So, you already know how the obligatory phrases of ‘My name is…’, ‘Pleased to meet you’, and ‘Where’s the bus stop?’ translate into several languages. Perhaps you’re fairly competent with Spanish, French, German, and Italian. Care to add another vernacular to your arsenal of learned tongues; something extraordinary from Asia perhaps?

Look East and head to the beautiful islands of the Philippines for a rundown of the Tagalog language… or is it Filipino?

Brief history of Tagalog

According to an article from Living Language, the term Tagalog was a derivation of the term ‘Taga-ilog,’ which means ‘from the river.’ Earlier influences of this dialect included Malay and Chinese. However, the countries with the biggest influence on the language were Spain and America, as they each colonised the Philippines for many years. You can see how these foreigners made an impact on the language by checking the spelling of the words.

Tagalog is rich in loan words which do not have any counterpart in Tagalog, particularly those with a Spanish origin. English terms, meanwhile, are often spelled based on their pronunciation in Tagalog.  For some loan words there is in fact a Tagalog counterpart which is used in formal situations, while the foreign loan word takes precedence in day to day use.

What you probably didn’t know about the Philippines and its language

The Philippines has been ruled by several foreign colonizers in its long and eventful history, whether for long periods or short interludes. This gave the land, its people, and the culture a mixture of different flavours, with its language seen as the prime manifestation. Here are some facts for your information and enjoyment:

Tagalog is spoken by about 22 million people, about a quarter to one-third of the country’s population

What exactly is Tagalog? Tagalog can mean two different things, but they are closely related to one another. defines Tagalog as ‘the dominant people of Luzon’ and ‘the second largest ethnolinguistic group in the country’, which is clearly apparent with Luzon being the largest of the three main islands of the archipelago. On the other hand, Tagalog also refers to the primary language spoken by this population and it serves as the basis for the country’s national language as well.

Tagalog is related to several other languages spoken in its neighbouring nations across Southeast Asia and the Pacific

Mainly spoken in the capital city of Manila and the surrounding provinces, its roots can be traced from the Austronesian language family, more specifically the Malayo-Polynesian subgroup. This means that it is associated with both Malay and Indonesian, though it still differs a great deal from the dialects spoken in Java, Sumatra, Bali and other areas.

Before the Roman alphabet, Tagalog was written in a different script

Long before the 300-year rule of the Spanish started, the Tagalog language used its own script: the alphasyllabary called Baybayin, which is composed of symbols representing three vowels and fourteen consonants. The European colonizers subsequently introduced the Latin alphabet, and after further revisions this resulted in today’s 28-letter version.

There are 125 to 170 languages that are used in the Philippines, such as Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Bicolano, Waray, and Kapampangan

To finally get rid of all the confusion, Tagalog and Filipino are synonymous yet different. Filipino is the national language of the Philippines. It is the standard register of Tagalog, which means that Filipino is mainly Tagalog-based, although it also incorporates elements of all the languages stated above. We can think of Tagalog as having a regional origin, while Filipino has a national application.

The Philippines has two official languages, Filipino and English

After the Spanish colonisation, the Americans came at the dawn of the 20th century. With their stated purpose of ‘benevolence’, they decided to instruct English in public schools. This has continued up to the present day, which is why most Filipinos can speak English fluently.

The English word ‘boondocks’ is actually a Filipino loan word

This is one prominent term that crept into the English language. The Tagalog word for ‘mountain’ is ‘bundok,’ and this word entered the North American vernacular around the time of the Second World War, when the two countries were staunch allies. Get professional Tagalog translation services from Asian Absolute

Useful phrases in Tagalog

Here are some phrases you can use when you visit the Philippines.

  • ‘Welcome’ translates into ‘Maligayang pagdating
  • ‘Hello’ translates into ‘Kumusta?
  • ‘My name is…’ translates into ‘Ang pangalan ko ay…
  • ‘Where’s the toilet?’ translates into ‘Nasaan ang kasilyas?
  • ‘Sorry’ translates into ‘Patawad
  • ‘Thank you’ translates into ‘Salamat po
  • ‘I love you’ translates into ‘Mahal kita
  • ‘My hovercraft is full of eels’ translates into ‘Puno ng palos ang aking hoberkrap

Who knows? That last one might just come in handy and save your life.