When I was 13, I dreamed of being a polyglot.
The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English, however, Filipino is not the language I am learning. I am learning Ilocano. Ilocano is a Malayo-Polynesian language with about 10 million speakers around the world. Here in the Philippines, it is spoken in the northern half of Luzon as well as the Babuyan Islands, Mindoro, and parts of Mindanao. It’s also the third most spoken non-English language in Hawaii after Tagalog and Japanese.
Northern Luzon is made up of many different tribes with different languages. Members of the Ilocano tribe were the major traders in the region making the language more widespread. Internal migration has also lead to the spread of the Ilocano language.
I have found Ilocano to be a very interesting language. The history of the Philippines is evident in some parts of the language. It is clear to see when concepts or things were introduced based on words used. Spanish words are used as well as words from Tagalog and English.
In Santiago City, you can find Tagalog and Ilocano speakers. At the diocesan center, however, Ilocano is the language most commonly used. It is also the language used in most of the communities we travel to when doing our work for E-CARE.
Learning Ilocano has been an interesting adventure compared to my past experience of learning German, Mandarin, and Spanish. This is my first time trying to pick up a new language as an adult, with no previous knowledge of the language, and without ever having a formal class. Another obstacle is the fact that Ilocano is not a language everyone is running out to learn which means that there are few resources available and the ones I have found contradict each other. YASC and TEC provide a significant allowance to be used for language study. Some of my fellow YASCers stationed around the world have been fortunate in having the opportunity to go to a language school or get rosetta stone style programs. None of those things exist for Ilocano.
What I lack in formal instruction though, I make up for by having a wonderful community around me, helping me to learn. I have a few tutors who help me learn grammar and pronunciation. Now, I am happy to say, I am at a point where everyone is able to help me practice by talking to me in Ilocano and being patient with my responses.
The modern Ilokano Alphabet of 28 letters. However, I have also been taught by some not to include “C” and “NG” as letters.
Aa Bb Cc Dd Ee Ff Gg Hh Ii Jj Kk Ll Mm Nn Ññ NGng Oo Pp Qq Rr Ss Tt Uu Vv Ww Xx Yy Zz
And just for fun, here is the Lord’s Prayer in Ilocano.
Amami nga ada sadi langit,
Madaydayaw koma ti Naganmo.
Umay koma ti pagariam.
Maaramid koma ti pagayatam
Kas sadi langit kasta met ditoy daga.
Itedmo kadakami iti taraonmi iti inaldaw.
Ket pakawanennakami kadagiti ut-utangmi,
A kas met panamakawanmi
Kadagiti nakautang kadakami.
Ket dinakam iyeg iti pannakasulisog,
No di ket isalakannakami iti dakes.