The UNLV Filipinx American Student Association (FASA) is sending around a petition and survey as part of Operation Salita, a campaign to get a Tagalog language course on campus.
“Salita” means “speak” in Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Tagalog was cited as the third most common non-English language spoken in U.S. homes in 2019. Data USA states that Tagalog is the second most common non-English language spoken in Nevada households in 2020.
“We named our campaign Operation Salita because we wanted people to be able to speak their language and speak their truths,” said FASA President Leora Dumanlang.
The survey is to collect data and demographic information to support the campaign and demonstrate the desire for a Tagalog language course at UNLV when meeting with important parties to make the course a reality.
Anyone is eligible to sign the petition and fill out the survey.
“The reason why we’re getting a Tagalog course isn’t just for Filipinos. It’s for everybody. So for people who are wanting to learn more about our language, about our culture, they will have this opportunity open for them,” said FASA Cultural & Political Affairs Chair Jacques Millan.
The Operation Salita Committee within FASA leads the campaign, with both Dumanlang and Millan as committee members.
Dumanlang is uncertain about how soon Tagalog classes can be available for students because the process of adding new courses is hidden from students. However, she hopes that classes can be offered as soon as next semester if the committee can find a professor to teach them and if funds are available.
This isn’t the first time FASA has tried to get a Tagalog course on campus. In October 2021, the Department of World Languages and Cultures gave its backing to FASA for the idea and FASA started the campaign for the first time. A month later, the department rejected the proposal due to a lack of funding.
Dumanlang is optimistic about their second try. She mentioned that the committee has connected with Assemblywoman Erica Mosca, the first Filipina assemblywoman in Nevada, to help jumpstart the campaign.
“I think just making it known and trying to make those connections so that we can get those resources will actually help us get to our goal faster now than before,” said Dumanlang.
Dumanlang and Millan stress the importance of representation and inclusivity as the biggest reasons for getting a Tagalog course at UNLV.
“We have Spanish, we have Japanese, like we have all these different languages but Tagalog isn’t even on the list, even though the majority of our [Asian American Pacific Islander] population here is Filipino,” said Dumanlang.
According to the Office of Decision Support, 17.4% of UNLV students in the fall 2021 semester are Asian and/or Pacific Islander. This is about 5,000 students on campus.
“It’ll help people get that touch of culture that a lot of people are missing,” said Millan. “I feel like people who had migrated into the U.S. and a lot of Filipino-Americans tend to lose that sense of culture within losing our language and just kind of assimilating into the U.S. society and our norms. So just by having this language course, I feel like we’ll help a lot of people connect again with their community that they haven’t really connected with in a long time.”
The survey and petition can be found on UNLV FASA’s Instagram @unlvfasa in their bio