Learn How to Speak Tagalog

Lesson 3 Introducing Yourself, Friends and Family

Most Filipinos already understand English because of television, church, school, movies, and relatives that work or live abroad. So why learn Tagalog? Simple. The most common reason an English speaking person wants to learn Tagalog is to win friends. In this lesson we'll learn words and sentences that will endear you quickly to Tagalog speakers.

1. KAIBIGAN Means Friend

These words are almost guaranteed to bring smiles when spoken by a foreigner. Practice these sentences and you will win friends and influence people.

Kaibigan ko siya.
He is my friend.
She is my friend.

Kaibigan ko sila.
They are my friends.

Kaibigan ko kayo.
You are my friend. (singular formal)
You are my friends. (plural)

Kaibigan niya ako.
I am his friend.
I am her friend.

Kaibigan nila ako.
I am their friend.

Kaibigan mo ako. (singular and informal)
I am your friend.

Kaibigan ninyo ako.
I am your friend. (plural and formal)
Although this is plural, this is what you say when talking to someone older or high ranking.

Kaibigan kita. (singular, close and intimate friendship)
You are my friend.

Kaibigan ko kayo. (plural, close and intimate friendship)
You are my friends.
Say this only when you mean they have earned your trust. Best spoken at the end of meeting or at the end of a long time together.

Mag-kaibigan tayo.
We are friends.
You and I are friends.

Mag-kaibigan kami.
He and I are friends.
She and I are friends.
They and I are friends.

The root word of KAIBIGAN is IBIG. It means the feeling of liking something or someone. KAIBIGAN is a person who likes you and whom you like. MAG-KAIBIGAN are best friends. When the feeling of two persons gets really deep, such that they are more than best friends and there is a prospect of marriage, they are NAG-IIBIGAN. Use this word only when you mean you are sweethearts.

Nag-iibigan kami.
We are sweethearts.
She and I are in-love.
He and I are in-love. 

Understanding Tagalog Culture
Unlike in Spanish where everything has a gender, Tagalog pronouns has no gender. Tagalog culture is one of the few in the world where a woman is given very high regard, practically equal to a man. This point might surprise Western readers who have been indoctrinated that in Asia women are behind the scene. Maybe so but not in the Philippines.

In the Philippines the wife of a doctor is called "doctora", which means madame doctor. The wife of the pastor is called "pastora", which means madame pastor. When the pastor is sick, the wife might preach. The wife of the Barrio Captain is called "Kapitana", which means Madame Captain. When the Barrio Captain is sick, sometimes it is the wife who calls the meeting, a practice unthinkable in the West.

As Tagalog culture become Westernized, the role of being Madame changes to a homemaker or housewife without title. Wives in turn develop a career, with distinct title, of their own. Despite this change, however, Tagalog language remains as genderless as before - it does not distinguish between man and woman because they are supposed to be equal.

2. KAMAG-ANAK Means Relative or Family By Blood or Marriage

Kamag-anak ko siya.
He is my relative.
She is my relative.

Kamag-anak ko sila.
They are my relatives.

Kamag-anak ko kayo.
You are my relatives.

Kamag-anak mo ako.
I am your relative. (singular, informal)

Kamag-anak ninyo ako.
I am your relative. (plural, formal)
Although this is plural, this is what you say when talking to someone older or high ranking. 

Mag-kamag-anak tayo.
You and I are related.

Mag-kamag-anak kami.
He and I are related.
She and I are related.
They and I are related.

Mag-kamag-anak sila.
They are related.


3. Members of the Family

Tatay at Nanay.
Father and Mother

Ate at Kuya
Elder sister and Elder brother.

Manga Kapatid
Brothers and Sisters

Younger brother
Younger sister

Tiyo at Tiya
Uncle and Auntie

Lolo at Lola
Grandpa and Grandma


PINSAN Means Cousin

You may call any cousin "Pinsan" regardless of their age. The gender doesn't matter. First, second, or third-degree cousins are all "pinsan". All their relatives, including by marriage, are your "pinsan", too. In a barrio, almost everyone is related by blood and marriage. If you have a relative in a barrio and you suspect someone is related to any of your relatives, you might as well call him or her "pinsan".  You don't insult people by calling them "pinsan" by mistake, except when you're in a barrio where you are not related to anybody.   

Addressing older people

Tagalog culture does not allow a younger person to address an older person by proper name. If the father's name is Julio, no one calls him Julio except his wife and those older than him. Everyone calls him Tatay instead. The same rule applies to mothers, uncle and auntie, older brother and older sister. Because of this restriction, it is safer to address any head of family as "Tatay" even though he is not your father. Do the same with an elder woman, call her "Nanay". This would be appreciated.

Calling any family leader by first name is considered an insult, except when you're a policeman, a barrio official, a pastor, or an elder person yourself. Also, if you are not sure someone is older than you, calling him "Kuya" and calling her "Ate" is the safe and respectable approach.

4. Introducing your Friends and Relatives

When introducing someone, you address the person you are talking to, say your relation to the one you are introducing, and say that person's name.

Kuya, kaibigan ko, si Arthur.
Elder brother, my friend Arthur.

Ate, kaibigan ko, si Arthur.
Elder sister, my friend Arthur.

Tatay, kaibigan ko po, si Maria.
Father,sir, my friend Maria.

Nanay, kaibigan ko po, si Maria.
Mother, mam, my friend Maria.

Manga kaibigan, kaibigan ko, si Arthur.
My friends, my friend Arthur.

Kapatid, kaibigan ko, si Arthur.
Brother, my friend Arthur.
Sister, my friend Arthur.

Pinsan, kaibigan ko, si Arthur.
Cousin, my friend Arthur.

When introducing someone, you first look to the person you are talking to. Then you say "Tatay, kaibigan ko po", meaning "Father, sir, my friend." The word "po" is an expression of respect to an elder person. And then you turn to the person you are introducing and say "si Arthur." At this point Arthur should say, "Kumusta po kayo?" which means "How are you, sir?"

Do not use your index finger to point to a person. Instead, gracefully point to a person with an open hand, palm facing up.

If you are the one being introduced, after your name is mentioned, you slightly bow your head, then say "Kumusta po kayo," meaning "How are you, sir?" The bow is only a slight nod of head- Filipinos don't bow like the Japanese.

If you are being introduced to a younger person, after your name is mentioned, you slightly and briefly raise your chin and smile. This is your way of saying you approve the young person and don't mean harm. (Don't smile if you are there to arrest him. That would be considered deceiving.)

About Ray Colorado

Ray Colorado was born in the island of Mindoro, Philippines, where people speak different Filipino languages. Tagalog was his first language. He also speaks Ilocano, Bicol, English and Spanish. He learned these languages because of his father's job - Methodist Evangelist and Pastor. They moved every two years, living in places where people spoke differently. He had to learn each local language in order to survive and win new friends. He also formally studied English and Pilipino, the national language, in elementary, high school, and the University of the Philippines. He started creating Web-based Tagalog lessons in 1999. He moved to United States in 1984. He lives in Fort Worth, Texas, with his wife, former Lura Eden Alampay, and their three sons Marc Dexter, Maxwell Lucas, and Hexel James. He may be reached at ray@coloradobrothers.com.