July 19, 2024

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Languages of the Philippines

Languages of the Philippines

The Philippines is made up of 7107 islands, with a population around 100 million.

Tagalog was made the national language of the Philippines in 1937 and was given the title Pilipino and later Filipino to make it a more acceptable language for the whole of the Filipino people. Now for anyone travelling to the Philippines the first time, they might do a little research and find Filipino language books, and before you know it, learn a little of the language. While it is true that Filipino/Tagalog is taught in all schools in the Philippines, it is only the 1st language for about 25 million people, who in the majority live in the north of the Philippines around Manila.

Another 25 million people living in the central and slightly to the south speak Cebuano/Bisaya. Another 11 million speak Hiligaynon/Illongo, and another 3.4 million speak Waray-Waray, etc…..

Now you might be thinking that speaking Filipino might serve you well everywhere in the Philippines, because for example you can order food, and ask questions, however you won`t understand the locals because they will be speaking their own dialects. If like me you are married to a Filipina, you won`t even be able to understand the in-laws.

Research well, and think about where you will be visiting most often. For instance for me the Central region otherwise known as the Visayas means my knowledge of Cebuano serves me exceedingly well. I understand a lot of the local speech on the main islands of Cebu, Leyte, Bohol and many more places. Of course each area has slight dialects, but they are easier to overcome than completely different languages.

To give a real idea of the magnitude in learning to speak to all Filipino`s, you would have to learn more than 20 languages that are not necessarily interchangeable. You will find words that are the same from one language to another, but even the grammar is different for most of these languages.

You will also find that the Cebuano language is where many other languages came from, for example Hiligaynon and Waray-Waray but they have many different words now, and the way words are pronounced have also changed.

So, here are the main languages you can expect to hear:-
Aklanon, Bicolano, Boholano, Cebuano, Cuyonon, Hiligaynon, Ifugao, Ilocano, Itbayat, Ivatan, Kalinga, Kamayo, Kankana-ey, Kinaray-a, Kapampangan, Maguindanao, Maranao, Masbatenyo, Pangasin, Romblomanon, Surigaonon, Tagalog, Tausug, Waray-Waray, Yakan

Most of these language have over 100,000 native speakers, so they are not incidental by any means.