Languages in the Philippines

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Languages in the Philippines

The Philippines has two official languages: English and Filipino . Filipino is mainly based on the Tagalog language (a relative of Malay). It has also been influenced by English, Spanish, Malay, Indonesian, Hindi, Arabic, Chinese and many other languages mostly from the Indian subcontinent and Europe. While Filipino is an Austronesian language like Malay, Indonesian and Javanese, the language has been heavily influenced by several other languages through trade with other countries and during the Spanish colonial times, and to this day the language is dominated by Spanish loanwords which is helpful for some Spanish people and which is also the reason why some Filipinos understand a little Spanish. In addition, as Malay and Filipino are closely related, speakers of Malay would also recognise many cognates in the Filipino language. Generally, somebody who speaks Malay and Spanish would be able to understand the conversations of locals to a certain extent, and might just be able to get by.

Filipino is the language spoken in the Central Luzon and Southern Tagalog regions as well as the National Capital Region (NCR) or Metro Manila. In the Northern Luzon provinces, Ilocano is the most common language spoken while Kapampangan is widespread in Central Luzon. Further south of Metro Manila lies the Bicol Region where Bicolano is used. In the Southern Islands of Visayas and Mindanao, Cebuano is the most common language spoken. Other languages in the south include Hiligaynon and Waray.

English is an official language of the Philippines and is a compulsory subject in all schools, so it is widely spoken in the larger cities and main tourist areas. However, it is usually not the first language of locals. English, though, is in widespread use as many signs are printed in English and there are even 3 TV channels using it on a full-time basis. Almost all broadsheet newspapers use English as well. Tourists won't have any problems using English when making inquiries at commercial and government establishments. A few simple phrases in Filipino will come in handy when traveling to rural places as English proficiency is limited there. Taglish, which involves code switching between Tagalog and English, is spoken nowadays by some urban youths, Below is an example:

Taglish :Kumusta ka? Ok naman ako.
English :How are you? I'm ok.

Spanish is no longer widely understood, though many Spanish words survive in the local languages. A Spanish based Creole language known as Chavacano is spoken in Cavite and in Zamboanga. The government is trying to revive Spanish by providing Spanish in public schools as an optional language. Younger Spanish-Filipinos tend to speak Filipino languages and/or English as their primary language, however there are around 3 million people who speak Spanish plus there is daily radio programme "Filipinas Ahora Mismo" which broadcasts from Manila in Spanish.

There are some other ethnic groups who reside in the country, particularly in more urbanized areas like Manila. The largest group is the Chinese, many of whom have assimilated with Filipino society. Take note however that since most of them come from Fujian province, they speak Hokkien (rather than Mandarin) as well as Lan-ang; a language which is made with the mix of Filipino and Hokkien, but they are also taught Mandarin in Chinese schools. Muslim Filipinos are taught Arabic in schools to read the Qu'ran. Other groups include the Indians, Japanese, Arabs, Koreans, Americans and Europeans use their native language as their first language. In some cosmopolitan areas, there are establishments catering to Korean speakers. Indian languages such as Hindi and Punjabi are also spoken by the Indian communities while Europeans speak their own languages.

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