-standard kanji, each with many more readings than Chinese). Korean (the list floating around is old, I believe at this time Korea hadn't phased out Hanja for daily use).
 
I would agree with Malay being one of the easiest languages to learn. Especially colloquial Malay as spoken in Singapore-Malaysia. Malay really has all it needs to be a great lingua franca of Austronesia imho.
 
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Author Photo primesgenato
Jun 08 2020, 5:30am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
@akosikoneho
 
Yep apologies. Got it wrong. FSI (if that's the name of the org, can't remember) has French as generally being easier than Tagalog.
 
I and my fellow Singaporeans did find French a hard (ish) language though due to the genders and awkward nasal pronunciations.
 
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Author Photo akosikoneho Badge: SupporterBadge: Serious SupporterBadge: VIP Supporter
Jun 08 2020, 5:36am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
@primesgenato Remember FSI's ratings are aimed at a monolingual, prescreened set of elite Americans who will be serving as diplomats. It is very reasonable that the difficulty of a language is different for a Singaporean.
 
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Author Photo primesgenato
Jun 08 2020, 5:45am CST ~ 4 weeks ago. 
Just googled. LOL seems like I got many things incorrect about the categories. Tagalog isn't Cat 2 but Cat 4, and Chinese isn't Cat 4 but Cat 5.
 
Yes just read that FSI is not really modeled after us Asians. So for the original poster, itsneiacard, I'd swap the positions of Tagalog and French in my original ranking, if you're American.
 
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