When I started coming to Mexico back in 2013, I began to seriously study Spanish – a language that I know was part of our history in the Philippines.
Prior to that, all I know in the Spanish language were some loan-words that exists in Tagalog. And even though I had a few Spanish lessons back in the Philippines during my highschool & college days, I still cannot speak even the basics when conversing with Mexicans.
Before – I were never serious about learning it because, I have no obvious need for it because in traveling around Asia, English was the widely spoken language which was our second language in the Philippines.
And now that my focus of travel has switched to Mexico, I regretted not getting serious when Spanish was being taught us in school back home.
I can only speak about this for myself because I do not know what other Filipinos trying to learn the languages’ motivation was. I am very motivated to learn it because I frequent a Spanish-speaking country now.
I had to admit, though, that it’s a little difficult for me, specially that I’m trying to learn it at a very mature age.
But, even if I’m having a hard time when I’m engrossed in small talk to a new Mexican acquaintance, I’m having so much fun using all I learned in studying Spanish and I’m just thankful that these Mexicans I talk to were never prejudiced to people like me trying to learn their language.
Instead, they correct my mistakes and would really talk back in a slow manner coupled with gestures so I would understand them.
Wherever I had been in Mexico – Cancun, Valladolid, Puerto Vallarta, Acapulco, etc. – Mexicans I interacted with were always helpful and understanding to the fact that I’m trying very hard to speak with them in Spanish.
I remember getting interested in learning Spanish when I was already in Canada and started to be friends with a co-worker from El Salvador. He talked about how he knew about the history of the Spaniards colonizing the Philippines the same as they did in Latin America.
We were always hanging out after work and so, that’s when I bought my first book in Spanish as I sometimes want to expound on some Spanish words that I use to talk to him that was a loan-word of Tagalog. But in reality, I was not really that interested or motivated to learn the language.
But, when I started coming to Mexico and was exposed to everyday Spanish while mingling with the locals, that’s the time that I got very interested.
Specially when I decided to make Mexico my long-term destination to replace the Philippines, learning to “habla en Español” almost became an obsession. I bought books after books, scoured the internet for more resources, searched online for language intercambio partners and/or registered as a member in Spanish-learning forums & Facebook pages.
As a regular Mexico visitor, the first things that I memorized in the Spanish language were those that I need to speak about in my going around in the country. Travel phrases such as about staying in hotels, street directions, taking a bus, ferry or taxi, banking & money, health & hospitals, at the airport, greetings, etc.
Couple those with some Spanish loan-words in the Tagalog language and some body language, I was able to get around Mexico without a problem or tell people what I need.
But that started my fascination with the language and my desire to learn it – at least to the point where I can successfully converse with a Mexican I happen to chat with.
I assume that most Filipino Spanish-learners started their interest in learning the language in the same way I did, so, I would advise that they learn the basics that involved any phrases or words about travel.
And for me, the best method of taking real interest in learning the language was to immerse himself or herself in a Spanish-speaking country that he or she is interested in. Bear in mind, that although basic Spanish can be understood in every Spanish-speaking country – sometimes there are phrases or words in a certain country (like Mexico) that are not in any of the other Hispanic country.
So, learn the basics of Spanish (does not matter where from) but to understand the locals, practice where you intend to visit or in my case, to long-stay.
As an aside, if you are trying to learn Spanish and would want to use Tagalog as a source of translation – DON’T! It will be very difficult even if our language have several Spanish words integrated in it.
As an addition, I’d like to share a very valuable learning podcast that I wish I found in the early stages of my learning interest. Check out LanguageTransfer.org’s learning Spanish series and you will surely learn a lot from it!
Also, if you are a Filipino trying to learn Spanish like I do, I created a Facebook page where I post learning resources that I find on the internet and on books that I have or borrow from the library. Check out Filipinos learning Spanish on Facebook.
So, how’s my Spanish-Mexican after 5 years? I can strike up a short conversation now and can follow even if someone talks to me in a rat-tat-tat manner. But of course, I still have to practice hearing & speaking it. And I keep working on my Spanish everyday.
Eventually, if and when I decide to stay longer in Mexico, I’m pretty sure I’ll be ready to live in a non-English speaking Mexican-neighborhood. I’m always excited of the mention of Mexico!