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Is it ok to lose your language? Not for these Fil-Ams

By Dennis Clemente

NEW YORK—“Would you like to learn Filipino?”

Ask a very young Filipino-American, and you will most likely draw a blank. It’s okay. He can’t decide for himself yet.

When puberty hits, that’s when it hits them. They can’t communicate with their parents or relatives as much as they want to. Speaking only in English, they feel isolated in family gatherings or Filipino parties.

Agnes “Bing” Magtoto knows a thing or two about the frustrations of Filipino-Americans trying to learn Filipino. Since 2004, Magtoto has seen all sorts of Filipino-language learners from her basic to advanced classes. Magtoto is adjunct instructor at New York University’s Department of Social and Cultural Analysis, Asian/Pacific/American Studies Program.

Aside from Filipinos, she has had non-Filipino students who surprised her with their enthusiasm in learning the language.

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