How Long Does It Take to Learn Tagalog A Quick Guide

How Long Does It Take to Learn Tagalog? A Quick Guide

You’ve begun learning Tagalog (or Filipino, which is essentially the same thing) — congratulations! It’s a very rewarding language to learn — but now you’re wondering how long you should continue to study it before you see any results.

Nobody will be able to give you an exact timeframe for how long it will take you to learn the Filipino language because it depends on so many different factors.


First of all, there isn’t really a clear definition of fluency. Second, you play a part, as do your background, experience, motivation, and the amount of time you invest. similarly to how you are learning Tagalog. Asking how long it takes to learn Tagalog is a bit like asking “what is the length of a piece of string”.

It depends.

But nobody likes that answer, so I’ve tried to come up with something better. I’ve made my own “language learning calculator” which takes most of the above-mentioned factors into account and gives you a ball-park figure of how long it takes to learn any language, Tagalog included.

A typical English speaker could probably learn Tagalog to the upper intermediate level in 3–4 years if they put in an hour a day, every day, and are reasonably motivated. But there are a lot of things that could change the time.

Please keep reading.

How Long Will It Take Me To Reach The Beginner Level?

Depending on who you ask, learning the Filipino language may be simple or challenging. Comparatively speaking, some people claim that learning Tagalog is simple, while others claim that learning it is challenging. The process of learning and mastering a new language involves a wide range of variables, which is why there is such a disparity in results. You must begin at the bottom (also known as the beginning, depending on how quickly or slowly you can pick it up). the beginner level).

At the beginner level, you can comprehend very fundamental Tagalog expressions and understand how to use them. You are also adept at making introductions, asking and responding to questions about personal information, and introducing others. These specifics comprise information about your residence, age, and other factors. If the person you’re speaking to speaks slowly and clearly, you can converse with them in a straightforward manner as well.

What You Will Learn At The Beginner Level

The Filipino alphabet is based on the ISO basic Latin alphabet, with the addition of the Spanish ñ and the digraph ng. You can practically skip this section and move on to learning some essential Filipino words and expressions unless your native language isn’t written using the Latin alphabet. Greetings, numbers, days, months, body parts, animal names, and other terms are included in this. At this level, you’ll also learn how to greet people and ask them basic questions, like where they are.

How To Get There

Do you want to effectively learn Tagalog basics? Develop goals and study techniques that will enable you to pass the beginner level and eventually the intermediate and advanced levels if you are studying independently. There are only three things you need to keep in mind in this regard: Plan, Track, and Evaluate.

  • Plan your goals first, and then plan what strategies you’ll use to achieve them.
  • Track your progress every day to see how well you’re doing.
  • Evaluate yourself after a week or two to see whether you have achieved your goals. Keep track of the tactics that were successful and those that weren’t. Repetition is key. If necessary, change your objectives.

You should concentrate on getting to know common Tagalog words because you’re only beginning to expand your vocabulary. You must, therefore, always have flashcards on hand. Make sure your voice is loud enough for your ears to hear you as you practice pronouncing the words correctly. Speaking of hearing, you ought to include listening to audio lessons in your daily routine. Most importantly, practice speaking with a native speaker as frequently as you can.

Beginner Level Tip:
As soon as you can, practice with a native speaker. This is a necessary step to mastering Tagalog fluency.

How Long Does It Take To Reach The Intermediate Level?

Let’s assume you have already logged 200 hours of basic Filipino study. You ought to be equipped at this point to move on to the intermediate level.

Once you complete this level, it will be simpler for you to comprehend crucial concepts pertaining to topics like work, school, and similar issues. Additionally, it will be simpler for you to form short sentences about familiar subjects.

It will be easier for you to express yourself, especially when speaking about past experiences and events. Around this time, your language skills might also improve, enabling you to speak more freely with native speakers.

What You Will Learn At The Intermediate Level

At this level, you’ll start learning more Filipino words and phrases, but this time, the words you’ll learn won’t just be things or places’ names. In addition to learning words that describe people or situations, you’ll also learn words that describe actions and experiences. You’ll learn verb conjugation and grammatical tenses in addition to raising the level of your vocabulary. You now have a clear idea of the areas in which your studies should be concentrated. Add to that the Filipino grammar and sentence structure.

How To Get There

Don’t put those flashcards away just yet; you still have a lot of fundamental Filipino words to learn at this level. Practice pronouncing the words in addition to simply memorizing them and their definitions. It’s also crucial to learn them in context because doing so makes new words more memorable and meaningful. Try putting a word you are learning to use in a sentence or a story. Studying vocabulary that is related to a particular subject or theme is also advantageous.

Remember that you can learn more words and their pronunciation by listening to audio lessons if you’re wondering how to learn Filipino words other than through flashcards. You ought to be able to watch Tagalog movies and TV shows by this point. Reading Tagalog literature is also at its best at this time. You don’t necessarily have to read Noli Me Tangere or Banaag at Sikat; you can instead find reading materials with content appropriate to your level and relevant to your learning goals.

Do all of these things, as well as regularly practicing your conversations with a native speaker, for the best results.

Intermediate Level Tip:
Practice your listening skills if you want to speak Tagalog fluently. Break sentences down into their component parts, pay close attention to how words are pronounced by native speakers, and make an effort to comprehend each word. Continue until you’re comfortable with the Tagalog language’s vocabulary, pronunciation rules, and sentence structure.
Bonus Tip:
It’s crucial to replicate a native speaker’s accent and intonation because they both carry the emotions the speaker wants to get across.

When Can I Expect To Reach The Advanced Level?

Congratulation, you are now qualified to move on to the advanced level.

You’ll be nearly as proficient in Filipino as you are in your native tongue once you’ve mastered this level. Now, you’ll be able to construct clear, comprehensive sentences on any topic, regardless of how straightforward or difficult it may be. Additionally, you’ll be able to comprehend challenging texts and their underlying meaning. Additionally, you won’t struggle to find the right words when expressing yourself in the moment. Filipino is now more than just a language for socializing; it can also be used for academic and professional purposes.

What You Will Learn At The Advanced Level

After passing the intermediate level, vocabulary growth continues. You should aim to become familiar with at least 10,000 words in the language to reach the advanced level since the majority of native speakers know at least 15,000 word families. You’ll also use a more sophisticated strategy this time. You’ll learn the grammar as well as more about the Filipino way of life in addition to memorization of words.

How To Get There

You must now begin speaking and writing in Filipino with a tutor who can guide you and provide feedback, in addition to the habits you established to reach the beginner and intermediate levels. There are more Tagalog books that you should look for. Bob Ong and Edgar Calabia are two authors who use modern Tagalog in their writing. If you’re going to visit a bookstore in the Philippines, head straight to the Filipiniana section where you will find a collection of books that are strong in history, economics, literature, sociology, and political science.

Advanced Level Tip:
The books on Filipino grammar are decent, but they only teach you grammar. It’s crucial to learn what a native speaker would actually say in conversation when learning a language, rather than just repeating sentences from textbooks.

How long does it take to become fluent in Tagalog? To go from the intermediate level to the advanced level, you’ll need to study for another 550-600 hours.

Again, there are many variables that will affect how quickly you learn, so these numbers are only estimates. They are based in particular on statistics given by the Foreign Service Institute, the hub for foreign language instruction within the US government. According to their research, Tagalog is a Category III language and takes a total of 1100 hours to learn. Tagalog is therefore more challenging to learn than French, Italian, or Spanish!

Exactly How Difficult Is Tagalog?

It’s not hard to learn Tagalog. The language is written using the same alphabet as English, has a fairly simple pronunciation, and has generally acceptable grammar.

But it’s very different. If you were to learn French, Dutch, German, or another one of those big “Western” languages, you’d notice that a lot of things in those languages are very familiar.

These languages not only belong to the same language family as English, but they also have a common European heritage. You could say that they have developed simultaneously.

Similar to German or Spanish, Tagalog isn’t particularly difficult. It’s just very distinctive. You’ll need to adjust to something that sounds much more foreign than those languages as you learn it. Word morphology and vocabulary just seem so foreign to the average American or European (with the exception of many of Tagalog’s English and Spanish loan-words).

Tagalog is actually categorized under category 3 by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI), along with languages like Russian, Thai, and Hungarian. Compared to those languages, I’d argue that learning Tagalog is simpler for English speakers, but it’s still not easy.

For the average student to learn a language in category 3, the FSI estimates 1100 hours in the classroom. That is equivalent to three years of daily study at an hour per day. Although not everyone can use that.

An FSI course is meant to get their student to a C1 level, or a “lower advanced” level. It’s for bright, driven people who all have prior language experience and who are full-time students. Most language learners won’t be affected by this!

How then do you translate those 1100 hours of intensive classroom instruction into something that is appropriate for the common Joe? (or Jane).

Let’s take a closer look at some of the other elements you should think about.

How Long Does It Take to Learn Tagalog A Quick Guide
How Long Does It Take to Learn Tagalog? A Quick Guide

Does Tagalog Sound Similar To Filipino?

This site uses “Tagalog” and “Filipino” interchangeably, but it’s worth a quick note to explain their relationship.

Although the terms are frequently used interchangeably within and outside the Philippines, Tagalog and Filipino are not the same language.

In its purest form, Tagalog is the native tongue of a people who live in southern Luzon. The Manila dialect of Tagalog is officially standardised as Filipino. There are currently between 4-8 dialects of Tagalog, but “Filipino” denotes only the Manila variant.

Again, however, “Tagalog” and “Filipino” mean the same thing in casual, practical use.

See more about How Long Does It Take To Learn Portuguese?

What Actually Makes Learning A Language Difficult?

Regardless of where you’re from, you’ve probably observed that some regions of the nation speak increasingly differently from the most common variety of your language (e.g., how national news anchors talk).

Think about Tom Brokaw versus someone from the Deep South’s rural areas if you’re an American. Consider the differences between a BBC presenter in London and a factory worker in Glasgow, or if you’re from the UK, consider the differences between the two.

The accents are unmistakably different, and the vocabulary and even the grammar have undergone significant changes. Geographically and economically, dialects become more distinct the further away you are.

However, either one could learn to speak like the other without too much effort.

But, at some point, the dialects become so different that they are less than 80% mutually intelligible (meaning at least one of the two speakers, usually whoever speaks that “standard” dialect, cannot understand even 80% of what the other says).

Linguists no longer refer to it as a dialect at that point, but rather as a distinct language.

Even so, you can imagine how a foreign language that’s just below the 80% threshold would be far easier to learn than one that’s only 20% understandable–let alone almost 0%, like Tagalog and English.

(That’s a different issue. It’s extremely difficult and occasionally disputed how to measure this in the first place.)

For instance, English speakers find that although French and German have a lot of similar words, their grammar and sounds are quite different. There are numerous other similarities on a deeper level, such as how verbs handle subjects and objects.

That shouldn’t be too surprising, since English, French, and German are all part of the Indo-European language family. That indicates that they have common ancestors from whom they all inherited some traits, though these traits have evolved into wildly different forms over time.

Most people resemble their parents and siblings at least somewhat, but not very much (if at all) (or random strangers from around the world).

Languages work similarly.

Why Is It Difficult For English Speakers To Learn Tagalog?

All in all, Tagalog is a tough language for English speakers to learn–especially compared to language “relatives” like German, Spanish, and French.

Austronesian languages, which are spoken throughout much of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, include Tagalog.

By definition, no Austronesian language shares any ancestor with any Language of the Indo-Europeans. We’ll quickly go over a few implications of the fact that Tagalog had distinct beginnings and evolved along a distinct course.

Tagalog Words Aren’t Related To English Ones

Without including the numerous Spanish and later English words that the Filipinos have incorporated into their language, words are undoubtedly distinct and unrelated.

(These are called “loanwords” and they do not indicate any relationship. However, students find them to be very useful! Just be aware that not everyone means what you might assume. Here is a brief overview of some unexpected English nuances in Filipino.)

We can’t expect to hear or read a Tagalog word and be able to decipher it by using something tangentially similar in English because most vocabulary is so foreign.

If you’re studying German, you might see the word wissen (to know) and be reminded of the English wise. Despite the fact that they are not the same, the connection is clear.

A similarity between Tagalog and English does not exist.

There are many Spanish and English loanwords today as a result of hundreds of years of Spanish dominance followed by decades of American dominance. A good start like that. It doesn’t matter; the vast majority of your new vocabulary in Tagalog will be completely alien.

The absence of grammatical gender in Tagalog is a blessing because it lessens the effort required to learn vocabulary.

It’s important to note that syllable emphasis can completely alter the meaning of some words. A classic (and funny) example is suka. Emphasize the first syllable (“SU-ka”) and you have “vomit.” Emphasize the second (“su-KA”) and you have “vinegar”!

Tagalog Pronouns And Verbs Are Nothing Like We’re Used To

I previously mentioned how, despite significant grammatical differences, Indo-European verbs still treat subjects and objects in a similar way.

For instance, “I” is the subject and “me” is the object form of that pronoun, similar to je and moi in French.

French pronoun usage is fairly intuitive to English speakers due to the similar underlying pattern. If you can use “I” and “me” correctly, then it won’t be too hard to wrap your mind around using je and moi, either.

On the other hand, the closest Tagalog equivalents of I, Me, and My follow a completely different pattern that defies fundamental English grammar rules.

I think that learning Tagalog is most difficult at this point.

Say you’ve just consumed a mango as an illustration. (They are delicious and plentiful in the Philippines, so I highly recommend it!) The simplest way you could tell somebody in English would be something like “I ate the mango.”

However, an equally simple Tagalog phrase could use something like “I” or “me” depending on what you want to emphasize.

I, not somebody else, ate the mango” could use one version whereas “I ate the mango, not the other fruit” could use the other.

Specifying “I ate the mango using a knife” may require a third variation.

Along with the pronoun, the verb “eat” gets different letters as a prefix or stuck in the middle, and the equivalent of “the” also changes a little.

If they’re mixed up (which they sometimes will be!), it sounds as odd to a Tagalog speaker as “me ate the mango” or “the knife was eaten by mango with I” sounds to you. Even though the relationships aren’t entirely clear, the meaning is still there, so you’ll probably understand.

At least two Tagalog variations are frequently grammatically correct, but to a Filipino, one sounds more natural than the other. Again, neither is actually wrong, but the best choice isn’t always self-evident.

The differences resemble the active versus passive voice in English on the surface, but they are not exactly the same grammatically. Furthermore, all these variations are perfectly acceptable in Tagalog even though passive construction is bad style in English.

This feature is as challenging as it is intriguing. In this regard, Tagalog and its relatives rank among the strangest languages in the world. Here’s a great article if you really want to geek out with me.

Any Aspect Of Tagalog Is It Simple To Learn?

Most beginners–including me–also find aspects of Tagalog very easy to learn. Since there are so many difficulties to overcome, this is a relief.

Since you probably came to read about differences, we began by examining them. They’re the most fascinating as well.

But concentrating only on differences can be discouraging! It also gives a false impression of what learning Tagalog is like.

For Tagalog students, a few things are a breath of fresh air. Indeed, it is simpler than even some of English’s closest relatives in a few instances. (This is advantageous because you’ll need all the time you can get to study verbs!)

The Tagalog Alphabet Is Basically The Roman Alphabet

The written language is super phonetic. Aside from ñ (“ny”) and a standalone ng (“nahng”), every letter is familiar to English speakers and usually makes only one sound.

Compared to English, with oft-observed inconsistencies like “rough,” “through,” and though,” it’s a piece of cake!

Why is this situation so simple?

English has used the Roman alphabet for ages, but never with a central governing authority like France’s Académie Française or the Philippines’ Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino. English spelling actually was phonetic back in the day, but hasn’t kept up with hundreds of years of changing pronunciation.

The last time the spelling of Tagalog was updated was in 2013!

There Are Just Five Vowels In Tagalog

Tagalog has only five vowels: a, e, i, o, and u.

Their diphthongs (combinations of two vowels, like how or bay) are all intuitive to English speakers, and they are almost exactly pronounced as in Spanish.

If there’s one oddity, it’s that a written “i” at the end of a word sometimes takes on an “eh” sound, depending on which syllable is emphasized. As a new student, I found it difficult to understand, but it doesn’t change the meaning and you’ll be understood regardless.

Tagalog Is Not A Tonal Language

Tonal languages are more common in Asia than in the majority of the rest of the world, though I have no idea why.

Fortunately, unlike many languages in mainland Asia, Tagalog and its relatives are not tonal. Syllable emphasis can occasionally change meaning, as was already mentioned, but I find that much simpler to remember than, say, the intricate tones of Cantonese!

The Biggest Variable: Your Personal Interest And Motives

If you have a deeper personal interest in the regions or populations who speak a language, then all of the relative challenges and challenges are meaningless.

What if your only motivation for learning Dutch—arguably English’s closest major relative—is for an exam? It will be tedious, difficult to remember, and probably not useful. I call this “classroom language syndrome”: learning a language because you have to, then arriving in the country only to find your classroom knowledge nearly useless!

To converse with friends or loved ones, however, what if you learn Tagalog—a linguistic challenge in itself? You’ll find more opportunities to practice, more motivation to push through the difficult early stages, and a more useful and rewarding experience all around.

What Level Of Tagalog Do You Want To Achieve?

Learning a language is not like turning a switch on or off. With a lower-intermediate level, you could get by just fine in the Philippines, but if you wanted to enroll in a university course in Tagalog, you would probably need to aim for the advanced level.

So which one do you actually want to achieve? I would contend that having this as a goal is unrealistic and counterproductive because achieving complete, native-like fluency could take a long time, and you’ll likely speak Tagalog with an accent for life.

The beginner’s stages won’t get you very far, though, and if you attempt to communicate with someone while speaking at a very basic level, the majority of people will probably switch to English.

I frequently advise people who are just starting out to learn a language to aim for the intermediate level. You’ll be able to communicate with people with whom you have no other common language, and there will be room for improvement.

And it might take you less time to reach the B1 level in Tagalog than it would to reach the upper advanced level.

Your Experience With Languages And Studying In General Plays A Role

The more experience you have, the quicker you can learn Tagalog.

It will be a huge advantage if you are familiar with another Austronesian language, such as Malay, Mauri, or Hawai’ian, as they are connected to Tagalog.

Even though they are unrelated to Tagalog, knowledge of other languages may help things move forward because you’ll have had success speaking them and your brain will already be accustomed to communicating in ways other than English. Really, even a little knowledge of a foreign language will be beneficial.

Another factor is how you learned those languages. While a university course that approaches the language from a more academic perspective might be less helpful, you’d probably have an advantage if you learned them through conversation and travel compared to learning Tagalog in the same way.

Additionally, if you have never studied a foreign language before, learning Tagalog will go more quickly if you are used to studying, taking notes, comprehending new concepts, and being a disciplined worker.

In other words, the more study experience you have, the better. The advantage will be greater the more languages you know, particularly those that are related to Tagalog.

And if you’ve neither studied abroad nor performed particularly well in school? If you’re motivated enough, you can still learn Tagalog, it will just take a little longer.

How Serious About Learning Tagalog Are You?

You’ll learn more quickly if you’re more motivated.

You’ll likely assume that motivated individuals investing all of their energy in achieving their goals, persevering, and other similar behaviors are the cause of this.

It includes that in part.

Nevertheless, learning a language also gets simpler if you’re completely enamored with it, fascinated by the way it sounds, and taken by its mysteries. Words become easier to recall, sounds are simpler to pronounce, and grammar is easier to understand if you’re highly motivated to learn Tagalog.

I think that this is due to some kind of mechanism in our brains that blocks out all kinds of information deemed “not essential”.

Consider reading a newspaper, where you skim the pages as you go until you reach the end, put the paper down, and move on to other tasks. If you were to recite what you had read in the newspaper the day before, you would only be able to recall some of the subjects covered. the items that caught your attention, or, to put it another way, the items your brain deemed worthy of memory!

If you want to learn Tagalog fast, you need to be interested and motivated enough for the language to be “worth remembering” for your brain!

You’ll learn more quickly and easily if you’re more motivated.

How Frequently Do You Study Tagalog, And How Much Time Do You Spend Doing It?

Obviously, a significant factor in determining how long it will take you to achieve your goal is the amount of time you devote to your studies. However, it is not, so to speak, directly proportional.

While you’ll learn Tagalog very quickly if you consistently study for 8 hours a day, those 8 hours would be less “efficient” than if you were to spread the time over a longer duration and only do 1 hour per day. Long stretches of time spent studying will only cause you to lose concentration, become exhausted, and the time spent will be less productive overall.

On the other hand, studying insufficiently won’t help you because 15 minutes a day simply isn’t enough to fully immerse yourself in the language, go over the material from the day before, cover new material, and so forth.

I advise you to consistently study for 45 minutes to an hour each day.

And one of the secrets to success in learning Tagalog is consistency. Studying for an hour a day is much more beneficial than studying for seven hours at once once a week.

Making the most of your time and reviewing frequently will help you retain the information.

Studying multiple times per day is preferable to studying daily.

Try breaking up your 60 minutes of study time into smaller study sessions, such as 10 minutes here, 15 minutes there, and so on.

This is a superior method of studying because it keeps your mind focused on Tagalog throughout the day. It’s not just a great way to fill downtime like waiting for the bus, drinking your morning coffee, doing the dishes, and so forth.

This will simply keep the Tagalog language active and part of your daily life, where it will eventually become a part of your routine.

Is It Worthwhile To Learn Tagalog?

In general, foreigners are well-liked and welcomed by Filipinos. Foreigners are never expected, let alone assumed, to speak any native tongue, in my experience.

The majority of them speak English, so they are well aware of its significant differences from Tagalog or whichever other language(s) they personally speak. Furthermore, it’s impossible to ignore the prestige aspect because using English well demonstrates sophistication and global awareness, which makes many people eager to do so.

That does not mean, though, that no one will notice your attempts at Tagalog. Far from it! On the whole, Filipinos greatly appreciate any effort to speak The local tongue, whether it be Tagalog or another.

Final Words

Because it depends on so many factors, it’s really impossible to say with any degree of certainty how long it will take you to learn Tagalog. I’ve touched on a few of them in this piece, but there are hundreds more that would be at play even if we could accurately assess factors like motivation and experience to determine how much they affect the overall amount of time required (which we can’t do).

It may actually take you months, years, or even decades to learn Tagalog. Some individuals may even study for a lifetime without ever becoming fluent if their methods, consistency, or effort levels are poor.

But as I said at the outset, I believe that with just 60 minutes a day of study, the majority of people could become good, conversational Tagalog speakers in 3–4 years.

This might seem like a lot to you, but I actually believe that people underestimate the amount of work involved in learning a language. You might be able to finish it in less than two years if you’re highly motivated, persistent, and study several times per day for, say, an hour. It also helps if you have some prior language experience.

I appreciate you reading, a lot.

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