Tagalog is one of the most commonly used languages in the world but there are also a lot of people who are not aware of it. The language is the first language of many Filipinos and is also spoken by over twenty-four million people worldwide.
If you want to speak or understand Tagalog it helps to know a bit about how the language developed, where it’s used, how it’s similar to other languages and how it is used by Tagalog speakers around the world today.
Below we’ve highlighted a few topics to help you learn about Tagalog, it’s significance across the world and how the language is used today:
- What is Tagalog?
- The history and development of Tagalog
- Seven facts about the Tagalog language
- What other languages are used in the Philippines?
- Send money to the Philippines with Small World
What is Tagalog?
Tagalog is a language that comes from the Philippines. Today, over 50 million Filipinos speak Tagalog in the Philippines. It is the first language of most Filipinos and the second language of many others.
It is a language that has a long and fascinating history. The language dates back more than a thousand years and has changed dramatically as various countries have exerted their influence on the Philippines. It is classified as a Central Philippine language that is within the Austronesian family of languages. It is normally spoken in the country’s National Capital Region (NCR), also known as Metropolitan Manila, the country's political, economic, and educational center, Central and Southern Luzon, and its neighboring islands.
The word Tagalog means “from the river” or “river dweller”. Along with many unique Tagalog words the language has also been influenced by Spanish, Chinese, Malaysian and American languages. The language has significant global reach and is spoken in a wide variety of countries across the globe.
The history and development of Tagalog
The development of the Tagalog language has taken place over many hundreds of years. It is part of the Austronesian language family which also includes languages like Hawaiian, Malay and Maori.
For many years there was no known record of Philippine languages before the arrival of the Spanish. However, “in 1992 the Laguna, an old tablet from the 9th century CE covered with engraved languages — was deciphered and found to contain Javanese, Malay and Sanskrit.”(Babbel) This breakthrough discovery showed links between Tagalog and other ancient languages.
The first Tagalog dictionaries were put together by Spanish missionaries during the 17th and 18th century. One of the most significant Tagalog dictionaries is the Vocabulario de la Lengua Tagala, which was first compiled in the 18th century and continues to be re-edited and reissued (most recently in 2013).
The official language of the Philippines has changed many times over the last two hundred years, switching from Tagalog to English to Spanish and then back to Tagalog. Since the 1940’s Tagalog has remained the most prominent language throughout the Philippines even when the country came under Japanese control during World War II.
Tagalog was kept as the official language in the constitutions of the 1970s and 1980s but the official name shifted first to Pilipino and then to Filipino. Today the Filipino language is the official, standardised version of Tagalog. It is called Filipino in order to make the language seem more universal and to unify the people that speak the language over the thousands of islands.
Today Tagalog is firmly cemented as the major language of the Philippine islands. And with Filipino migration around the world Tagalog is developing and evolving in immigrant communities in countries far away from the Philippines.
7 Facts about the Tagalog language
- In 2021, over 24 million people outside of the Philippines spoke Tagalog. Today, you can hear the language being spoken in countries like the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom. In fact, Tagalog is the fifth most spoken language in the United States, ranking above Korean, Arabic and Russian. This is due to the volume of Filipino immigration and the strength of the established Filipino communities. There are over 16 million Tagalog speakers in the US and over 400,000 in Canada.
- Simlish, the language used in The Sims video games, was initially created by the game designers through experimenting with Tagalog.
- The Tagalog word for love (mahal) also means expensive in Tagalog.
- Taglish is the combination of Tagalog and English words. In the Philippines Taglish is often spoken by the younger generations as English is one of the most popular languages of the Filipino people.
- Over 100 Tagalog terms can be derived from the Proto-Malayo-Polynesian language.
- Tagalog became the official language of the Philippines in 1879 but was replaced by Spanish in 1935.
- Tagalog is a mandatory language in schools throughout the Philippines as is the language of choice for radio, television, literature and any official government functions.
The Tagalog language is rich and has a storied history. Here we’ve given you a brief overview but there is so much more to discover. If you are passionate about the Philippines and want to learn more about Filipino culture, language is a great place to start.
We encourage you to get involved in Tagalog language classes to truly immerse yourself in the language and improve your ability to communicate with people from the Philippines.
What other languages are used in the Philippines?
Alongside Tagalog there are a host of other languages spoken across the Philippines. There are over 7,000 Philippine islands and it is estimated that there are around 180 living languages still spoken across the country. Many of these languages are spoken by hundreds of thousands of people, whereas some are spoken by only a few hundred.
The official languages of the country are Filipino, a standardised version of Tagalog and English. After Tagalog the most common Filipino language is Cebuano, with over 21 million speakers. This language is mainly used in Cebu City and in Mindanao. Some of the other common Filipino languages include Bicolano, Ilocano, Waray-Waray, Hiligaynon and Kapampangan.
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