The Filipino-American Student Union, also known as FASU, has been a powerful force on Gonzaga University’s campus, educating the community about Filipino culture and tradition. One of the newest, most exciting things FASU has done is they became the driving force behind the creation of a new language class, Tagalog 101.  

Ryan Liam has been a part of FASU since freshman year and became an officer in his junior year. He believes it’s extremely important for Tagalog to be implemented into GU’s language department. 

“To be quite frank, I am scared the language will die out,” Liam said in an email “In the Philippines, it is more important to learn English than Tagalog, and the more educated you get in the Philippines, the less encouraged it is to speak Tagalog. In order to pass down more of the culture, we think it is important to learn the language so basically the culture won’t die with us.” 

GU currently offers nine languages: Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Greek, Latin and Spanish. The introduction of Tagalog is an opportunity for students to learn something new. The class will kick off its pilot semester in the spring. 

Ronnie Estoque is one of the culinary officers in FASU and has been actively involved since his sophomore year. He was one of the driving forces behind making Tagalog a class that could be accessible to the student body. 

“I decided that Tagalog needed to be a language offering at Gonzaga last spring,” Estoque said. “I had sent out a survey to gather data that could support the proposal I was making to the department of modern languages. I was able to receive a significant amount of responses from members of FASU, alumni and other community members interested in taking the course if offered.” 

Estoque created the survey to gauge the student interest for the Tagalog class. FASU helped distribute the survey and encouraged people to fill it out.  

Turning the idea into a reality was hard work and a team effort. First, Estoque presented the idea to FASU, then presented it to the board of the modern language department. Then, Google forms were created to gauge student interest. After that, Estoque, Hanah Singco, Abby Marquez, Kaeli Flores and Liam created a presentation for the modern language department. The final presentation was presented by FASU president Flores and Estoque.  

Estoque believes that the creation of this class is in line with GU’s mission and that the university should offer language courses that reflect what students want and need.  

“Gonzaga has a mission statement that discusses values such as intercultural competence, and most of the languages offered are European,” Estoque said. “I believe that it is important to see the representation of my own culture and language within the courses offered at this institution. We all deserve representation, and Tagalog will allow students to connect with their culture.”

The introduction of this class also creates an opportunity to learn something new for those who are curious about Filipino culture and Tagalog.   

“It also serves as a space for students that may be curious about learning Filipino culture as we comprise a significant portion of the immigrant population in the U.S.,” Estoque said. “We envision Tagalog to be a language that any student can decide to learn, especially students from the College of Arts and Sciences that need to satisfy their language requirement for graduation.”

The department of modern languages was responsive to the hard work FASU had put into making Tagalog 101 into a reality. The dynamic between FASU and the modern languages department helped set Tagalog 101 up for success. 

 “I was pleased to work with the department of modern languages because they saw the student interest and desire for this program,” Estoque said. “Dr. Isabelli was extremely supportive of my efforts to get this program up and rolling.”

The chair of the modern languages department, Christina Isabelli, helped them work out instructors and class times. Isabelli has worked at GU since fall 2017 and is an external chair for the modern language department, and teaches mostly Spanish, as well as linguistics classes. 

When Isabelli is presented with an idea for a new language class, she has to know what the student interest is, as well as the faculty interest.  

“The first thing as chair that I need to know is if we open a section, we want it to be a robust enrollment. And usually what is considered robust or meets the standards of the College of Arts and Sciences is a minimum of eight students,” Isabelli said. 

This year, they have implemented a new process for these prospective classes so that the process would be more transparent. Anyone can request to create a class whether its a student or faculty member. 

Obviously, language classes are a time commitment. Most are four credits. Isabelli needed to see that there would not only be a faculty and student interest but free time for students to be able to actually take the class. After Estoque presented, both of those needs were met. 

“So there we were, there’s 18 of us around the table listening to [them], and after they left, we had a discussion where it was also brought up among the faculty that Tagalog is No. 2 or 3 of the languages spoken at home in this region,” Isabelli said. “None of the local institutions or regional institutions offer it.”

Isabelli believes language learning is directly tied to GU’s mission statement because it creates a way for people to expand their minds and share intercultural knowledge. 

“If we dig a little bit deeper on the intercultural knowledge that’s tied to social justice, to know, to understand, to have empathy for the other, and to suspend judgment in order to do that,” Isabelli said. “Reading about those things is great but it becomes real when you become the person that’s learning a new language.” 

Isabelli was impressed with the initiative and passion showed by FASU to make Tagalog 101 available at GU, and knows it couldn’t have been done without them. 

The modern language department has found a professor that has shown interest in teaching the class in the spring, but they have not made an announcement yet.

Jordan Tolbert is a staff writer. Follow her on Twitter: @Jordanvtolbert. 

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