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Tagalog: a fun language to learn in the Philippines!

| 65 comments | Category: particular languages

My time in the Philippines is coming to an end. I’ll summarise my last weeks here and share a funny video in Tagalog with you on Thursday (since I announce the next language mission on Tuesday).

But first, as always, I’d like to give a summary about some cool features of Tagalog and my impressions of it for those of you curious!

Best news: Encouraging locals

When describing features of a language if you leave out context of how it’s spoken and who’s speaking it and focus just on grammar and vocabulary, there’s no way you can get a full picture of it.

Usually I title these summaries as “Why X is easy” (as I did in German and Hungarian, and why it isn’t as hard as you think for Czech), because the limiting belief of a language you want to learn as being difficult will do you no good whatsoever so it’s important to do away with this from the get-go.

But I don’t need to do that with Tagalog – not because it doesn’t have complex grammatical features etc. (as you’ll see below), but because Filipinos are extremely encouraging and constantly remind you how “easy” their language is. In almost every other culture I’ve been in they say – “Oh, you’re learning X? It’s such a hard language… good luck!!”

It’s consistent and propagated by some more than others. Native speakers of almost every language don’t know how predictable they are being across the world as they say that to me. It’s not based on any real information (except for selective biased examples) – it just boils down to ego and pride. Filipinos seem more modest as a culture and this can only benefit the learner from a language learning perspective.

This encouragement is a crucial part of how your story in progressing in the language will go. Everybody told me right from the start that I’ll do well in this mission, whether they knew my background or not. If you take on Tagalog, Filipinos will patiently and enthusiastically listen to you as you try and constantly remind you how much you are progressing, even when you just start with pleasantries.

NOT having this in other languages slows you down tremendously, whether it really has complex grammar, tones etc. or not. So if you’ve chosen to learn Tagalog, you start off on the right foot immediately just for picking a culture that will be so receptive to you trying!

Filipino or Tagalog?

One of the first things you should realise is that it’s simply inaccurate to think that the Philippines has one unifying language. I started my trip in the country in Cebu and Cebuano/Visayan tends to be called a “dialect”, but is actually more different and less mutually intelligible than European languages that are officially counted as separate (like Portuguese, Spanish, Italian).

There and later in my travels I met Filipinos who couldn’t speak Tagalog. They could understand it and recognise it, but several of my friends actually used their own language with people from their part of the country or English with Tagalog speakers.

The Philippines has had a complicated history and one aspect of that in the last half of the 20th century was to pick the language spoken in Manila as the national language. Its invented label of “Filipino” was an attempt to bring people of the whole country together under one language. In non-Tagalog parts of the country you will see the language in advertisements and you’ll hear it on TV or in some offices, but people on the street don’t use it at all. The choice wasn’t so clear cut – there were actually technically more Visayan speakers than Tagalog ones when the decision was made, and this continues to cause frustration in Visayans. (Although even the term “Visayan” is frustrating to some).

Because of this I almost never heard anyone refer to Tagalog as “Filipino”. If you don’t plan on living in a Tagalog speaking part of the country then I’d suggest that you start with the local language immediately instead. Finding a suitable place to live that used Tagalog was actually a challenge for me and slowed down my progress dramatically (as I’ll write about on Thursday)! Some of the most interesting parts of the country just don’t use it.

The real version of the language: Taglish!

However, presuming you are living in Manila or a surrounding Tagalog region, Tagalog can be a fun language to learn! But technically, Tagalog doesn’t even exist! What you really want to know is Taglish.

At first I didn’t think this term would be something I would want to take seriously as it reminds me of “Spanglish”. In the Philippines though, English has such a huge influence that you simply can’t avoid it when speaking Tagalog. It’s so important, that the language selection you see on ATMs is not English or Tagalog, but English or Taglish!

An academic will find a way to invent an obscure word to replace an English equivalent, but nobody will actually use this word. In many cases locals would scratch their head and give up after asking many of their friends when I asked if there was a Tagalog translation of an English term.

This is not just for expected word borrowings (which pretty much every language in the world has done too from English in recent times), but the conversation just flows in and out of English (a.k.a. code switching). For example, I found this amusing exchange from a lady fed up with her jealous friend:

Jealous na jealous sa akin iyan pero, no reason naman. I don’t even look at her boyfriend dahil sa alam ko masyadong possessive siya. Sobrang pagka-possessive talaga. Nayayamot na ako.

This is an extreme example, and I think it can be misleading how much English is used when you hang out with certain people – especially those in upper classes who prefer English or went to an English speaking school.

You can get every range from just single words and set phrases in English cropping up, all the way to Englog, where someone seems to be speaking English, but has subtle Tagalog features to it that don’t make sense until you understand the basics (I especially heard the words “na” (ligature after consonants – see below), “po” (polite addition to sentences) and “ba” (question word) a lot when people would speak English to me and not even know that I was trying to learn Tagalog). I don’t think they even realise that they are doing it.

They also say “only” a lot after all prices when speaking English. Rather than being a sneaky marketing trick to make you feel it’s less than it is, this is actually a translation of use of lang in Tagalog after quantities.

Since I was in the Philippines for such a short time I didn’t quite figure out a way to decide which end of the scale to aim for in the long run. I’m not a purist, perfectionist or academic so Tagalog actually doesn’t interest me at all and I feel my ideal level would be code switching with 20-50% English or thereabouts based on the types of people I hang out with. If you watch presenters on MTV Philippines for example, this is the balance they tend to reach.

Obviously it has it’s advantages that you can transition yourself in slowly by throwing in a few Tagalog words as you speak English and add more and more in until you reach Taglish, rather than trying to go cold turkey and speak 100% target language from day one. This is the approach I took and it was less pressure to say everything in Tagalog, and actually sounded pretty natural and was less of a shock (coming from a white guy) than when I came out with full Tagalog phrases. I did this so much that I started saying “po” naturally even as I spoke English!

What about the Spanish vocabulary?

Despite all the English (which will actually be much less when you hear particular people. Some radio I listened to seemed to only use 5% English for example), and the obvious influence from Spanish, I can’t say that it’s that easy a task to understand a typical conversation with no preparation. If you listen to Tagalog radio, even if you speak fluent Spanish, you will have a very hard time keeping up with the non-English and even getting the gist of it in most cases.

I read somewhere that up to 20% of Tagalog is based on Spanish, but I feel that this would be 20% of the dictionary and most of that would be formal or technical terms that are less likely to come up in conversations. 20% of all words does not equal 20% of the content of conversations.

Having said that, speaking Spanish did indeed make a huge difference. Since most Filipinos nowadays don’t actually speak any Spanish (although of course there are exceptions), they were surprised by how much vocabulary I knew or could guess. An amusing example is when girls would shout “guwapo” at me when I passed by thinking I didn’t understand it (No, it wasn’t because I do indeed deserve that 2nd prize in a beauty contest I won in Monopoly; they’d do this for any white guy in his 20s without a wife!)

Here’s a pretty long list of examples of Spanish words in Tagalog. Interestingly enough a lot of the -ción words sound like they are half way between Spanish and English with Tagalog’s “sy” being pronounced as “sh”, so you have Ambisyon, deklarasyon.

While words are spelt differently, you will recognise many of them instantly when spoken. Changes are pretty consistent – ua goes to uwa, ñ goes to ny obviously enough, j becomes h – basically as you would expect it to be written in English based on the pronunciation.

Since Tagalog doesn’t have an f sound, it’s replaced with a p. So the months of the year and days of the week have been taken from Spanish, but it’s better to say Pebrero for example.

Numbers can also be used from Spanish, English or original Tagalog but it depends on context. Tagalog numbers are for basic counting (two apples, five people), Spanish would be used for times (a las kuwatro) and English in prices.

If you don’t speak Spanish, then you can still get a great head start from thousands of words like this (-syon and others) that you will recognise with no work.

Native Tagalog vocabulary

After getting a head start with the English you already know and the extra Spanish vocabulary, you’ll be glad to hear that native Tagalog won’t pose that much of a challenge. Good dictionaries or language books will indicate where the stress lies in each word (which might not correspond to the word it was borrowed from, e.g. puwedé), which will help a lot since they are not written over it in most native texts.

Tagalog is written phonetically and as it would be pronounced in English. This is interesting as no other language I’ve come across does this. Even English fails to follow its own pronunciation rules a lot of the time. So you have w, ng at ends of words, and most other letters acting as they would in English.

The only exceptions really are sy (that acts as ‘sh’ as shown above) and dy that can act as an English ‘j’ (although that’s how I would pronounce dy myself with an Irish accent) and ch is replaced with ts.

Because Tagalog doesn’t have any major complications in consonant clusters etc. (apart from the ng sound) you won’t have problems reading it aloud (once you’ve worked on rolling your R), and many words are short enough (in root form) that you can learn them easily enough with some clever learning techniques. You just have to make sure to pronounce vowels separately, so kain (eat) for example is ka-een.

This separation of vowels as not acting as diphthongs gives the language an interesting musicality. Learning Tagalog words from scratch is no harder than learning new unfamiliar words in any European language.

Interesting grammar!

The good news is that Tagalog has no grammatical gender, no person or plural based conjugation, no grammatical cases like the dative and lacks many other features that could make it harder to learn.

But it does indeed have complex parts to it that make it more interesting to learn (read: interesting since there has to be differences, not “hard” unless you like being a crybaby).

The first of these are infixes (or prefixes when the word begins with a vowel). These are used to take a root verb and give it a time (past, present, future). So aral is the root, mag-aral means “to study” (or imperative study!), nag-aral is past tense studied, nag-aaral (repeated first syllable of root) is present tense study and mag-aaral is future tense.

This is harder to spot and get used to when the word begins with a consonant, so kumain actually comes from kain (to eat).

A nasal ligature (ng or na after consonants) crops up a LOT and is necessary to link certain words together. It can vaguely be translated as “of” but there is simply no word translated many times in English.

For example, if you look at the sign I’m pointing at in the photo (something that you really can’t miss as it is outside of shops all over the country), it says “Load na dito”. I love this phrase as it is a great example of how Tagalog/Taglish works. “Load” (pronounced as in English) actually means top-up (a.k.a. recharging or “loading” phone credit) and “dito” means here. “Na” tends to mean now/already but in this case it is a ligature with no meaning that must be na because load ends in a consonant. So the sign simply means “top-up here”.

This ligature attaches on to the end of many words in complete sentences and it takes a little bit of mental effort to remember to add it. Sometimes “Gusto ko” (I want/would like) becomes “Gusto kong” depending on the following word.

Here are some other observations:

  • There is no verb “to be”! There is a word you can use “ay” that seems like to-be (e.g. Ako ay Pilipino - I am Filipino), but this tends to be too formal for conversations and a reversed word order is preferred (Pilipino ako). “To be” is simply implied.
  • There are separate words for we/us depending on if the person being spoken to is included (tayo) or not (kami). I think this is really logical as one “we” leads to ambiguity in other languages in some situations.
  • Many abstract qualities become adjectives by simply adding ma before it. So “maganda” (beautiful) comes from “ganda” – beauty and “mabilis” (fast) comes from bilis (speed). This helps a lot as you can tell immediately that a word is likely to be an adjective and try to see if you remember what the root means.
  • Based on the above and an understanding of other prefixes and suffixes, you can extrapolate quite a lot even if you see a new word for the first time. For example, -an means a place (aklatan = library, aklat means book of course)
  • There are almost no prepositions – “SA” is the universal one, (in, from, about etc.) and “para (sa)” for “for”.

There are so many features of Tagalog that make it interesting and fun to learn, and there’s no way I can summarise all of them in a post like this. But I hope this summary gives you a vague idea to get you started!

I have to admit that good materials to learn the language have been hard to come by, but I found “Basic Tagalog” to actually give a pretty non-basic decent overview of the technical grammar aspects of the language. But strangely enough, most book shops only have a very old version of the book (not the same one you’ll see on Amazon). Because the one I have is old, I ignored it for vocabulary learning as I didn’t want to unnecessarily learn new words that were actually not in use with English versions being preferred.

You can also find your favourite courses like Pimsleur, Lonely Planet, Teach-yourself, Assimil etc. for this language, but you should get them before travelling because some of them are quite hard to find in the country (one of the issues I had here; normally buying the material on arrival is what I do to lighten my travel load and usually never causes me any issues, not this time!)


Now that I’ve summarised the language in general, on Thursday I’ll wrap up how my weeks in the Philippines were overall and expand on some of the challenges I had in this language experiment, and embed a video of me having fun in Tagalog of course :)

Thanks for following along and I hope you’ll enjoy the next interesting mission ;) If you have any thoughts on Tagalog, or feel there’s anything important I missed, let us know in the comments!


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  • Randy the Yearlyglot

    Sounds like you found the language every bit as fascinating as I do. One of these days I need to travel there as you’ve just done.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Yes, but I found the Filipinos the more fascinating part of this trip! :)

      • Alvin

        Gawa muh

  • Rasmus Andersson

    “Interestingly enough a lot of the -ción words sound like they are half way between Spanish and English with Tagalog’s “sy” being pronounced as “sh”, so you have Ambisyon, deklarasyon.”

    Interesting, as that’s pretty much the swedish pronunciation (not really for my particular dialect, but still very similar).

    • Benny the Irish polyglot


  • Anonymous

    Great post Benny!

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Thanks ;) I can see why you like the Philippines so much – I’ll miss it!

  • Feanne Hontiveros Mauricio

    “Tagalog is written phonetically and as it would be pronounced in English.” — Not sure what you mean by this? I describe written Tagalog as read-as-spelled. It’s very similar to Nihongo in the sense that the language sounds are “pure” and you don’t hear “glides” like in English pronunciation. Particularly with the vowels. Although I’ve noticed this similarity before, I didn’t know how to explain it until I read the intro of Human Japanese which explained the thing about the “language sounds” (one-syllable building blocks) nicely. :)

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      As I said, it uses spelling the same way we would in English, with ‘w’ for example. German is phonetic but w is the ‘v’ sound. That’s what I meant. It’s more familiar to English speakers but much more consistent with one sound per letter.

      • Feanne Hontiveros Mauricio

        Ahh I see! :) BTW there’s a native alphabet called “Alibata”. Not sure if you’ve heard of that already. It is pretty :)

        • L. daniger

          umm madame the me, I think the native script is correctly labeled with the term “Baybayin” by some of its fervent practitioners. Also it is much more of an abugida than an alphabet! and you’re right, it is awesome!

        • Christina A Samosa

          It is the old old alphabet of filipino

    • Christina A Samosa

      It means they don’t have a lot difference of spelling in filipino to english

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the comment, but I had to remove the link because it was so ridiculously unrelated and irrelevant to this post. It seems you have something on your mind – a post about the Philippines/Tagalog is not the place to spread it.

    Yes, I’d like to visit Africa some day.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Thanks for the comment, but I had to remove the link because it was so ridiculously unrelated and irrelevant to this post. It seems you have something on your mind – a post about the Philippines/Tagalog is not the place to spread it.

    Yes, I’d like to visit Africa some day.

  • Eugene

    Just a correction: “aral” is “to study”, not “to pay”, which is “bayad”.

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      Doh! I did this because I had originally used bayad as my example, but changed to ‘aral’ to illustrate a vowel starting word. Forgot to change the translation! Just updated it, thanks ;)

  • Anonymous

    When you were learning Tagalog, did you get a lot out of your ancient old phrasebook or where there other means of learning you used?

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      More on that in the next post (Thursday) ;)

    • Benny the Irish polyglot

      More on that in the next post (Thursday) ;)

  • Anonymous

    When you were learning Tagalog, did you get a lot out of your ancient old phrasebook or where there other means of learning you used?

  • ana marier

    Benny, sana ay ngenjoy ka sa iyong stay sa Pilipinas. :-)

  • ana marier

    Benny, sana ay ngenjoy ka sa iyong stay sa Pilipinas. :-)

  • ana marier

    Benny, sana ay ngenjoy ka sa iyong stay sa Pilipinas. :-)

  • ana marier

    Benny, sana ay ngenjoy ka sa iyong stay sa Pilipinas. :-)

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yep, this transition is actually something I recommend doing in other languages that DON’T incorporate English, although in very restricted cases (like if you want to practise it with another English speaker / girlfriend etc.)

    Glad you enjoyed it!

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes, I found that myself when I asked around – Visayan would pose the challenge in that you won’t have great difficulty finding commercial (non-academic) materials to help you with it, and would have to rely entirely on natives. I still think the local language is a better choice though.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Yes, I found that myself when I asked around – Visayan would pose the challenge in that you won’t have great difficulty finding commercial (non-academic) materials to help you with it, and would have to rely entirely on natives. I still think the local language is a better choice though.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Great tip about “na” in this context! I came across that usage with “na lang” for “let it be” at the end of requests, but didn’t know it continued into this context.

    Hope you enjoy the Thursday post!

    • cess

      “Na” also makes te sentence polite. As was said, it’s coaxes you, not force you to do something. Add the syllable “po” afte “na” and you’ll be loved. “Po” is a syllable in Tagalog that conveys respect. It is not much used now, especially by the youth but it remains as it is the Tagalog tongue. As we say, salamat po. Mabuhay po kayong lahat.

  • Andrew

    Great summary Benny, I’m bookmarking this for when I get around to learning Tagalog.

  • Benny the Irish polyglot

    Perhaps someone can correct me on this, but I think it’s more along the lines of what I wrote in the post.

    When you repeat a word then it emphasises it in some way. For adjectives this is like saying “very”, so “magandang-maganda” is very “beautiful” (note the ng in the first word). For nouns, it would depend on the context. Beer na beer is a brand I think? But if could also be “awesome beer” for example.

    The “na” is there for the reason I mentioned – beer ends in an ‘r’ so if you are connecting two words together that need a ligature, it will either be “ng” if it ends in a vowel, or “na” if it ends in a consonant.

    This is based on my limited exposure, so a native can correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Olan Paz

      IYes na has been used in a way to help emphasize something like tunay na tunay. “The real thing” Sarap na sarap. And I think you are write Benny about it replacing ng here. It’s the same as saying gandang-ganda. (Nobody says magandang-maganda anymore it seems to me. Just like no one says katotohanan for truth. People say totoo. Much like adverbs are beginning to disappear here in the U.S. No one says “drive carefully” anymore. People say “drive careful.”)

      • Neil McIntyre

        Also a paddy learning Filo – Maith Thu Benny!

        Among the english speakers I have met, the use of the english word ‘Already’ is rampant. Thus I read ‘Load na dito’ as Top-up here already!’ it is somewhere between an exclaimation and a soft command.

        Tulog Na! – Sleep already!
        Kakain Na! Eat already!

        In English already is generally used more rarely, but it helps me to imagine it as slang, as it would be in english. It adds something of a tense too, as the imperative and present continuous tense of a verb are often written the same.

        I find this also to be the case with pa, which roughly translates as ‘yet’ – it is easy to add to a sentence, and adds intent. I have not gone to school vs I have not gone to school yet

  • Anonymous

    Well good Job! You shpuld also try BAYBAYIN, the ancient Filipino characters, this shouldn’t be difficult anyomre. Filipinos dont use it anym,ore but it’s pretty popular as tattoos. It’s realkly easy as the characters are really alphabets and like the language can easily adapt to English :)

  • Micamyx

    This post made me smile :) Salamat sa iyong interes sa pag-aaral ng Tagalog! :D

    • chrismsawi

       ako din, mapasaya niya ako.

  • Benny Lewis
  • chrismsawi

    Hey Benny,  I am a Filipino, and I’m glad to hear that you know and can do Tagalog. Tagalog is one of the the diverse dialects of the Philippines. When you know Tagalog, majority of us will definitely understand you, I’m assuring you of that. :) Tagalog is truly a very fun language to learn, and we love to hear that a man like you can do Tagalog. :) This post directly speak to me, specially how you express Tagalog in terms of mixing it to English and Spanish. :) Goodluck sa pag-aaral mo ng Tagalog! at ikinasisiya kong malaman na interesado kang matutunan ito :) Like that sentence, I mixed an English word to my Tagalog! :) Sa muling pagkikita! Adios! :) And also like that one, with Spanish! :)

  • mcarthy

    I’m a Filipino and a foreigner friend of mine said that he’s amazed at how we Filipinos could converse using only two letters. I said, what do you mean? He said, “well, in the elevator one of the passengers asked, ‘bababa ba?’. Another replied, ‘bababa’. :)

    • Guest

      bababa means is go down

  • 11tatic

    hahaha… This is really funny. All Filipinas really do that in the Philippines because the structure of Western Men are big looking more manly. Plus, if you are foreign, enough is said.

    If you go 5 generations back, people still know how to speak Spanish in the Philippines.

  • Maria Juliana Carriedo

    Just a little advice- beware of too much Taglish. You might not even know it because Filipinos are naturally discreet with their feelings of dislike (especially to foreigners) but to some, it really sounds very irritating. A few English words mixed is okay but throwing any English word at random parts might sound like butchering of the language (some might even think that you’re ignorant or something). I do like your article, though.

  • Cat Ramos

    Loved this post :) one of the reasons why Tagalog was chosen as basis for Filipino is that Tagalog uses po and opo and has grammar structures that express politeness. Ex: “kumain ka na ba?” can be transformed to “kumain na po ba sila?”

  • Patrick

    Hallo! Really nice post Benny. Nice to know that someone from the different race appreciate our language. Filipino here and also trying really hard to learn Deutsch.

  • Paul

    Great Post! Very accurate. The Filipinos are very encouraging and many will treat you like you are fluent if you can say even a few phrases.

    I spent two years on Panay island where they speak Ilonggo, Karay-a, and Aklanon, and I can say that the language learning was practically painless. Sure there was a lot of memorization and things that I found unfamiliar at first but when you live among the people and give it your best shot, they are very helpful and they love to speak with you. I say it was practically painless because just like Benny said, you aren’t going into the country to speak 100% Filipino right off the bat. You can use English as training wheels with a lot of people until you become familiar with how they speak.

    I went into the country having studied Tagalog, but I began speaking the local dialects from day one. I later perfected my Tagalog (or Taglish, to be correct) to fluency, and I found it rather useful. Most of the people I met would mix several dialects together (including Tagalog phrases) without even realizing it.

    I actually found the Ilonggo language to be very simple in grammar and verb conjugation so people shouldn’t let the other dialects scare them away from visiting non-Tagalog areas of the Philippines.

    Ang galing mo naman Benny!

  • Mabie Flores

    Hi! This is Mabie from I Juander in GMA NewsTV – a national television company here in the Philippines. We are currently doing an episode about foreigners who learned to speak Tagalog and in line with this, we would like to invite you for an interview. This interview could be done via skype. If you are interested, you can contact me in our office at GMA (02) 982-77-77 or you can also contact me thru my mobile number 09053417378. You can also give us your number so that we could discuss the details further. Thank you so much sir. God bless!

  • Olan Paz

    Perhaps “na” in this case is also a slang. I notice the younger folks use it when texting as in Luv Na U. Call na me. To make things more Taglish or to sound…well…cute? So it may be similar to saying Load na Here. Load na dito. I found this summary of the Tagalog language very interesting too.

  • Anna Elissa

    “The good news is that Tagalog has no grammatical gender, no person or plural based conjugation, no grammatical cases like the dative and lacks many other features that could make it harder to learn.”

    This, plus all the suffixes, infixes, and prefixes, are exactly the same grammar rules for Indonesian language, and I believe also Malay.

  • Kate

    I love reading your observations on learning Tagalog – it brings back such great memories for me from the 6 months I lived there in 2007! I too greatly appreciated how encouraging many Filipinos were as I practiced speaking Tagalog. I’m working on bring Tagalog back up to fluency as I hope to visit again soon. Cheers!

  • Ryuno

    Thanks Benny for visiting our country. I do apologize that because our country is a super free country and poorly tolerated by the government you’ll see a lot of people doing what they want that led them to become undisciplined (Spitting everywhere, throwing trashes everywhere, etc) which makes our country quite dirty looking especially in Metro Manila, but there are so many good places here like Batanes for example where most of the people only use bikes for travel to avoid pollution, also the stores there are left without look-outs, you just have to get the things you wanna buy and leave your money inside a box or basket. I hope you still enjoyed your stay here and treated well by my fellow Filipinos. Maraming Salamat.

  • Iconoclast

    From a linguistic perspective, Tagalog and Filipino indeed share the same syntax and grammar. It’s now only officially called “Filipino” because “Tagalog” also refers to a particular ethnic group in the Philippines and we don’t want the other ethnic groups to be left out. The idea for the change is to also incorporate words from other languages within the archipelago. Interestingly, this had been happening in the past when Filipinos were actually speaking the more stable form of Tagalog. For example, “Katarungan” (justice) actually comes from the root word “Tarong”, a Visayan word for upright. There was indeed a time when Tagalog can be considered as “pure” and such literature exists. Unfortunately, due to English usage spreading like wildfire, I don’t think that that kind of usage would actually return anytime soon.

    As for deeper words, actual words do exist that are not invented by academics. Unfortunately, the dictionary is still in the process of being encoded digitally. Some Filipinos might be surprised to know that Tagalog has actual individual words to describe gold of different purity/karats, for example.


    magandang gabi po :-)

  • darameja

    Awesomeness. Exactly what I needed. Learning Filipino now. Salamat!

  • Guest

    Tagalog is poorly written Spanish period. It’s grammar rules = grammar disparity galore, nation wide. Total miss use of letter “S” for “SH” Santiago replaced by Shantiago or Iglesia for Igleshia for Church. Another chronic problem many Educators are trying to correct is the replacement of letter “P” for “F” and vice versa i.e. What time it is? Pipe Pipty Pipe for 5:55. Replacement of letter “U” for “O” like instead of saying Church they say Ch”o”rch and continued replacement of letter “I” for “E” or instead of calling a man “HIM” they refer to him as “SHE” and the same for the opposite sex. Filipinos have a mix of Malay, Spanish and English. Put on your condoms since, many ex pats with AIDS had been deported for having unprotected sex and be careful to not fall into the “This is my sister’s daughter” trick, it might be her own daughter and she is hiding it from you. Stay healthy mentally and physically.

  • Roger Jolly

    Love this article, man. I am just breking into Tagalog, with the intention of moving there, (for now temporarily, then we’ll see) so I am going through a lot of materials, and having dealt (still doing it) with several languages (ancient ones too), I really feel your fascination and interest for it, being able to make comparisons and seeing how people adapt to the variations it implies and the cultural difference it tries to bind. I will definitely be following you. Your mental approach to it is so fresh and open… ;-)
    There is a quite good and interestingly written book for grammar details and curiosity on Tagalog… “Tagalog Grammar” by Galo B. Ocampo. My guess it is a compilation from a web page, but is is pretty good. I think it can still be found on the net on torrent sites. ;-)

  • Puan Sue Lajis

    How fascinating! I truly enjoyed your writing and , yes understand more. Thank you for sharing, now i understand more about tagalog!!!

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  • Teddy O’ Malley

    I used to spend a lot of time in an internet forum where the population was nearly half Filipino. And I noticed a lot of the English words. Thought that was something the kids did to be cool. Now I know. Thanks!

    I’ve wanted to learn it ever since.




  • Alvin

    San ka ngayon

  • Christina A Samosa

    In cebu they have 2 dialect like ilocano but inorder to communicate to each other they use tagalog. Tagalog is a main language in phil. Most of the words in tagalog is from chinese like papa and some in spanish. Most of the words in english don’t have direct translation in tagalog. Filipino is a person or a subject in academics, tagalog is the main language. Taglish is a informal form of the language. U should visit enchanted in palawan i think or siargao or fort santiago in manila when u came back here. Visit department of tourism website in philippines. so you’ll know places you’ll might visit.

  • Christina A Samosa

    Actually the word “kain” which means eat the correct pronounciation of it is ” ka-in” they just always mispronounce it like the vowel ” i they pronounce it e” that’s why it becomes ” ka-en” but the right is “ka-in”

  • Christina A Samosa

    You can just know plural form of tagalog word with the use of ” mga” pronounce as “ma-nga” and the tenses that he’s talking about is ” git-lapi” like kumain, it is the past”un-lapi” like kumakain – this is in present tense, the last one im not sure if it is “hul-lapi” panlapi this the words or letters that is added to the root word to know if it is in past, present, or future tense

  • Christina A Samosa

    “Kami” is use if you are telling it to another person he/she is not included e.g.” kami lang ang lalabas which means we are just going out”. “Tayo” is use when you are telling it to the one your talking to e.g.” kasama tayo which means including us. ” kasama also means together, or just with, etc. It depends in the sentence e.g. ” im with my friend” in filipino ” kasama ko ang kaibigan ko”