Filipino Culture: Tagalog – The Filipino National Language

The Filipino language

Tagalog is the dialect that has been chosen as the Philippine national language, formally known as Filipino.

Filipinos are known to be bilingual (having proficiency in two languages), in the languages Filipino and English.


English as the secondary language

In the Philippines, you can go at almost any corner and have someone speak with you in English. However, I cannot guarantee that they would be able to employ good grammar and vocabulary, but at least you will be able to understand them and find your way to wherever you needed to go.

The capital of the Philippines, Metro Manila, has the greatest percentage of Filipinos speaking English, at a rate of more than 98%. It is also in this region where most people go to school.

All schools in the country teach at least some English, but knowledge of a Filipino about the English language somehow depends on how high the educational attainment he or she has reached. Nonetheless, Filipinos can still learn and develop English skills outside school through experience and practice.

The immediate area around my home (in Metro Manila) already has a lot of Filipinos, young and old alike, who speak English well. To give a scenario, a person who has already graduated from primary (elementary) education will be able to communicate with a foreigner easily.


Tagalog in the provinces

Formal education is obviously most available in major cities in the Philippines. Practically, all schools in the country teach languages English and Filipino (specifically Tagalog).

For countries with a significant number of population, citizens have different dialects. I honestly do not know all of those dialects even though I am a Filipino, but by searching the Internet, here they are: Cebuano, Ilokano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Bikol, Ilonggo, Waray, and of course Tagalog.

Even if Filipinos living in remote provinces have their own dialects, they still know and speak Tagalog (though when I talk to them, they speak with a different tone). If you are a Filipino who lives in Metro Manila (the capital region of the Philippines) and know and speak Tagalog very well, then you will notice that a person came from the provinces by his or her manner of speaking.

Filipinos in the provinces should indeed study the Philippine national language which is Tagalog (I am not trying to be bias here, since I know only Tagalog among the Philippine languages), because communication is important for Filipinos as part of culture. Mutual intelligibility allows them to learn Tagalog fairly easy, because Filipino dialects have some words in common.


Filipino phrases

I have mastery of speaking both Filipino (Tagalog) and English languages, and I can freely switch between the two. Because you are reading this article, I would like to introduce you to some Tagalog words which all Filipinos use. I guarantee the correctness of the translations below.

If you could remember this section after reading and happen to visit the Philippines soon (if you are not there already), then you will definitely be able to impress Filipinos with your talent and interest in the Filipino language.


English greeting Filipino counterpart
How are you? Kumusta ka na?
Good morning. Magandang umaga.
Good afternoon. Magandang hapon.
Good evening. Magandang gabi.
Thank you. Salamat.
Goodbye. Paalam.
Take care. Ingat.


English question Filipino counterpart
How will I go to Manila? Paano ako pupunta sa Maynila?
How much (is this)? Magkano (ito)?
How much (is that)? Magkano (iyan)?
Where is Manila? Saan ang Maynila?
Where are you? Nasaan ka na?
Have you eaten (your lunch)? Kumain ka na (ng tanghalian)?
Where should I go? Saan ako dapat pumunta?
Who are you? Sino ka?
What is your name? Ano ang pangalan mo?


With the few sentences that you have seen above, you might think that learning the language is difficult. I could say that it is always difficult the first time trying, as when I tried to studied foreign languages (which includes Chinese, Japanese, French and Spanish, except English of course), looking at their terms and grammar makes the first few weeks studying them difficult.


Polite use of Filipino language

Through the influence of culture, Filipinos should always show verbal respect to the elderly, superiors and strangers. This also includes customers and clients of any business.

Knowing the Filipino language is much more than just the use of proper words and grammar; it is also about the use of honorrific words, most commonly “po” (most appropriately placed between the predicate and the verb of the sentence) and “opo” (the polite version of “yes”).

The use of a honorrific word has no strict rules which have to be followed. For example, the words “ate” and “kuya” (literally meaning “older sister” and “older brother”, respectively) are nowadays used to informally call an employer of a small business, or a stranger which has almost the same age as the speaker.

In a similar manner, the words “tita” and “tito” (literally meaning “aunt” and “uncle”, respectively) can also be used to call the mother and father of a friend whom you have developed a close relationship to. Likewise, while the words “lola” and “lolo” literally mean “grandmother” and “grandfather”, they can be used to politely call any elderly Filipino.


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  1. Philippines languages is much longer than teaching likely Tagalog,Visayans,Cebuano; If you could remember this section after reading and happen to visit the Philippines soon (if you are not there already), then you will definitely be able to impress Filipinos with your talent and interest in the Tagalog language. Honestly I cant speaking those whom local friends how remember lot of staff member likely Philippines; still learn and develop English skills outside school through practice toward Asian country not including “European still have manner nice helpful polite”.

  2. Tagalog is not a dialect nor are Waray, Kapampangan, etc. They are their own languages. The Philippines have more than 134 languages.

    The dialects of Tagalog are: Bulakenyo, Rizal-Laguna, Batangenyo, Mindoro, Masbate, etc…

    More research, please. Thank you!

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