There are three official languages in the Philippines: English, Spanish, and Filipino (Tagalog). The first two are a reflection of the colonial history of the Philippines while the third is an attempt to create a national language for The Country .

Within The Country of over 7,000 islands there are over 70 languages and dialects spoken (a language differs from a dialect when over 50% of the words differ). Cebuano is the language of the Visayas and is spoken by 52% of the population. Some of the other languages spoken within The Country are Pangasinanian, Pampango, Ilongo, Waray, and Bicolano. Among the Chinese or Filipino-Chinese population, Chinese is spoken and the children may also be learning Chinese at school.

Spanish is not widely spoken anymore. But there are many Spanish words in some dialects, such as Chabacano (the dialect of Zamboanga) and Cebuano. Tagalog has a smaller number of Spanish words.

Most Filipinos will know some English and from a non-Tagalog speaking area they will also know some Tagalog. Both languages are required in school. Some subjects use English texts and some instruction is in English especially in science and mathematics.

Manila residents often use a sort of combined language referred to as “Taglish” which, as the name indicates, is a mixture of Tagalog and English. They may say “mag-swimming tayo”, or “mag-disco tayo” where the swimming and disco are English words but the verb prefixes and person is in Tagalog. They will also tend to throw in English words from time to time or switch languages in the middle of a sentence.

Filipinos sometimes have trouble with English prepositions, tenses, numbers and genders. For example, a man may say “I must go home to my husband” or introduce his spouse by saying “he is my wife”. Such exchanges have their origin in the fact that the Philippine languages often do not distinguish genders. Filipinos also have their own way of pronouncing th so that the becomes de, these – dese, etc.

Jose Rizal pointed out in his writings that the Filipino is unable to distinguish between the sounds of F and P. The Filipino also confuses V and B in pronunciation. And as a result of the Spanish influence G is pronounced as H.

A Filipino often translates literally from his dialect into English. Thus, if a man says “I will change my dress”, it does not mean that he is a transvestite but merely that he will change his clothes. Lights and water are “opened” or “closed” rather than turned on or off. He will “get down” in the jeepney rather than get off.


The grammar is hard, but the pronunciation is easier than English. There are a lot of A sounds in English: dark, race, about, hall, cat and boat. All six words include the letter A, but all six A’s are pronounced differently. In Tagalog it is very simple, there is only one pronunciation per vowel. A as in park, E as in get, I as in big, O as in dog and U as in put. There is even a tendency to simplify the pronunciation some more, so that e and i are often interchanged. One can see lalaki or lalake (man), both pronounced with the I as in big, and uminum or ominum, (drink) both pronounced with u as in put.

Tagalog consonants are generally given Spanish pronunciation. NG is pronounced as the final ng in drinking. J has an H sound. Tagalog has no C but uses K.

Most words in Tagalog are written the way they are pronounced. E.g. taxi is pronounced as tak-si, and therefore simply written taksi. So one will not be far off when pronouncing the word just as it is written.