Highlighting the value of Filipino language at Harvard University

(FROM left) Laurinne Eugenio batch ’26, Gabrielle Grant batch ’24, and Eleanor Wikstrom batch ’24. | PHOTOGRaPH COURTESY Of HARVARD UNIVERSITY/niles singer

For the first time, Harvard University is now offering Filipino language courses starting with beginner and intermediate levels in the first semester. This will be followed by an advanced level in the spring.

Lady Aileen Orsal, a former Filipina instructor at Cavite State University, is now Harvard University’s first-ever Filipino language instructor. In a statement, Orsal said she was ecstatic to be the one teaching this new course at the prestigious university.

“I believe that it also highlights the value of language, which is one of the most commonly spoken in the US,” she said.

Orsal began teaching elementary and intermediate Filipino (Tagalog) courses beginning last fall 2023.

“It reinforces the value of our national language, even to Filipinos in the Philippines. It also acknowledges the contribution of the overseas Filipino workers, the migrants and the growing Filipino diaspora in the world,” the preceptor added.

This course would be beneficial for most students who grew up in Filipino or Filipino-American families who may or may not have been fully exposed to the beauty and intricacies of the language, she said. “Language is not just something that you use to talk to people. This is social; this is cultural, and this could be transformational for someone.”

The beginner classes would center on basic communication and the application of the Filipino language in common activities. This includes introducing oneself, giving directions and having simple conversations using the language.

Meanwhile, at the intermediate level of the subject matter, students would have a more profound understanding of the Filipino language through reading and writing activities.

Orsal, who made the Filipino community immensely proud of her career feat, affirmed that student response to the subject has been fulfilling and rewarding.

“It is a joy for me as a teacher to go beyond the grade and the classroom requirements and help a student see themselves as a global Filipino who can empower others through the language, through the culture and through being proud of their identity,” Orsal said.