Tagalog, officially standardized as Filipino, is the co-national language of the Philippines alongside English. It’s the first language of the Tagalog people, who make up one fourth of the Philippines’s population, and is closely related to several other native languages within the Philippines.
As well as the first language of Tagalog people, it’s the second language of most of the Filipino population.
The following facts explore the history, distribution, and structure of the Filipino Tagalog language. This fascinating language, spoken by over sixty million people as a first or second language, deserves to be learned about!
A Few Facts about Filipino Tagalog
1. Filipino Tagalog is highly intelligible with several other Filipino languages
These include several language groups such as the Bikol languages of the Bicol Peninsula, the Bisayan languages of Visayas, southern Luzon, northeastern Mindanao, and Sulu, the Mansakan languages of the Davao region, and the Manide-Ingata language continuum.
2. It’s also (to a lesser extent) related to many foreign languages
This includes Hawai’ian, Malay, Māori, and Formosan Taiwanese amongst others.
3. Though students are taught in their mother tongue in primary school, secondary school instruction switches to Filipino Tagalog and English
Children start to learn both languages alongside their mother tongue in the second grade.
4. The US has an extremely high number of Filipino Tagalog speakers as a first language
In general, it is the fourth most spoken non-English at-home language, following Spanish, French (and its varieties like Creole), and Chinese (both Cantonese and Mandarin). In urban areas, it beats out French languages to become the third-place most spoken non-English language in homes.
5. There are large communities of first-language Filipino speakers in several other countries
Tagalog is the main language of large communities in Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and Malaysia, amongst others.
6. In cities and corporate lingo, “Taglish” and “Englog” are often used
These are code-switched versions of Tagalog or English where both languages are mixed in casual conversation. This includes nouns (such as “mall”) and verb or conjugation switches. It’s very common in television, movies, and print media. A special variant called Swardspeak is used specifically by LGBT+ communities.
7. Filipino Tagalog has gone through a number of alphabetical changes
Pre-Spanish colonization, it was written in the segmental abugita script and the Babayan script. Since the 1500s, Tagalog has used Latin letters, though the alphabet system has changed multiple times. The Abecedario, using Spanish orthography, contained between 28 and 32 letters depending on the writer!
Since 1987 (and modernized again in 2013), Filipino Tagalog has used a 28-letter alphabet system which matches the English system with two extra letters. The letters are named the same as in English (except the extra ones!) and usually pronounced the same way. The alphabet is below along with standard pronunciations.
|C||/k/ or /s/||Call or city|
|F||/f/ or /p/||Foot or pool|
|G||/g/, /dʒ/, /h/||Goal or outage or head|
|J||/dʒ/, /h/||Goat or hole|
|S||/s/ or /z/||Silence, treasure|
|V||/v/ or /b/||Vivid, bank|
|X||/ks/ or /h/||Rex or hold|
|Z||/z/ or /s/||Zip or memorize|
There are also several diagraphs (combinations of two letters) that can make other sounds, such as “ch” for “church” in English.
8. Filipino Tagalog uses many loan words from other languages.
These are some examples from the major influences
|Filipino word||Meaning||Spanish word||Meaning|
|Distrungká||To force open a door or lock||Destroncar||To hack away at something|
|Kantá||To sing||Cantar||To sing|
|Pasá||To pass (an exam)||Pasar||To pass (physically)|
|Preperá||To prepare||Preperar||To prepare|
|Pundi||To melt or merge||Fundir||To burn out|
|Filipino word||English word||Traditional Tagalog word|
|Filipino word||Meaning||Malay word||Meaning|
|Kulambo||Mosquito net||Kelambu||Mosquito net|
|Tanghali||Noon or midday||Tengah + Hari||Half + day|
|Balisa||Restless or fidgety||Belisa||Restless or fidgety|
|Filipino word||Meaning||Sanskrit word||Meaning|
|Basa||To read||Vaca||Voice or speech|
|Diwata||Fairy or goddess||Devata||Deity or divinity|
|Hiwaga||Mystery or miracle||Vihaga||Bird|
|Filipino word||Meaning||Tamil word||Meaning|
|Gulay||Vegetable||Kulai||Well-cooked or pulped|
|Tupa||Sheep||Āṭṭu-p-paṭṭi||Flock of sheep|
|Baril||Gun or to shoot with a gun||Veḍil||Explosion|
Arabic and Persian
|Salabat||Ginger tea||Sharbah||Soft drink|
|Salapi||Coin or money||Ṣarf||To pay or earn|
|Salamat||Thank you||Salāmah||Thank you|
|Filipino word||Meaning||Hokkien word||Meaning|
|Bimpo||Face towel||Bīn-pǒ||Face towel|
|Ginto||Gold (element)||Kim-tiâu||Gold bar|
|Lawlaw||Dangling or sagging||Laû||Old|
Filipino Tagalog was also heavily influenced by Japanese (in words such as bonsay from bonsai) and Nahuatl (such as mecate, from mecatl via Spanish mecate, meaning rope)
9. Tagalog has many dialects
The primary dialects are: Bataan, Batangas, Bulacan, Lubang, Manila, Marinduque, Tanay–Paete (Rizal-Laguna), and Tayabas (Quezon)
10. Philippine braille uses the same template as English grade 1 braille
Letters like ng are instead written as diagraphs.
One of the world’s major languages, Filipino Tagalog is an essential part of Filipino culture, and learning about it is the first step in understanding their culture. This covers both the Philippines in general and the Tagalog people. After all, learning a language is the key to knowledge!