What language does the Philippines speak?
This is one of the main questions I get asked whenever I tell someone my wife’s from the Philippines. The other one I get asked a lot, is if she can speak and understand English.
I simply smile and tell anyone who ask that if she did not speak English, I would not understand a word she’s saying — since English is my only language.
Luckily, anyone who grows up in the Philippines is required to learn two languages… English and their native one Tagalog.
I for the longest time thought these were the only two languages spoken in the Philippines, until I did a little bit of research and found out there are around 150 different dialects and languages spoken there.
I have to admit this shocked me a first — but when you learn that the Philippines is made up of over 7,000 different islands, it’s no wonder they speak so many different languages there.
You might still be wondering though, what language does the Philippines speak?
Well let me give you a brief overview of what you can expect to hear, if you ever meet someone from there — or travel there in person.
Their National Language
The Philippines actually has two national languages… English and Tagalog. Both of them are taught and spoken throughout their whole country.
An interesting fact I learned about the Philippines that also surprised me, is that they are the 4th largest English speaking country in the world, right behind Pakistan, India, and the US.
The latest reports say that around 93% of Philippines population is able to speak it. So for people like me ( who only speak the English language ) it makes talking to people and getting directions there a breeze.
Also since English is used so much there, they even use it in their business, government, and medicine documents.
If you don’t hear a Filipina speaking English, then Tagalog is probably what you will hear her speaking instead ( if she lives near Manila ).
Even though Tagalog is their national language, taught across their whole country, and understood by everyone — it is mostly spoken by people that live near Manila.
If you ever sit down here hear a filipina who’s speaking Tagalog for a while — you will start to notice they use a lot of English words throughout their sentences.
The natives there like to call this “Tanglish”, which basically is a combination of English and Tagalog put together.
They do this mainly because of their dual education growing up, and are taught the importance of English, which makes them use it even while speaking Tagalog.
When I hear my wife speaking to her mom and relatives — I can usually pick up on what they are talking about, due to hear tanglish way of speaking.
What other native languages do they speak?
As I said earlier, there are over a 150 different types of languages spoken in the Philippines — however the top 10 languages that are most spoken are…
- Coastal Bikol
At the very top of the country you have llokano , below where manila is you got Tagalog, then the middle and bottom part of Philippines is where you got the most diverse dialects like Waray, Cebuano, and Maguindanao.
Many of these languages have very slight differences in the way they are spoken — while other ones have very extreme differences.
Tagalog and Kapampangan are very similar to one another — while languages in the Bicol Region are so vast and different, that even small towns have their own language that are different from the rest of the city.
This is why even if two people both come from the Philippines, they could speak entirely different languages and not understand what each other is saying.
Do they know other foreign languages?
The simple and quick answer to this questions is yes. Many people that live in the Philippines know languages that are not native to their home country.
Since many different kinds of people from other countries have come to the Philippines and settled, it has also introduced different languages into their culture.
As of right now, there are 5 different oversea languages that are still used today — which are:
- Arabic – Mainly used by filipino muslims
- Hokkien – Hokkien chinese is used by the chinese that live in the Philippines
- Japanese – Found in the southern part of Philippines, which are home to many Japanese people
- Malay – Spoken by Malays, Indonesians, and Malays at the very bottom of the Philippines
With the last one being Spanish.
The Spanish Language
Spanish has a long history with the Philippines going all the way back to 1565, when it was first introduced to the country.
It was once their national language for over 3 centuries, when the Philippines was under Spanish rule.
Only after Spain lost control and had to give the islands over to America, is when Spanish started to decline, and English started to become more dominate.
Today you hear Spanish being spoken mainly by filipino-spanish people or Spanish families in general, that live near the capital Manila.
Even though Spanish is not as important as it once was in their country, it is still a required subject to learn in many schools there.
While the primary two languages spoken in the Philippines are Tagalog and English, also remember it is a country made up of thousands of islands, therefore it also has many other languages you may or may not understand.
If you happen to be a English speaking person like me, you can rest assured that talking with the people there and finding your way around is very easy — unlike other neighboring countries like China.
So now that you know what is spoken in the Philippines, do you feel more inclined or comfortable about traveling there?
Maybe you’ve been to another country, where you didn’t understand what they were saying?
As someone who loves traveling, I would love to hear about countries you have visited ( or stories you’ve been told about people traveling around the world ) and hear what the experience was like in a country that may or may not have spoken your native language.
So please leave a comment below sharing your story, or if you have any other questions regarding what people in the Philippines speak, please let me know and I’ll be happy to help you out.