Harvard Will Offer the First Tagalog Language Course in the University's History

Tagalog is the fourth most spoken language in the United States, after all.

Harvard University will now be teaching Tagalog for the first time in its roughly 400-year history, the university's student publication announced.

“We’re very excited and hopeful that these positions will be a game-changer in terms of the Asia Center’s long-term mission to build Southeast Asian studies at Harvard, as well as the university’s engagement with the region,” Executive Director Elizabeth K. Liao wrote in an email to The Crimson.

The Tagalog language course will be part of the Department of South Asian Studies. Harvard will be hiring three preceptors to teach Bahasa Indonesian, Thai, and Tagalog starting in the academic year 2023 to 2024. The university was said to have received $1 million in funding from the Asia Center's budget for the new positions.

As the fourth-most spoken language in the United States, Tagalog is part of the university's efforts to establish its Southeast Asian Studies department in the long run. There is currently only one course on the Philippines that is taught at the university, which is part of its offerings on Southeast Asian history.


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Associate Director for Southeast Asia Programs at the Asia Center Jorde Espada added that they noticed a lack of Southeast Asian studies and language course offerings upon conducting a survey of the resources at Harvard. This made it all the more important to add localized teachings of such languages. Most Southeast Asian languages are only taught in a tutorial format as part of the Department of South Asian Studies.


Harvard Philippine Forum (HPF) co-president Eleanor V. Wikstorm applauded the move. In 2021, Wikstorm wrote an op-ed in the publication criticzing the university's lack of offerings in the Tagalog language. “We’re working against a historical memory that is actively erasing the understanding of the importance of the Filipino-American relationship,” the Crimson editorial chair noted.

Meanwhile, HPF Co-President Marcky C. Antonio expressed his elation about the news, saying that it was "a big win for the Filipino community back home." He hopes that the push will facilitate more academic exchanges between Harvard and the Philippines moving forward.

Interested candidates in the Preceptor in Filipino (Tagalog) position may see the job description here.

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