Whenever any parent plans to move, kids are always a primary concern. Whether you are moving across town, or moving across the world, you have to worry about the kids, right? Well, not always!
One thing that I hear from people day in and day out is that they are concerned about moving to the Philippines, because their kids can’t speak Tagalog, Bisaya, or whatever dialect is most used in the Province where they would like to live. I am here to tell you that you should not be concerned about this particular issue! Of course, to a degree it depends on the age of your children. But, young people can pick up languages very quickly, much quicker than us adults can do so!
At the time that I moved here to the Philippines, my kids were 8 years old, 3 years old and 1 month old. The one month old, of course grew up where this was home for him. He can fluently speak both English and Bisaya, as well as Tagalog. The two kids who were a bit older when we moved learned the local tongue very quickly. Just by spending time playing with their cousins, they could speak Bisaya with an amazing degree of skill in only about 30 days. Within 90 days I would say that they were fluent. For Tagalog (that is not what is widely spoken here), they learned that in school and it only took a few months to gain a fair amount of fluency in that too.
What about their English, you ask? Well, my wife and I make sure that they keep up their English skills.
We have a rule in the Martin household: If the kids are inside the house, they are only allowed to speak English! If they are outside, they can speak any language that they choose. So, this is what happens:
- At the house, they speak English! Feyma and I listen to them and make sure they speak English in the house. We listen to their use of the language and we correct them if they don’t use the language properly. So, they maintain good English proficiency.
- When they play with their friends outside the house, you can be most certain that they speak Bisaya, since most people around Davao and General Santos speak in Bisaya. It’s the language that you can be sure they speak outside!
- In school, although their lessons are primarily in English, they have one hour per day of Tagalog studies, so they learn Tagalog in school.
Language has worked out well. I believe that my kids have an advantage by being multi-lingual. Even if Tagalog and Bisaya are not languages that are widely used in the world, the ability that the kids showed in learning those languages helps them in learning other things too.
Honestly, I feel that being in a country where they speak more than one language is a huge plus for my kids!