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Tropical Experience Travel Services - Tours of the Philippines

Languages of the Philippines

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Languages Philippines
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Filipino Language and Use of English in the Philippines

Filipino is the national language of the Philippines – which is in practice, almost completely composed of the Tagalog language being spoken in the capital Manila.  Filipino and English are the official language of the country, with Filipino being used as the lingua franca and English mainly in publications and media. 

Locals may use their mother tongue when communicating among themselves but switch to English when addressing non-locals.

Spanish was the official language of the Philippines for more than 3 centuries under the Spanish colonial rule, but then was switched when the Americans took over and imposed English during the pre to early 1900s. At the present moment, it is quite rare to find Spanish-speaking Filipinos (even though many Spanish words were adopted by Filipino language).

Suffice to say that a tourist with a basic knowledge of English can survive going around the Philippines. Signages, menus, tickets, billings, hotel and transportation information are most likely to be written in English. The more rural you go, the more provincial the place is, it becomes more difficult it becomes for locals to speak English to foreigners.

People in the provinces are more reserved and are not accustomed to speaking the English language. Locals should know at least basic conversational English, though some would be shy to speak to you, afraid to be embarrassed and “loose face” with a foreigner: they assume all foreigners are perfect English speakers. It should be ok, there should be someone nearby who can and who will. It’s important that you smile and make it sound like an easy question, then they should be comfortable speaking to you.  Look and sound friendly, a smile goes a long way for a Filipino.


Native Languages

There are a total of 182 native languages being spoken all over the country, most belonging to the Malayo-Polynesian language family. The following are considered indigenous:

  • In Luzon - Tagalog, Ilokano, Kapangpangan, Coastal Bikol, Pangasinan,

  • In Visayas – Waray-Waray, Hiligaynon, Kinaray-a

  • In Mindanao - Maranao, Maguindanao, Tausug

  • In Visayas and Mindanao – Cebuano*  

 * some might refer to the Cebuano language also to “speaking bisaya”, because Cebuano is prominently spoken in the Visayan Region.

Each would have at least 1 million native speakers, and one or more of these are spoken by about 90% of the country’s population.


Basic Filipino Phrases to Learn for your Trip

Learning some Filipino phrases would also be helpful in capturing the locals’ hearts. They will be pleasantly surprised when you use a Filipino line or two when bargaining or asking for directions. They would be more enthusiastic in helping you out, as Filipinos are naturally friendly and helpful. Here are some phrases that might be useful:

Good morning!: Magandang Umaga!

Good noon!: Magandang Tanghali!

Good afternoon!: Magandang hapon!

Good evening!: Magandang gabi!

How are you? : Kumusta ka? (one person) - Kumusta kayo? (2 or more people)

Goodbye: Paalam.

Thank you : Salamat.

You’re welcome: Walang anuman.

How much? : Magkano?

Bargain, please. : Tawad pa.

Delicious! : Masarap!

I like / I want : Gusto ko.

I don’t like / I don’t want : Ayaw ko.

Can I have this? : Pahingi ako nito?


Then, probably you’ll ask… how do you say “Hello!” in Filipino? Actually, they really do not have an exact word for that. But instead, Filipinos greet with “Kumain ka na?” or in translation --- Have you eaten?  Because Filipinos are very hospitable, and asking you if you have eaten is like a hello and an invitation to eat with them. How lovely is that?

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