Kamusta? That’s “How are you?” in Tagalog, the Philippines’ most widely spoken language! Tagalog is also the basis and foundation of the Philippines’ national language, Filipino — which is also what you call this country’s famously warm, hospitable people. That’s interesting wordplay right there, and a visit to the sun-soaked archipelago will prove that there’s far more to discover on its 7,000+ islands. But enough of the fun facts; you’re here to learn Tagalog after all.
So what’s the best way to pick up the most spoken language in the Philippines? All you have to do is download these best apps to learn Tagalog and take note of our tips from an actual native speaker. Let’s not beat around the bush — tara! That means, “Let’s go!”
Tagalog learning apps worth downloading
1. Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa
I think it’s only fitting that we begin this list with an app created by Filipinos, for foreigners and non-Tagalog speakers who would like to master the language. Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa was developed by the Dalubhasa Review Center, a learning centre with the primary focus of preparing students for college entrance exams of the Philippines’ top universities.
To honour the country’s annual “Buwan ng Wika” or National Language Month, Dalubhasa Review Center released two apps, Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa and Easy Tagalog by Dalubhasa. Essentially the contents are the same; the only difference is the theme. Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa boasts of a “Washed Theme”, while Easy Tagalog by Dalubhasa comes in a classic red look. Through these apps, you can easily learn Tagalog grammar and grasp the basics to eventually take on a conversational tone.
That said, you can rest easy knowing that the people behind this app’s modules are experts in Tagalog. Trivia: the Filipino word “dalubhasa” translates to “expert” in English! Perhaps that’s what you’ll be after you finish their Tagalong learning course. *wink*
What to expect
The Dalubhasa Review Center Tagalog app features five pillars or stages: The Basics 1, The Basics 2, Advanced, Expat, and Native. Since it was designed by educators and reviewers, you can expect a school-like setting, where you’re somehow forced to absorb the basics rather than just providing you with phrases to parrot.
Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa kickstarts its program by enriching your vocabulary. You’ll be eased into the language with elementary words such as colours, numbers, time, pronouns, and conjunctions. Once you get used to the definitions as well as proper pronunciation, which will be guided by an audio feature, you’ll be introduced to basic phrases, expressions, and useful sentences — all while improving your word bank.
What comes next are the different rules of the language; you’ll definitely learn Tagalog grammar here. Learn Tagalog by Dalubhasa covers the basics and gradually transitions to the colloquial setting, to make its students more confident when conversing in Tagalog.
Price: The initial download is FREE and this comes with access to 21 categories under Basics 1 and Basics 2. For access to the entire program, which includes practise exams, users make a one-time payment of PHP785 ($15).
It’s difficult to say which Tagalog learning app is best for iPhone (or even Android, for the matter), but we have to admit Mondly comes pretty close. Instead of bombarding you with a gazillion words to memorise, Mondly goes the practical route. It lets users test their aptitude for the language they want to study by diving right into conversations.
The methodology was developed by taking into consideration how we actually pick up languages in real life, as opposed to how we were taught languages in school. The Mondly experience boasts of a combination of the best practices in linguistics, studies in neural science, and the latest technological trends. The cherry on top, though, is how its exercises are so quick and fun, users can squeeze them in the busiest of schedules.
What to expect
The app’s cutting-edge technology gives new meaning to Mondly’s “learn-by-doing” principle. It’s common knowledge that language learners need to converse, but you can’t expect people to be at your beck and call each time you’re ready to have a practise conversation. That’s where mondlyVR comes in. With this unique feature, you can practise conversing in Tagalog anywhere, anytime — and it’s as close to a real conversation as you can get. Sure, it will seem like you’re just talking to your gadget but Mondly requires access to your mic so that it can assess your pronunciation through advanced speech recognition.
Another thing to expect from Mondly is its flexibility. Your daily Tagalong lessons can be as short as 10 minutes per session. You can opt to zero in on specific topics, with conversations ranging from what you’d normally say in a bank or airport to must-know phrases for emergencies!
Mondly also makes use of adaptive learning, which means the app is smart enough to track your progress so that it can customise your Tagalog modules as you go along. The best part? If you’re not a native English speaker, you can learn Tagalog from your native language. Mondly teaches Tagalog with over 30 other languages, so fingers crossed they have a Mondly Tagalog module in your native tongue.
Price: The initial download is FREE and this comes with a seven-day trial. You can even head to the Mondly website right now to get a feel of its interactive lessons. But to unlock all of its features, you’ll have to purchase a premium account. It’s typically PHP546.99 (~$11) for a month, but if you choose to sign up to learn Tagalog for a year with Mondly, you’ll only pay PHP219.01 (~$4) a month.
3. Rosetta Stone
Google “learning Tagalog grammar” and you’re likely to come across Rosetta Stone. They’ve been in the business of teaching languages for over 25 years, so it does make sense that they have one of the best apps to learn Tagalog. In fact, many new language learners highly recommend signing up for Tagalog lessons with Rosetta Stone and just supplementing the sessions with a basic textbook or maybe even a teleserye (Tagalog slang for television series).
But its longstanding status isn’t the only thing going for Rosetta Stone. They’ve stayed among the top options for mastering languages all these years because they’re known for championing literacy. Rosetta Stone doesn’t only teach you a few basic phrases to use for one trip to the Philippines; their Tagalog program aims to sharpen reading comprehension, writing, and conversation skills.
What to expect
Years of linguistics expertise and an award-winning app (PCMag named it “Best Language Learning Software” for seven years straight!) make Rosetta Stone a failsafe option if you want to learn Tagalog and speak it long-term. Their app boasts of a patented speech recognition feature called TruAccent as well as its copyrighted conversation simulator, DynamicImmersion. Geek speak aside, you’ll enjoy a user-friendly interface that keeps lessons interesting with fun games.
Aside from these top-of-the-line tech features, Rosetta Stone offers live lectures and live coaching! That’s right — you have the option to talk to an actual native speaker. If a learn Tagalog podcast is more your thing, you can also use the app’s built-in “audio companion”. Give your eyes a break; listen to your daily module instead of being glued to the screen. Perhaps one of the most convenient features of the Rosetta Stone app is it also works offline. Loyal users attest that it runs smoothly whether or not you’re connected to Wi-Fi. What’s not to love?
Price: Another thing to love about Rosetta Stone Tagalog is its flexible price points. Spend ~PHP600 ($11.99) per month for three months of learning Tagalog or avail a lifetime package that allows you to learn any language Rosetta Stone offers for ~PHP15,129 ($299), all-in!
Let us clarify one of the most-asked questions about learning Tagalog in the modern-day setting: Tagalog Duolingo doesn’t exist, but we have a pretty good alternative. If you’re not new to mastering a second language, you’ve probably heard of Memrise. Another crowd favourite, Memrise is known for video snippets that let you hear from native speakers as well as a creative look and interface that over 50 million users enjoy worldwide. If you want to witness the true-to-life nuances of the Filipino language, you’re in luck. Memrise Tagalog should do the trick.
What to expect
While other apps focus on building a foundation of basic sentences, Memrise is the best digital buddy for memorising handy Tagalog words and phrases. Aside from good ol’ flashcards, Memrise employs helpful footage in a video series they call “Learn from Locals”. Here, you’ll get a glimpse of native speakers in their locale, effectively giving genuine context to words and phrases you’ll learn along the way. Every local you “meet” through Memrise will present modules that should help you improve your Tagalog. You’ll hear the proper diction, see locals’ facial expressions, and even spot a bit of the Philippines. Perfect for those looking for travel inspiration!
Through Memrise Tagalong, you’ll enrich your vocabulary unknowingly by getting through a barrage of challenges that tests your speed, listening skills, and even your knowledge of intermediate words. You can even keep audio recordings of yourself speaking Tagalog and consult the Memrise app if your pronunciation still needs work. Memrise Tagalog even offers courses that you won’t find anywhere else, from “Animal noises” to “Colloquial shortcuts” and “Expressions of time”. The best part? Basic sessions will only take five minutes of your day.
Price: Absolutely FREE, unless you go for Memrise Pro, which unlocks all of the Memrise program’s features and helpful language exercises. There are three plans to choose from: ~PHP455 ($8.99) for one month, ~PHP337 ($6.67) per month for a year, or lifetime access for a one-time payment of ~PHP10,119 ($199.99). Not bad!
More than just a digital tool for picking up key phrases and words, Pimsleur is a well-known language method that’s backed by science. You see, the method was developed by Dr. Paul Pimsleur, a celebrated researcher, teacher, and foreign languages expert. His foolproof way of learning a new language is the backbone of Pimsleur, and this is why it’s also considered among the best apps to learn Tagalog!
Although some may consider it a tad aggressive, Pimsleur believes that they would be a perfect fit for you if “you’ve tried other methods like Rosetta Stone and weren’t impressed”. Rosetta Stone courses are also based on foreign languages studies, but users agree that Pimsleur is THE go-to for Tagalog learners who have more time to spare. Its Tagalog course, for example, runs for an estimate of 32 hours.
What to expect
Signing up for Pimsleur means buckling down for a lot of listening sessions. You’ll be lending your ear to native speakers most of the time, which is a sure way of assuring you ace diction and pronunciation. While other Tagalog learning apps take less than 15 minutes a day, Pimsleur will demand at least 30 minutes of your time per session. Fret not, though. This is time well spent because the Pimsleur method teaches you to hold your own in an actual conversation — not just blurt out keywords to express a vague idea. From vocabulary and grammar, it will ease you into levels that will boost verbal and reading comprehension.
Rest assured, all sessions using the Pimsleur app are perfectly timed. They allow your brain to adjust to mindful repetitions of core words and Tagalog grammar rules so that the information stays with you long-term. So here’s a tip when using the Pimsleur app: No cheating! Take your lessons one after the other because they’re designed to maximise an adult brain’s language learning progression.
Price: Make a one-time payment of PHP15,200 ($300) for the entire Pimsleur Tagalog course, which includes Pimsleur Tagalog Levels 1-2 Premium.
6. Learn Tagalog With Master Ling
Mastering any new language should be simple, easy, and fun. That’s what this next entry is all about. Learn Tagalog With Master Ling makes use of a game interface that lets you polish your skills with dialogue sessions and exercises for beginners and advanced learners.
What to expect
Compared to all the other apps on this list, Learn Tagalog With Master Ling is probably the one that will take up the least amount of time in your day. Much like Duolingo, its sessions may last only 10 minutes, depending on your skills and reading comprehension. If you’re looking for a supplementary app that will force you to have fun in Tagalog, so to speak, then this is a must-download.
You can learn the basics and add to your Tagalog word bank through puzzles, flashcards, and quizzes. Eventually, you’ll make your way to writing exercises and pronunciation assessment. You’ll be speaking Tagalog in no time!
Price: Absolutely FREE — probably the strongest suit of Learn Tagalog With Master Ling. This makes it the perfect stepping stone to Tagalog, or a fun companion app for a long-term language learning course you’re already taking.
Best way to learn Tagalog
You have the app (or apps), but what else can you do to speed up the learning process? While methods like Mondly, Rosetta Stone, and Pimsleur are sure to ingrain you with the solid foundation you need to speak and understand Tagalog like a local, there are other ways to ensure a firm grasp of the language. Here are a few tips.
1. Visit websites to further sharpen your Tagalog skills
Like I said, it’s great that you’re armed with the best apps to learn Tagalog, but having supplemental materials won’t hurt. Aside from apps, there are many Tagalog learning websites that serve as rich resources for learning the language. Some websites lead you to Youtube accounts that offer an archive of video tutorials. Others boast of their own Tagalog course, while some highlight their very own Learn Tagalog podcast that’s perfect for those who prefer to listen than watch. Keep these websites bookmarked if you’re on a mission to master Tagalog:
- Fluent in 3 Months with Benny the Irish Polyglot
- Learning Tagalog
2. Watch Tagalog, read Tagalog books, listen to Tagalong songs
While studying cultural heritage research and documentation at university, my professor gave us homework that surprised me: “Watch a Spanish telenovela”. So for the entire semester, I was to get hooked on any Spanish show and finish it from start to end like a true-blue fanatic. He asked us to do this so that we would acclimatise to the Spanish language, which was very prominent in the Philippines’ historical documents.
I know this tactic works because I can now understand a few Korean words after months of being on a steady diet of Korean dramas! Don’t believe me? This Filipino entertainment website is a treasure trove of Tagalog shows. Take your pick and let us know how it goes! If you’re more of a bookworm, be my guest and buy a book instead. And if music suits your groove better, put on a Tagalog song or two!
3. Invest in a Tagalog dictionary
If you like to kick it old-school, go for a printed edition of any Tagalog dictionary of your choice. But if you’re a penny-saver like me, there are a lot of digital dictionaries that you can access online free-of-charge. The Tagalog Dictionary, for example.
4. Make Filipino friends, if you haven’t yet
You can learn all the Filipino words you want with the best apps to learn Tagalog, but if you don’t practise it regularly, then your efforts will all go to waste. Think of it as a muscle; you have to keep working on it to build it. Eventually, you’ll get enough definition to flex it anywhere you go.
So how do you practise a language? Use it in actual conversations. Yes, that means you have to make friends with Filipinos, if you haven’t yet. Among the top tips to learn Tagalog, this is probably my favourite because it bridges communication gaps quite nicely. We can all benefit from being a little more human in our day-to-day interactions, especially when we face computer and phone screens most hours of the day. A lot of people say that Filipinos are among the friendliest and warmest people they come across, too. But I’ll leave that to you to find out for yourself!
5. Never go a day without opening one of the best apps to learn Tagalog
To cap these top tips for learning Tagalog, here’s a reminder: Don’t let your Tagalog apps go unused, especially if you paid for them! Make the most out of every buck you spent by maximising the learning experience and opening the app as often as you can. Make it a part of your routine! If you opted for one that’s free, then just keep in mind that every app you don’t use is wasted storage space on your gadget.
Ready to learn Tagalog today? Tara! If you can’t remember that we already discussed what that means, you better work on your word retention. Good luck!