English is widely spoken in the Philippines; many people are also surprised that many Filipino people speak Tagalog. Even though the Philippines was under American control, the Filipinos spoke the Tagalog language.
Today, the Philippines has two official languages – English and Tagalog, or sometimes it is called Filipino. Only about a quarter of the Filipino people are native Tagalog speakers; as an island nation, the Philippines has many different dialects and languages. However, Tagalog is a language widely spoken in the Philippines.
About Tagalog – The Official Language of the Philippines
The Philippines has two official languages – English and Tagalog. The Tagalog language is a member of the Austronesian languages or what is also known as the Malayo-Polynesian language family group.
Even though this is an official language of the Phillippines, here are some facts about the Tagalog language:
- A Quarter of the Population Are Native Speakers – About 1/4 of the population of the Philippines are considered to be native Tagalog speakers. The native speakers are about 14 million people located mainly on Luzon and Mindanao’s islands.
- Filipino Language – Another Filipino language is a dialect of Tagalog that another 25 million people speak. The Philippines 1987 Constitution has designated Filipino as the standardized version of Tagalog and the national language. So this means that the version of Tagalog that is considered a national language is not the native Tagalog but the Tagalog language spoken by most Filipinos.
- Tagalog Has Complex Grammar – The Tagalog language has a complex verbal system with three distinct passive constructions that make it a complex language.
- Related to Other Asians – The Tagalog language is said to be an Austronesian language which means it is closely related to Javanese, Malay (Malaysian and Indonesian), Telum (Timor), and Yami (Taiwan).
- Related to Some Polynesian Languages – Tagalog is also related to Polynesian languages like Hawaiian, Māori, and Malagasy.
- Tagalog Is Not The Only Language In the Philippines – About 120 to 187 languages are spoken in the Philippines. Many of these are dialects, but it shows how many different languages there are.
As you can see, the language and which language to use are complex for a country with so many islands, languages, and dialects. For this reason, the government uses mainly English. But the government is also sensitive to the fact that so many languages are being spoken, so there is a bill that all children should be educated up to grade 3 in their native language.
In the Philippines, a majority of the people are said to understand Tagalog.
The Languages of the Philippines
The Philippines is a country where language has been changed many times throughout its history. When Spain controlled the Philippines, Spanish was the official language.
After the Spaniards left, America arrived and imposed the use of English. By the time the American’s left the Philippines in the 1940s, the use of Spanish was in decline, and English had become a significant language.
Under the US occupation, English began to be taught in the school systems. By 1901 English was the language being used for instruction in public schools. The 1935 constitution added English as an official language, alongside Spanish.
The 1935 constitution also called for the government to have one of the existing national languages be an official language alongside English. Tagalog was the language that was chosen as the official language.
Tagalog As The Official Language
Tagalog for many years was not the official language of the Philippines. But we need to credit the Spanish for helping to keep records of the Tagalog language.
Spanish missionaries and members of clergy compiled the first Tagalog dictionaries. They started to collect the vocabulary and grammar of the language. The Spaniards printed Tagalog and Spanish Dictionaries in the 18th Century.
When the Philippines fought for independence, they needed to unify this island nation. In 1897 the Biak-na-Bata Constitution was passed, and Tagalog was then chosen as the official national language.
When the US ruled the Philippines, Tagalog was not the official language, but English and Spanish were official. In the 1935 constitution, there was a stipulation that people should choose a national language – Tagalog was chosen.
In both the 1973 and 1987 constitutions, Tagalog was chosen as an official language besides English.
It is interesting to note that Tagalog has never been the sole official language of the Philippines – the other official language is English.
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