Connections Through Teaching Tagalog

Marie Urquidi, the author of DLI Parent books, a series of Dual Language Immersion books teaching both children and parents Tagalog (Filipino). Starting this series during the pandemic, her goal was to introduce Tagalog to her children while keeping the cost of learning affordable and the time committed to learning flexible. She shares a bit about her story with us today.

Photo Credit: Marie Uriquidi

What inspired you to start such a unique business? What’s the story behind DLI books?

“Necessity is the mother of invention” – Unknown.

When a Spanish dual language immersion program began in our school district, I quickly enrolled my children. I value what bilingualism offers the individual and society, so it was important for me to raise my children to become bilingual even though I only speak English.  

Why bilingualism? Well, an individual who can speak multiple languages has an opportunity to connect with more communities around the world. And while many people know English as a second language, particularly when you travel to other countries, a more profound connection can be made when you speak the same language. Speaking a second language can change your way of thinking and your approach to life.

Also, learning your heritage language can help with your self-esteem. Even though I initially focused on building Spanish books, I wanted to connect my children to Filipino culture. Part of me felt guilty that I wasn’t passing on my heritage while they were learning Spanish.

I feel a generation of young Filipino families will lose their connection to the Philippines and their culture because they didn’t learn Tagalog. I thought about my parents, who never taught me, and then I thought about my children. We still have my parents, and my kids are fortunate to have them in their lives. I want my books to inspire and enable families like us to try and connect to their culture by having their children learn Tagalog. Being together and doing things as a family is something that’s important to me.  While learning Apps and TV Shows are great resources for learning, nothing beats quality family time. And I want my parents and children to be able to have Tagalog learning as a special thing they do together.

How long has DLI been around?

I began my first book at the height of the pandemic when my children’s education abruptly moved online. They were fully immersed in Spanish when they were in school because their teachers only spoke in Spanish—and being immersed in a language forces kids to pay attention and respond in Spanish, which I think is a great way to learn. Unfortunately, I couldn’t offer the same experience with my limited high-school level Spanish when we had digital learning.

I intended my books to be used simply as a tool that engages conversation by using a script and phonetic translations. It all started because my kids were home more, and I wanted something that would make me feel comfortable and support me as I tried to speak Spanish or Tagalog. The books went live on Amazon a few months ago, but I’ve been developing them for over a year.  I’ve had to test and redesign them before I launched what you see today. 

What feedback have you gotten from clients/parents?

I’ve met many people who are just like me where they grew up with their parents speaking a second language, but they weren’t taught it. I’ve also met people that can understand their heritage language but aren’t confident in speaking it. Overall, people have responded to my books very well, and it’s all based on the user’s goals and intent. Users who are monolingual English found that having a script helped them talk with their child. Moreover, it encourages parents to practice the language themselves. 

I also have an example where a Spanish-speaking grandma loved the book because she wasn’t an educator, and the book enabled her to ask questions in ways a teacher would prompt a student. She used it as tool and it guided her to have educational conversations with her grandchild.

The best feedback I’ve gotten is from teachers and staff who support this material because it encourages parents to engage their children in a second language. It also removes the fear of monolingual parents who are unsure of teaching their child a second language. Hopefully they see the value in trying to learn a second language themselves.

What challenges have you encountered while running DLI?

My biggest challenge is time. I’m a one-woman show. While I work with people to do the illustrations, translations, and editing on the books, I still can’t make these books fast enough. 

I’m still building my Reader Level books which are fully scripted scenes for parents and children to read together. My current Primary Level books are for young children that rely on parents modeling most of the second language while the child will repeat simple phrases. The first book that will be out will focus around food, so it would be like conversations at the table; going out for ice cream; or ordering a donut. They’re all scenes that can be read out loud to each other in a way that is fun.

Above all, I think my biggest challenge with running my own business is social media. I’ve never shared much on my social media accounts, so creating content for my own business accounts is a daily struggle. I’m learning that a solid social media presence is vital for business, so it’s a hurdle I must overcome.

What’s next for DLI? What direction do you see it going in the next year or so?

The great thing about books is that they don’t expire; they just improve. I want to update my current books with QR codes so that people can link to an audio snippet of the phrase they’re trying to say in my books. I can’t make any promises of when this will happen, but hopefully next year.

Ultimately, my Reader Level books are essential, especially after I met several families with older children that could use these books. I hope to have it ready by Spring.

I’m also creating my first bilingual Picture Book, which would be perfect for bedtime. That’s currently in the works.

Are there future events/collaborations you’d like to share?

I can’t report on any events/collaborations at this time, but I am delighted to do them! Anyone can connect with me through my website, and I welcome any ideas for collaboration.  

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