10 Facts About Filipino Tagalog: Loans Words, Braille and Taglish

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 wordMeaningSpanish wordMeaning
DistrungkáTo force open a door or lockDestroncarTo hack away at something
KantáTo singCantarTo sing
PasáTo pass (an exam)PasarTo pass (physically)
PreperáTo preparePreperarTo prepare
PundiTo melt or mergeFundirTo burn out


Filipino wordEnglish wordTraditional Tagalog word
BolpenBallpoint penPanulat
LowbatLow batteryN/A


Filipino wordMeaningMalay wordMeaning
KulamboMosquito netKelambuMosquito net
TanghaliNoon or middayTengah + HariHalf + day
BalisaRestless or fidgetyBelisaRestless or fidgety


Filipino wordMeaningSanskrit wordMeaning
BasaTo readVacaVoice or speech
DiwataFairy or goddessDevataDeity or divinity
HiwagaMystery or miracleVihagaBird


Filipino wordMeaningTamil wordMeaning
GulayVegetableKulaiWell-cooked or pulped
MangaaMangoMāngāiUnripe mango
TupaSheepĀṭṭu-p-paṭṭiFlock of sheep
BarilGun or to shoot with a gunVeḍilExplosion

Arabic and Persian

Filipino wordMeaningArabic/PersianMeaning
SalabatGinger teaSharbahSoft drink
SalapiCoin or moneyṢarfTo pay or earn
SalamatThank youSalāmahThank you


Filipino wordMeaningHokkien wordMeaning
BimpoFace towelBīn-pǒFace towel
BithaySieveBi-thaîRice sifter
GintoGold (element)Kim-tiâuGold bar
LawlawDangling or saggingLaûOld

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

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