A Teacher From Cavite Just Became Harvard University's First-Ever Tagalog Instructor

Lady Aileen Orsal used to teach at Cavite State University. Now, she's a member of the Harvard community.

Last March 2023, it was announced that Harvard University was set to offer courses in Tagalog for the first time in its roughly 400-year history. Candidates for the preceptor for Tagalog were asked to apply, as well.

Now, the university has finally found its first-ever instructor, a teacher from Cavite named Lady Aileen Orsal, the Harvard University Asia Center and the Department of South Asian Studies announced.

“We are extremely happy to welcome Lady Aileen Orsal to the Harvard community,” said James Robson, Victor and William Fung Director at Harvard University Asia Center in a report. “We look forward to working with her to develop, highlight, and showcase the richness and variety of the history and cultures of the Philippines through events on the Harvard campus.”


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

Orsal will be teaching the inaugural language course, making history as the first instructor to do so. She previously studied Journalism and taught at Cavite State University before pursuing postgraduate studies elsewhere. In 2018, the teacher started teaching the Filipino language as a Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant at the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at Northern Illinois University, where she is currently taking up Communication Studies for her Master's Degree. She also holds a PhD in Philippine Studies Language, Media, and Culture from De La Salle University.

The Tagalog language course will fall under the Department of South Asian Studies for the academic year 2023 to 2024. This was said to have been part of the university's goals to bolster its Southeast Asian Studies program. As it stands, there is only one course on the Philippines that is taught at the school, and is part of offerings under its Southeast Asian history course. Harvard was said to have received $1 million in funding from the Asia Center's budget for the new positions.


“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 at the time.

In the U.S., Tagalog remains the fourth-most spoken language, trailing only English, Spanish, and Chinese.

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