The Philippines is made up of over 7000 islands with between 120 and 175 languages. With 2 national and 12 secondary languages there is a very diverse mix, that might confuse you as you come to visit.For many centuries the official language in the Philippines was Spanish. Until the first part of the 20th century, under US occupation, English was introduced into schools and in 1935 English was added to the constitution alongside Spanish as a national language.
In 1937 steps were taken to develop a national language based on one of the existing native languages. Tagalog was chosen as the base language and, in 1973 the Government proclaimed Tagalog as the National language and named it Filipino. Together with English these are the 2 primary official languages.
And here is where the confusion sets in: Filipino’s will speak these languages only in official setting, among friends and family they will speak any native tongue they are used to speak in daily live. Mostly one of those 175 dialects.
Filipino is almost exclusively composed of Tagalog as spoken in the Manila region. Tagalog is spoken as a first language by nearly a third of the population of the Philippines and as a second language by the remainder.
Filipino is the official language of education. Most Filipinos, especially in urban areas, can speak a decent level of English. This might be reassuring for visitors, and definitely helps foreigners to find their way around. But Filipino is the major language. And it might come in handy to speak this language. Cinema and broadcast media all use Filipino but print media relies more on English.
There are 13 secondary languages in the Philippines that each have over one million native speakers. These are:
- Albay bikol
There are hundreds of dialects found in the Philippines, with variations occurring between towns on the same island. While there are many native speakers most Filipinos speak a little bit of English and you will often hear a mix of English and a Filipino language.
Learning a foreign language is a challenge for everyone, but being able to communicate in the Philippines will help me get the most out of my visit there.
Must be Easy, I thought, since the language is a mix of Spanish, English and something else. Spanish and English are two languages I speak almost fluently, it’s the ‘something else’-bit that I need to comprehend. So I bought myself a Tagalog language booklet and I watch Tagalog movies and try to read the online newspapers.
As for now, after two weeks I might say: It’s a difficult language.
And I’m very glad I’ve started my language study early in the process of leaving.
Do you want to study Tagalog? Take a look at some study books to help you with Tagalog.