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Languages of the Philippines

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Title: Languages of the Philippines  
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Subject: Hiligaynon language, Filipino orthography, Education in the Philippines, Kapampangan language, Malay language in the Philippines
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Languages of the Philippines

Languages of the Philippines
Map of the dominant ethnolinguistic groups of the Philippines.
Official languages Filipino (Tagalog), English
National languages Filipino[1]
Regional languages Aklanon, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Ilocano, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray-Waray, Yakan[2]
Main foreign languages Spanish, Arabic, Japanese, Chinese, Hindi, Korean, Malay
Sign languages Philippine Sign Language
Common keyboard layouts
Language map of the 12 recognized auxiliary languages based on Ethnologue maps.

There are some 120 to 175 languages in the Philippines, depending on the method of classification.[3] Four others are no longer spoken. Almost all are classified as Malayo-Polynesian languages, while one, Chavacano, is a creole derived from a Romance language. Two are official, while (as of 2015) nineteen are official auxiliary languages.[2][4] The indigenous script of Philippines (Baybayin) is no longer used; instead, Filipino languages are today written in the Latin script because of the Spanish and American colonial experience.


  • National and official languages 1
  • Indigenous languages 2
    • Mutual intelligibility 2.1
      • Dialectal variation 2.1.1
      • Philippine-language comparison chart 2.1.2
    • List of speakers per language 2.2
    • Endangered and Extinct Languages in the Philippines 2.3
      • Vulnerable Languages 2.3.1
      • Definitely Endangered 2.3.2
      • Severely Endangered 2.3.3
      • Critically Endangered 2.3.4
      • Extinct 2.3.5
  • Major non-indigenous languages 3
    • Hokkien Chinese 3.1
    • English 3.2
    • Arabic 3.3
    • Japanese 3.4
    • Malay / Indonesian 3.5
    • Spanish 3.6
      • Spanish creoles 3.6.1
    • South Asian languages 3.7
  • See also 4
  • References 5
    • Notes 5.1
    • General references 5.2
  • Further reading 6
  • External links 7

National and official languages

The 1987 Constitution declares Filipino as the national language of the country. Filipino and English are the official languages, with the recognition of the regional languages as auxiliary official in their respective regions, including Aklanon, Bikol, Cebuano, Chavacano, Hiligaynon, Ibanag, Ilocano, Ivatan, Kapampangan, Kinaray-a, Maguindanao, Maranao, Pangasinan, Sambal, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray-Waray, and Yakan. Spanish and Arabic are to be promoted on an optional and voluntary basis.[5]

Spanish was the national and official language of the country for more than three centuries under Spanish colonial rule, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1863 a Spanish decree introduced universal education, creating free public schooling in Spanish.[6] It was also the language of the Philippine Revolution, and the 1899 Malolos Constitution effectively proclaimed it as the official language of the First Philippine Republic.[7] National hero José Rizal wrote most of his works in Spanish. Luciano de la Rosa established that Spanish was spoken by a total of 60% of the population in the early 20th century as a first, second or third language. Following the American occupation of the Philippines and the imposition of English, the use of Spanish declined gradually, especially after the 1940s.

Under the U.S. occupation and civil regime, English began to be taught in schools. By 1901, public education used English as the medium of instruction. Around 600 educators (called "Thomasites") who arrived in that year aboard the USAT Thomas replaced the soldiers who also functioned as teachers. The 1935 Constitution added English as an official language alongside Spanish. A provision in this constitution also called for Congress to "take steps toward the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages." On November 12, 1937, the First National Assembly created the National Language Institute. President Manuel L. Quezón appointed native Waray-Waray speaker Jaime C. De Veyra to chair a committee of speakers of other regional languages. Their aim was to select a national language among the other regional languages. Ultimately, Tagalog was chosen as the base language December 30, 1937.[8]

In 1939, President Manuel L. Quezón renamed the Tagalog language as Wikang Pambansa ("national language" in English translation).[9] The language was further renamed in 1959 as Pilipino by Secretary of Education Jose Romero. The 1973 constitution declared the Pilipino language to be co-official, along with English, and mandated the development of a national language, to be known as Filipino. In addition, Spanish regained its official status when President Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 155, s. 1973.[10]

The present constitution, ratified in 1987, designates Filipino and English as joint official languages. Filipino also had the distinction of being a national language that was to be "developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages." Although not explicitly stated in the constitution, Filipino is in practice almost completely composed of the Tagalog language as spoken in the capital, Manila; however, organizations such as the University of the Philippines began publishing dictionaries such as the UP Diksyonaryong Filipino in which words from various Philippine languages were also included. The constitution also made mention of Spanish and Arabic, both of which are to be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.

Filipino is an official language of education and also the major language of the broadcast media and cinema, but less important than English as a language of publication (except in some domains, like comic books, which are meant to speak directly to the Filipino psyche) and less important for academic-scientific-technological discourse. Filipino is used as a lingua franca in all regions of the Philippines as well as within overseas Filipino communities, and is the dominant language of the armed forces (except perhaps for the small part of the commissioned officer corps from wealthy or upper-middle-class families) and of a large part of the civil service, most of whom are non-Tagalogs.

There are different forms of diglossia that exist in the case of regional languages. Locals may use their mother tongue or the regional lingua franca to communicate amongst themselves, but sometimes switch to foreign languages when addressing outsiders. Another is the prevalence of code-switching to English when speaking in both their first language and Tagalog.

The Constitution of the Philippines provides for the use of the vernacular languages as official auxiliary languages in provinces where Filipino is not the lingua franca. This is however not implemented as Filipinos at large are polyglots. In the case where the vernacular language is a regional language, Filipinos would speak in Filipino when speaking in formal situations while the regional languages are spoken in non-formal settings. This is evident in major urban areas outside Metro Manila like Camarines Norte in the Bikol-speaking area, and Davao in the Cebuano-speaking area. Although the case of Ilocano and Cebuano are becoming more of bilingualism than diglossia due to the publication of materials written in these languages.

The diglossia is more evident in the case of other languages such as Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Sambal, and Maranao, where the written variant of the language is becoming less and less popular to give way to the use of Filipino. Although Philippine laws consider some of these languages as "major languages" there is little, if any, support coming from the government to preserve these languages. This may be bound to change, however, given current policy trends.[11]

There still exists another type of diglossia, which is between the regional languages and the minority languages. Here, we label the regional languages as acrolects while the minority languages as the basilect. In this case, the minority language is spoken only in very intimate circles, like the family or the tribe one belongs to. Outside this circle, one would speak in the prevalent regional language, while maintaining an adequate command of Filipino for formal situations. Unlike the case of the regional languages, these minority languages are always in danger of becoming extinct because of speakers favoring the more prevalent regional language. Moreover, most of the users of these languages are illiterate and as expected, there is a chance that these languages will no longer be revived due to lack of written records.

Indigenous languages

The languages that have the largest number of speakers in a particular region. Note that on regions marked with black diamonds, the language with the most number of speakers denotes a minority of the population.

According to Ethnologue, a total of 182 native languages are spoken in the country and four languages have been classified as extinct: Dicamay Agta, Katabaga, Tayabas Ayta and Villaviciosa Agta.[12] Except for English, Spanish, the varieties of Chinese (Philippine Hokkien, Cantonese, and Mandarin), and Chavacano, all of the languages belong to the Malayo-Polynesian language family.

There are 13 indigenous languages with at least one million native speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Coastal Bikol, Pangasinan, Maranao, Maguindanao, Kinaray-a, and Tausug. One or more of these is spoken natively by more than 90% of the population.

A Philippine language family identified by Robert Blust includes languages of north Sulawesi and the Yami language of Taiwan, but excludes the Sama–Bajaw languages of the Sulu Archipelago as well as a couple of North Bornean languages spoken in southern Palawan.

Eskayan is an artificial auxiliary language created as the embodiment of a Bohol nation in the aftermath of the Philippine–American War. It is used by about 500 people.

Mutual intelligibility

Philippine languages are often referred to by Filipinos as dialects, partly as a relic of the inaccurate vocabulary used in literature during the American period (1898–1946).[9] While there are indeed many hundreds of dialects in the Philippines, they represent variations of no fewer than 120 distinct languages, and many of these languages maintain greater differences than those between established European languages like French and Spanish.

The vast differences between the languages can be seen in the following translations of the Philippine national proverb:

Language Translation
English He/She who does not know how to look back at his/her origin will not arrive at his destination.
Aklanon Ro uwa' gatan-aw sa anang ginhalinan hay indi makaabut sa anang ginapaeangpan.
Asi (Bantoanon) Kag tawong waya giruromroma it ida ginghalinan, indi makaabot sa ida apagtuan.
Binol-anon Sija nga di(with prolonged "i") kahibawng mulingi sa ijang gi-gikanan, di(with prolonged "i") gajud maka-abot sa ijang padul-ngan.
Butuanon Kadtong dili kahibalo molingi sa iyang ginikanan, dili makaabot sa iyang gipadul-ngan.
West Miraya Bikol (Ligao) Kan idi tatao magkiling sa inalian,idi makaabot sa papaidtuhan
?? An diri maaram mag-imud sa pinaghalian, diri makaabot sa pakakadtu-an.
Buhinon Bikol (Buhi) Yu di nikiling sa pinagalinan, di makaantos sa pupuntahan.
Coastal Bikol (Canaman) An dai tataong magsalingoy sa saiyang ginikanan, dai makakaabot sa padudumanan.
East Miraya Bikol (Daraga) Su indi tataw makarumdom nung ginitan, indi makaabot sa adunan.
West Miraya Bikol (Oas) Kan na taw na idi tataw mag linguy sa sanyang inalian, idi man maka abot sa sanyang paidtunan.
Rinconada Bikol (Iriga) A dirî tattaoŋ maglīlî sa pinaŋgalinan, dirî makaaābot sa pig-iyānan.
Masbateño An dili maaram maglingi sa ginhalian, kay dili makaabot sa kakadtuhan.
Capiznon Ang indi kabalo magbalikid sa iya ginhalinan, indi makalab-ot sa iya palakadtuan.
Cuyonon Ang ara agabalikid sa anang ing-alinan, indi enged maka-abot sa anang papakonan.
Cebuano Kadtong dili kahibalo molingi sa iyang giagian, dili makaabot sa iyang padulngan.
Cebuano Beki Ang o-atch na ed mu-ingils sa dokil kay ed maka-tova sa yang padulngan.
Caviteño Chabacano Quien no ta bira cara na su origen no de incarsa na su destinacion.
Ternateño Chabacano Ay nung sabi mira i donde ya bini no di yega na destinasyon.
Zamboangueño Chavacano El Quien no sabe vira el cara na su origen, nunca llega na su destinación.
Ibanag I tolay nga ari mallipay ta naggafuananna, ari makadde ta angayanna.
Ifuntok Nan Adi mang ustsong sinan narpuwan na, adi umtsan isnan umayan na.
Itawis Ya tolay nga mari mallipay tsa naggafuananna, mari makakandet tsa angayanna.
Ilokano Ti tao nga saan na ammo tumaliaw iti naggapuanna ket saan nga makadanon iti papananna.
Hiligaynon (Ilonggo) Ang indi makahibalo magbalikid sang iya ginhalinan, indi makaabot sa iya padulungan.
Jama Mapun Soysoy niya' pandoy ngantele' patulakan ne, niya' ta'abut katakkahan ne.
Kapampangan Ing e byasang malikid king kayang penibatan, e ya miras king kayang pupuntalan.
Kinaray-a Ang indi kamaan magbalikid sa ana ginhalinan, indi makaabot sa ana paaragtunan.
Manobo (Obo) Iddos minuvu no konnod kotuig nod loingoy to id pomonan din, konna mandad od poko-uma riyon tod undiyonnan din.
Maranao So tao a di matao domingil ko poonan iyan na di niyan kakwa so singanin iyan.
Malay Orang yang melupakan asal-usulnya tak mungkin mencapai tujuannya.
Pangasinan Say toon agga onlingao ed pinanlapuan to, agga makasabi'd laen to.
Romblomanon (Ini) Ang tawo nga bukon tigo mag lingig sa iya guinghalinan hay indi makasampot sa iya ning pagakadtoan.
Sambal (Botolan) Hay ahe nin nanlek ha pinag-ibatan, ay ahe makarateng ha lalakwen.
Sambal Hay kay tanda mamanomtom ha pinangibatan, kay immabot sa kakaon.
Sangil Tao mata taya mabiling su pubuakengnge taya dumanta su kadam tangi.
Sinama Ya Aa ga-i tau pa beleng ni awwal na, ga-i du sab makasong ni maksud na.
Español El que no sabe mirar atrás, de donde viene, nunca llegará a su destino.
Surigaonon Adton dili mahibayo molingi sa ija ing-gikanan, dili gajod makaabot sa ija pasingdan.
Sorsoganon An diri mag-imud sa pinaghalian diri makaabot sa kakadtuan.
Tayabas Tagalog Ang hindi maalam lumingon sa pinaroonan ay hindi makakarating sa paroroonan.
Tagalog/Filipino Ang hindi marunong lumingon sa pinanggalingan ay hindi makararating sa paroroonan.
Tausug In di' maingat lumingi' pa bakas liyabayan niya, di' makasampay pa kadtuun niya.
Waray-Waray (Leyte) An diri maaram lumingi ha tinikangan, diri maulpot ha kakadtoan.
Waray-Waray (Northern Samar) An diri maaram lumingi sa tinikangan, diri maulpot sa kakadtoan.
Yakan Mang gey matau mamayam si bakas palaihan nen, gey tekka si papilihan nen.

Dialectal variation

The amount of dialectal variation varies from language to language. Languages like Tagalog and Kapampangan are known to have very moderate dialectal variation.

In the languages of the Bicol Region, however, there is great dialectal variation. There are towns which have their own dialects. Below is the sentence "Were you there at the market for a long time?" translated into certain varieties of Bikol. The translation is followed by dialect and language, and town in Bicol where they are spoken. The final translation is in Tagalog.

Philippine-language comparison chart

Below is a chart of Philippine languages. While there has been misunderstandings on which ones should be classified as language and which ones should be classified as dialect, the chart confirms that most have similarities, yet are not mutually comprehensible. These languages are arranged according to the regions they are natively spoken (from north to south, then east to west).

English one two three four person house dog coconut day new we (inclusive) what and
Ivatan asa dadowa tatdo apat tao vahay chito niyoy araw va-yo yaten ango kan
Ilokano maysa dua tallo uppat tao balay aso niog aldaw baro datayo ania ken
Ifuntok əsang tswa Tulo əpat tacu Afong aso inyog acəw falu tsattaku ngag ya
Pangasinan sakey duara talora apatira too abong aso niyog agew balo sikatayo anto
Ibanag tadday dua tallu appa' tolay balay kitu inniuk aggaw bagu sittam anni
Gaddang tata addwa tallo appat tolay balay atu ayog aw bawu ikkanetem sanenay
Kapampangan metung adwa atlu apat tau bale asu ngungut aldo bayu ikatamu nanu ampo
Tagalog isa dalawa tatlo apat tao bahay aso niyog araw bago tayo ano at
Coastal Bikol saro duwa tulo apat tawo harong ayam niyog aldaw ba-go kita ano buda
Rinconada Bikol əsad darwā tolō əpat tawō baləy ayam noyog aldəw bāgo kitā onō ag, sagkəd, sakâ
West Miraya Bikol sad duwa tulo upat taw balõy ayam nuyog aldõw bâgo kita, sato uno dangan, mî, saka
Masbateño usad duha tulo upat tawo balay ido buko, lubi aldaw bag-o kita, kami, amon nano kag
Romblomanon isa duha tuyo upat tawo bayay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita, aton ano kag
Bantoanon usa ruha tuyo upat tawo bayay iro nidog adlaw bag-o kita, ato ni-o ag
Onhan isya darwa tatlo apat tawo balay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita, taton ano ag
Kinaray-a sara darwa tatlo apat taho balay ayam niyog adlaw bag-o kita, taten ano, iwan kag
Hiligaynon isa duha tatlo apat tawo balay ido lubi adlaw bag-o kita ano kag
Cebuano usa duha tulo upat tawo balay iro lubi adlaw bag-o kita unsa ug
Surigaonon isa duha tuyo upat tao bayay idu Niyog adlaw bag-o kami unu sanan
Waray-Waray usa duha tulo upat tawo balay ayam lubi adlaw bag-o kita ano ngan, ug
T'boli sotu lewu tlu fat tau gunu ohu lefo kdaw lomi tekuy tedu
Tausug hambuuk duwa tu upat tau bay iru' niyug adlaw ba-gu kitaniyu unu
Español uno dos tres cuatro persona casa perro coco día nuevo nosostros que y/e
Chavacano uno dos tres cuatro gente casa perro coco dia nuevo Zamboangueño: nosotros/kame; Bahra: mijotros/motros; Caviteño: nisos cosá/ qué y/e

There is a language spoken by the Tao people (also known as Yami) of Orchid Island of Taiwan which is not included in the language of the Philippines. Their language, Tao (or Yami) is part of the Batanic languages which includes Ivatan, Babuyan, and Itbayat of the Batanes.

English one two three four person house dog coconut day new we what and
Tao ása dóa (raroa) tílo (tatlo) ápat tao vahay gara ngata araw vayo tata vela
Ivatan asa dadowa tatdo apat tao vahay chito niyoy araw va-yo yaten ango

List of speakers per language

Below are population estimates from the 2000 Philippine census by the Philippine Statistics Authority on the number of Filipinos who speak the following 18 languages as a native language.

Name of Philippine language Number of native speakers[13]
Tagalog 26,387,855
Cebuano 21,340,000
Ilocano 7,779,000
Hiligaynon 7,000,979
Waray-Waray 3,100,000
Kapampangan 2,900,000
Coastal Bikol[14] 2,500,000
Pangasinan 2,434,086
Meranaw 2,150,000
Tausug 1,822,000
Maguindanao 1,800,000
Chavacano 1,200,000
Kinaray-a 1,051,000
Surigaonon 1,000,000
Masbateño 530,000
Aklanon 520,000
Ibanag 320,000
Yakan 110,000
Spanish 2,000
Eskayan 500

Endangered and Extinct Languages in the Philippines

Endangered and Extinct Languages in the Philippines are based on the 3rd world volume released by UNESCO in 2010.

Degree of Endangerment (UNESCO Standard)

  • Safe

Language is spoken by all generations; intergenerational transmission is uninterrupted

  • Vulnerable

Most children speak the language, but it may be restricted to certain domains (e.g., home)

  • Definitely endangered

Children no longer learn the language as mother tongue in the home

  • Severely endangered

Language is spoken by grandparents and older generations; while the parent generation may understand it, they do not speak it to children or among themselves

  • Critically endangered

The youngest speakers are grandparents and older, and they speak the language partially and infrequently

  • Extinct

There are no speakers left >> included in the Atlas if presumably extinct since the 1950s

Vulnerable Languages

  • 1.)Central Cagayan Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 779 in 2000
    • Province: Cagayan
    • Coordinates: Latitude 17.9891, Longitude 121.8603
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): agt
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 2.)Dupaninan Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 1400 in 2000
    • Province: Cagayan
    • Coordinates: Latitude 17.9682, Longitude 122.0361
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): duo
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)

Definitely Endangered

  • 3.)Bataan Ayta
    • Number of Speakers: 500 in 2000
    • Province: Bataan
    • Coordinates: Latitude 14.4324, Longitude 120.4788
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): ayt
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 4.)Mt. Iraya Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 150 in 2000
    • Province: Camarines Sur
    • Coordinates: Latitude 13.459, Longitude 123.5467
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): atl
    • Source: David Bradly (UNESCO 2000)
  • 5.)Batak
    • Number of Speakers: 200 in 2000
    • Province: Palawan
    • Coordinates: Latitude 10.1081, Longitude 119
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): bya
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)

Severely Endangered

  • 6.)Faire Atta
    • Number of Speakers: 300 in 2000
    • Province: Ilocos Norte
    • Coordinates: Latitude 18.027, Longitude 120.4929
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): azt
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 7.)Northern Alta
    • Number of Speakers: 200 in 2000
    • Province: Aurora
    • Coordinates: Latitude 15.7162, Longitude 121.4085
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): aqn
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 8.)Camarines Norte Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 150 in 2000
    • Province: Camarines Norte
    • Coordinates: Latitude 14.0135, Longitude 122.8873
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): abd
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)

Critically Endangered

  • 9.)Alabat Island Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 30 in 2000
    • Province: Quezon
    • Coordinates: Latitude 14.1209, Longitude 122.0282
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): dul
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 10.)Isarog Agta
    • Number of Speakers: 5 in 2000
    • Province: Camarines Sur
    • Coordinates: Latitude 13.6805, Longitude 123.3805
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): agk
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 11.)Southern Ayta (Sorsorgon Ayta)
    • Number of Speakers: 150 in 2000
    • Province: Sorsogon
    • Coordinates: Latitude 13.027, Longitude 124.1549
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): ays
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)


  • 12.)Dicamay Agta (Dumagat, Dicamay Dumagat)
    • Number of Speakers: 0 in 2000
    • Province: Isabela
    • Coordinates: Latitude 16.6998, Longitude 122.0167
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): duy
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 13.)Arta
    • Number of Speakers: 0 in 2000
    • Province: Near Isabela-Quirino Border
    • Coordinates: Latitude 16.4225, Longitude 121.7042
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): atz
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 14.)Katabaga
    • Number of Speakers: 0 in 2000
    • Province: Quezon
    • Coordinates: Latitude 13.4366, Longitude 122.5569
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): ktq
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)
  • 15.)Ata
    • Number of Speakers: 0 in 2000
    • Province: Negros Oriental
    • Coordinates: Latitude 9.6081, Longitude 122.9155
    • Corresponding ISO 639-3 Code(s): atm
    • Source: David Bradley (UNESCO 2000)

Major non-indigenous languages

Hokkien Chinese

Diplomatic ties with the Ming dynasty among some established states or kingdoms in Luzon and direct interactions and trade overall within the archipelago as a whole may go as far back as the early 10th century. Mandarin Chinese is the medium of instruction in Chinese schools and the lingua franca of mainland and overseas Chinese. The Lan-nang variant of Hokkien Chinese is the language of the majority the Chinese in the Philippines, who immigrated from the Fujian (pronounced locally as Fukien or Hokkien) province in China. Other varieties of Chinese such as Hakka and Cantonese, are spoken among the Chinese in the Philippines who are descendants of people from Guangdong province in China.

As with Spanish, many native languages have co-opted numerous loanwords from Chinese, in particular words that refer to cuisine, household objects, and Philippine kinship terminology.


The first significant exposure of Filipinos to the English language occurred in 1762 when the British invaded Manila, but this was a brief episode that had no lasting influence. English later became more important and widespread during American rule between 1898 and 1946, and remains an official language of the Philippines.

English is used in official documents of business, government, the legal system, medicine, the sciences and as a medium of instruction. Filipinos prefer textbooks for subjects like calculus, physics, chemistry, biology, etc., written in English rather than Filipino. However, the topics are usually taught, even in colleges, in Tagalog or the local language. By way of contrast, native languages are often heard in colloquial and domestic settings, spoken mostly with family and friends. The use of English attempts to give an air of formality, given its use in school, government and various ceremonies. A percentage of the media such as cable television and newspapers are also in English; major television networks such as ABS-CBN and GMA and all AM radio stations broadcast primarily in Filipino. However, a 2009 article by a UNICEF worker reported that the level of spoken English language in the Philippines was poor. The article reported that aspiring Filipino teachers score the lowest in English out of all of the subjects on their licensing exams.[15]

A large influx of English words has been assimilated into Tagalog and the other native languages called Taglish or Bislish. There is a debate, however, on whether there is diglossia or bilingualism, between Filipino and English. Filipino is also used both in formal and informal situations. Though the masses would prefer to speak in Filipino, government officials tend to speak in English when performing government functions. There is still resistance to the use of Filipino in courts and the drafting of national statutes.

On August 22, 2007, three Malolos City regional trial courts in Bulacan decided to use Filipino, instead of English, in order to promote the national language. Twelve stenographers from Branches 6, 80 and 81, as model courts, had undergone training at Marcelo H. del Pilar College of Law of Bulacan State University College of Law following a directive from the Supreme Court of the Philippines. De la Rama said it was the dream of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno to implement the program in other areas such as Laguna, Cavite, Quezón, Nueva Écija, Batangas, Rizal, and Metro Manila.[16]


Arabic is used by some Filipino Muslims in both a liturgical and instructional capacity since the arrival of Islam in the 14th century. Along with Malay, Arabic was the lingua franca of the Malay Archipelago among Muslim traders and the Malay aristocracy.

The 1987 Constitution mandates that Arabic (along with Spanish) is to be promoted on an optional and voluntary basis. As of 2015 Arabic is taught for free and is promoted in some Islamic centres predominantly in the southern most parts of Philippines. It is used primarily in religious activities and education (such as in a madrasa or Islamic school) and rarely for official events or daily conversation. In this respect, its function and use is somewhat like the traditional roles of Latin and Spanish in Filipino Catholicism vis-à-vis other currently spoken languages.


The Japanese first came to the Philippines around the 11th century CE, the first country they emigrated to, as well as in waves from the 15th century, 17th century, late 19th century, 1900s, 1930s, and the 1940s.[17][18][19][20] There is a small Japanese community and a school for Japanese in Metro Manila due to the number of Japanese companies. Also there is a large community of Japanese and Japanese descendants in Laguna province, Baguio City, and in the Davao Region. Davao City is a home to a large population of Japanese descendants. Japanese laborers were hired by American companies like the National Fiber Company (NAFCO) in the first decades of the 20th century to work in abaca plantations. Japanese were known for their hard work and industry. During World War II, Japanese schools were present in Davao City.

Malay / Indonesian

Malay is spoken as a lingua franca in the southernmost parts of the Philippines, from Zamboanga down to Tawi-Tawi among a minority of the Tausug, Bajau, and Yakan peoples. It is also spoken as a daily language by Malays and Indonesians who have settled, or do business in the Philippines. It is also spoken in southern Palawan to some extent. It is not spoken among the Maranao and Maguindanao people. Malaysia, Indonesia, and the southern Philippines are largely Islamic and the liturgical language of Islam is Arabic, but the vast majority of Muslims in the Philippines have little practical knowledge of Arabic beyond limited religious terminology.

Old Malay and Indonesian cultures and civilizations in ancient Sumatra and Java influenced the history, lifestyles, and culture of Philippine peoples. The Malay language, along with Philippine languages belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian language family, has also had an immense influence on many if not most of the languages spoken in the Philippines. Roughly a third of all commonly used verbs and nouns used in the Philippines are of Old Malay origin. This is because Old Malay used to be the lingua franca throughout the archipelago, a good example of this is Magellan's translator Enrique using Malay to converse with the native Sugbuanon(Cebuano) during this time period.

An example of Old Malay and Javanese languages spoken in Philippine history can be seen in the language of the 10th-century Laguna Copperplate Inscription.

When the Spanish had first arrived in the Philippines in the 16th century, Old Malay was spoken among the aristocracy.

It is believed that Ferdinand Magellan’s Moluccan slave Enrique could converse with local leaders in Cebu island, confirming to Magellan his arrival in Southeast Asia.

Today, Indonesian is taught as a foreign language in the Department of Linguistics and Asian Languages in the University of the Philippines. Also, the Indonesian School in Davao City teaches the language to preserve the culture of Indonesian immigrants there. The Indonesian Embassy in Manila also offers occasional classes for Filipinos and foreigners.

Since 2013, the Indonesian Embassy in the Philippines has given basic Indonesian language courses to training to members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.[21]

In an interview, Department of Education Secretary Armin Luistro[22] said that the country's government should promote Indonesian or Malay, which are related to Filipino. Thus, the possibility of offering it as an optional subject in public schools is being studied.


Spanish was introduced in the islands after 1565, when the Spanish Conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi set sail from Mexico and founded the first Spanish settlement on Cebú. However, it is rarely spoken today.[15]

In 1593, the first printing press in the Philippines was founded and it released the first (albeit polyglot) book, the Doctrina Christiana that same year. In the 17th century, Spanish religious orders founded the first universities in the Philippines, some of which are considered the oldest in Asia. During colonial rule through Mexico City, Spanish was the language of education, trade, politics and religion, and by the 19th century, became the country's lingua franca although it was mainly used by the educated Filipinos.[23] In 1863, a Spanish decree introduced a system of public education, creating free public schooling in Spanish. In the 1890s, the Philippines had a prominent group of Spanish-speaking scholars called the Ilustrados, such as José Rizal. Some of these scholars participated in the Philippine Revolution and later in the struggle against American occupation. Both the Malolos Constitution and the Lupang Hinirang (national anthem) were written in Spanish.

Under U.S. rule, the English language began to be promoted instead of Spanish. The use of Spanish began to decline some years after Spain was forced to pass the islands to the United States as a result of the introduction of English into the public schools as a language of instruction.[6] The 1950 census stated that Filipinos who spoke Spanish as a first or second language made up only 6% of the population. In 1990, the census reported that the number had dwindled to just 2,500. Recent estimates indicate that while around 3 million people can speak Spanish with varying degrees of competency, only around 439,000 people can speak the language at a native level.[24]

Spanish briefly lost its status as an official language in the 1973 constitution but regained official status two months later when President Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 155.[10] With the promulgation of the 1987 constitution, Spanish lost its official status and it was dropped as a college requirement during Corazón Aquino's administration. Former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a third-language Spanish speaker, introduced legislation to re-establish the instruction of Spanish in 2009 in the state education system. Today, the language is still spoken by Filipino-Spanish mestizos and Spanish families who are mainly concentrated in Metro Manila, Iloílo and Cebú. It remains a required subject in some academic institutions, such as the University of Santo Tomás in Manila and the University of San Carlos in Cebú. The 1987 Constitution mandates that Spanish (along with Arabic) is to be promoted on an optional and voluntary basis.

Many historical documents, land titles, and works of literature are written in Spanish and are still not translated into Filipino languages, despite the fact that some such as land titles have legal value. Spanish, through colonization has contributed the largest number of loanwords and expressions in Tagalog, Cebuano, and other Philippine languages.[25]

Spanish creoles

There are several Spanish-based creole languages in the Philippines, collectively called Chavacano. These may be split into two major geographical groups:

South Asian languages

Since pre-Spanish times, there have been small Indian communities in the Philippines. Indians tend to be able to speak Tagalog and the other native languages, and are often fluent in English. Among themselves, Sindhi and Punjabi are used. Urdu is spoken among the Pakistani community. Only few South Asians, such as Pakistani, as well as the recent newcomers like speakers of Marathi, Nepali, and Tamil retain their own respective languages.[17][26][27][28][29][30]

See also



  1. ^ Constitution of the Philippines 1987, Article XIV, Section 6
  2. ^ a b DepEd adds 7 languages to mother tongue-based education for Kinder to Grade 3. GMA News. July 13, 2013.
  3. ^
  4. ^ The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein... Article XIV Section 7.
  5. ^ Article XIV, Sec 7: For purposes of communication and instruction, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and, until otherwise provided by law, English. The regional languages are the auxiliary official languages in the regions and shall serve as auxiliary media of instruction therein. Spanish and Arabic shall be promoted on a voluntary and optional basis.
  6. ^ a b
  7. ^ Article 93 of the Malolos Constitution reads, "Art. 93. The use of languages spoken in the Philippines shall be optional. This use cannot be regulated except by virtue of law, and solely for acts of public authority and in the courts. For these acts the Spanish language will be used in the meantime."
  8. ^
  9. ^ a b
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^
  12. ^ Lewis, M. Paul, Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2015. Ethnologue: Languages of the World, Eighteenth edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version:
  13. ^ Philippine Census, 2000. Table 11. Household Population by Ethnicity, Sex and Region: 2000
  14. ^ Lobel, Jason. An Satuyang Tataramon - Ethnologue. Central Bicolano (Dialects: Naga, Legazpi, Daet, Partido, and Virac)
  15. ^ a b
  16. ^, 3 Bulacan courts to use Filipino in judicial proceedings
  17. ^ a b
  18. ^
  19. ^
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ (439,000 native speakers + 2,557,773 limited competency + 20,492 students.)
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^ Kinding Sindaw
  28. ^
  29. ^
  30. ^

General references

Further reading

External links

  • Ricardo Maria Nolasco on the diversity of languages in the Philippines
  • Lawrence R. Reid webpage of Dr. Lawrence A. Reid. Researcher Emeritus of linguistics at the University of Hawai'i at Manoa. Has researched Philippine languages for decades.
  • The Metamorphosis of Filipino as a National Language
  • Carl Rubino webpage of Dr. Carl Rubino. A Filipino linguist who has studied Philippine languages.
  • Literatura hispanofilipina: siglos XVII al XX by Edmundo Farolan Romero, with a brief Philippine poetry anthology in Spanish.
  • Salita Blog by Christopher Sundita. A blog about a variety of issues concerning the languages of the Philippines.
  • Espaniero An Online Spanish conversation group for Pinoys
  • Philippine Language Tree
  • The Language Planning Situation in the Philippines, by Andrew González, FSC
  • kaibigankastila webpage of the Spanish culture in the Philippines.
  • Linguistic map of the Philippines at
  • On linguistic mutual intolerance in the Philippines
  • Filipino Translator
  • Tagalog Translator Online Online dictionary for translating Tagalog from/to English, including expressions and latest headlines regarding the Philippines.
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