Is Tagalog Hard to Learn? (11 Things You Can Expect)

Tagalog is one of the world’s most widely spoken Asian languages, spoken by over 82 million people in the archipelago of Southeast Asia. It’s more complicated than learning Spanish or French but more straightforward to learn than Chinese or Japanese languages. 

Whatever your motivation for wanting to learn Tagalog, it’s essential to know what you can expect from this language. Let’s begin!

Is Tagalog Hard to Learn?

As you begin learning Tagalog, you’ll find it a straightforward language to study. However, there are specific challenges as it belongs to the Category III language for its linguistic and cultural differences. In understanding this dialect, you must familiarize yourself with the alphabet and pronunciation!

Here are 11 excellent comprehensive resources if you’re interested in learning Tagalog!

1. National Language Of The Philippines

Tagalog, a language spoken in the Philippines, is a branch of the Malayo-Polynesian language family, and it’s the native tongue of the Filipino people. 

However, you might also ask if Tagalog and Filipino languages are the same. Tagalog and Filipino are related but not identical languages. Filipino is a modernized form of Tagalog that incorporates elements of Malay, Spanish, English, Chinese, and other Philippine dialects. 

As you can see, the two languages are mutually understandable, and people refer to them interchangeably. 

2. Easy Language to Learn

Due to its extensive vocabulary loans from English and Spanish, Tagalog can be very understandable for the average learner.

It’s not difficult to master the Tagalog language because it shares many similarities with the English alphabet.

Additionally, the Tagalog dialect has the same phonetic characteristics and writing system as English, making it accessible for an English speaker to grasp. 

However, the closest synonyms for “I,” “me,” and “my” correspond to a completely different structure that contradicts basic English grammar standards. This is the most challenging element of learning Tagalog.

3. Category III Difficulty Language

According to the U.S. Foreign Service Institute classification, Tagalog is a Category III language due to the differences in linguistics and culture. 

You need to study this language for approximately 44 weeks to reach proficiency. This corresponds to 1000 and 1200 class hours to learn Tagalog. 

Tagalog disregards the concept of grammatical gender. Therefore, you won’t need to memorize whether a noun is feminine, masculine, or neuter.

Diacritical points like ( ˘ ), ( ˜ ), or ( ́ ), commonly known as accent marks, are often not used within written Tagalog.

Fun Fact: Taglish is another form used as a combination of English and Tagalog. Wealthy young Filipino individuals frequently use it to look rich.

4. Alphabet and Pronunciation

Begin with the Filipino alphabet and Tagalog pronunciation when learning the language.

Five vowel sounds and 16 consonant sounds in the 28 characters make up the modern script.

Also, learn basic Tagalog phrases like “Kamusta Ka” (How are you?), “Salamat” (Thank you), and “Ingat” (Take care).

Tip: As phrases are pronounced syllable by syllable, you pause between words in Tagalog.

You can also check out free educational resources like Samut-Samot, The Tagalog Project, Pambata TV, and Dino Lingo.

5. Unfamiliar Vocabulary

Learning Tagalog is not an easy task for English speakers. 

This is primarily due to significant grammatical differences, particularly in verb-pronoun relationships and the vocabulary’s historical origins.

Subsequently, Filipinos have incorporated English terms into their language that are unique and unrelated.

Filipino English speakers often modify the meaning of words, create new terms based on parallels with existing English structures and even totally alter the meaning of words.

As a result, international students can’t anticipate comprehending a Tagalog word by hearing or reading something slightly similar in English because most vocabulary is unfamiliar.

6. From the River

From the River

Tagalog combines elements of the Chinese, Malaysian, Spanish, and American languages, and its literal meaning is “from the river.” 

Historically, the natives of the Philippines established a writing system called Baybayin before the Spaniards colonized the country.

The third most popular dialect outside English in the U.S. is Tagalog. The states of California, Nevada, and Washington are homes to the most significant number of Tagalog speakers.

Tip: Listening to sound clips of spoken letters, mainly those different from their English counterparts, is one method of learning the sound produced by the Tagalog alphabet.

Find out, is Tagalog the same as Filipino?

7. Getting Used to the Ang, Ng, And Sa

Other difficulties include becoming accustomed to the Ang, Ng, and Sa phrases—some keep referring to them as cases—and the verb and enclitic words with fixed positions in sentences.

Suffixes for nouns, adjectives, verbs, and numbers are expected in Tagalog.

Lastly, most of Tagalog’s vocabulary is foreign, and its grammar is inconsistent or downright confusing.

8. Benefits of Learning Tagalog

Most students are motivated to learn this language by a desire to strengthen their ties to the Filipino people.

Additionally, some individuals study this to travel to the Philippines. Travelers might benefit from basic language knowledge when visiting the country’s spectacular beaches, fantastic surfing locations, and fascinating tourist sites.

Learning Tagalog also offers a legacy to carry on to the upcoming generation. This is particularly the case for Filipinos who were born and raised overseas and would like to rediscover their roots.

Finally, studying the Tagalog dialect will enable you to become a better listener!

9. Private Tutors and Book Resources

As long as you work with a competent tutor who can educate you on the alphabet and accurate grammar, learning the foundations of Tagalog isn’t too challenging.

By partaking in Tagalog lessons for beginners, you may establish a strong foundation and improve your skills.

Some helpful paid resources to learn include Pimsleur, Mondly, Drops, Italki, Rosetta Stone, Mango Languages, and Memrise. With a small subscription fee, you can begin your learning journey. 

Additionally, you can get one-on-one instruction in Tagalog from Preply, AmazingTalker, TeacherOn,, and Tutoroo for $5 to $12 per hour through video call.

Finally, another option is to use book resources like Tahanan, Little Yellow Jeepney, Philippine Expressions Bookshop, and Philip and Ana, which offer volumes for $5.95 to $12.

10. Living Abroad

Learning Tagalog may provide students with more significant opportunities.

If you speak Tagalog fluently, more doors will open for you in the Philippines, 

  • whether it’s obtaining a job, 
  • getting a promotion at work, 
  • finding more trading partners, or 
  • even making new acquaintances.

However, the Philippines’ work system is not as efficient as other countries because it is a developing country. But the primary advantage of working here is the relatively low living expenses! Additionally, ex-pats receive increased salaries. 

11. Speech Shadowing

If you commit 15 to 30 minutes daily to the study in six months, you’ll have a firm foundation in Tagalog.

Immersing oneself in Tagalog whenever you can is indeed the quickest approach to mastering the language.

Read aloud while you are alone listening to a session. Then, reread, after which increases the speed. Repeat this process until you can talk more swiftly.

Tip: Use speech shadowing and pronounce the conversations out loud as you hear these. It promotes the connections necessary for creating Tagalog words in your brain.

To learn more, you can also see our posts on Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Spanish.


So, while learning Tagalog has its challenges and difficulties, learning the language is not impossible. 

If you decide to study this language, use all the helpful tools, including free instructional websites, individual tutors, and premium app subscriptions.

Rest assured that you can fit it into your busy life with visits to the Philippines!