Dear Mr. Criswell,
There are a number of very good Tagalog (the most widely distributed Philippine language) on the internet. I am sure that a few musical terms wold be easy enough to use and apply with him, especially if you have the chance to meet with him one-on-one from time to time. Many people in the Philippines also have a basic Spanish vocabulary, too. Did he study formally in the Philippines, or did he participate in one of the many folk ensembles that they have there? Philippine kids often have very rich musical backgrounds, and they do exceedingly well in rote learning situations. The complexity of some of the forms and rhythms from that part of the world are simply incredible, but notation is often not the way that they have learned. The other thing that comes to mind is if the other kids are receiving him well. If he has a friend in the section who can reinforce the ideas you are trying to teach him, he will come along much quicker. Linguistically, a youngster put in a situation where they must learn an entirely new tongue will undergo a period known as the “silent period” in which they will verbally withdraw while their brain process all the new information. Musical study is one of the places in which youngsters undergoing this phenomenon tend to feel the best. I would suggest emphasizing the symbol rather than the term for a while and see if this helps. Please let us know about the progress of your percussionist!