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Languages of The Philippines

Loveleena Rajeev Aug 27, 2020
Philippines has over a hundred native languages, believed to be in use since 30,000 years when the first aboriginal people arrived here.
The Republic of the Philippines is located in Southeast Asia. It is made up of 7,107 islands and its capital city is Manila. There are around 170 languages used in Philippines, which belong to the Austronesian language family.
On 12th November, 1937, the First National Assembly created the National Language Institute, on the direction of the 1935 Constitution to "take steps towards the development and adoption of a common national language based on one of the existing native languages."
Among the many languages, English and Filipino are considered to be official and there are at least ten other major languages spoken all over the Philippines. All the rest are considered as either minority or extinct languages.


English is the official language of the Philippines. This language was brought to Philippines by the British invaders in 1762. English became important under the U.S. rule between 1898 and 1946. Being the official language it is used predominantly in all government and educational institutions. All major media houses also use English for their publications.


The 1987 Constitution declared Filipino as an official language along with English. Filipino is used as the lingua franca in all parts of Philippines including armed forces and the civil services. It is the only national language that was to be "developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages", as per the 1987 Constitution.


The Spanish Conquistador Miguel López de Legazpi introduced Spanish in Cebu, in 1565. Spanish was used in education, religion, trade, and politics; and by the 19th century it was combined and used with all the local dialects. Free public education was provided solely in Spanish from 1863, to further promote its use.
However, in 1973, Spanish was no longer considered as the official language and its use was restricted mainly to Metro Manila, IloIlo, and Cebu by Filipino-Spanish mestizos and Spanish families.


The Japanese have been migrating to the Philippines since 1200 A.D. A large community of Japanese speaking people reside in Davao city.


Most of the verbs and nouns used in the Philippine languages have originated from Old Malay. Philippine people are heavily influenced by the culture of Old Malay and Indonesia. Malay is the lingua Franca among the Muslim population in southern Philippines.


Mandarin Chinese was brought to Philippines by the immigrants from the Fujian, China. The Lan-nang-oe dialect of China is still widely spoken by the country's resident Chinese descendants and other groups due to inter-marriage of the Guangdong Chinese people. Some Filipinos also speak Cantonese, which is another dialect of Chinese.


Like Malay, Arabic is predominantly spoken by the Muslims and has been used as a sacred (liturgical) language since the 14th Century. It is a medium of instruction in the Madrasa (Islamic center of education). In 1987, the constitution approved the use of Arabic to be promoted on a voluntary basis.

Eight other regional, official languages


This is derived from tagailog; tagá means native of and ílog meaning river. It is an Austronesian language which forms the basis of the national and official language Filipino.


Waray is the fifth major language spoken in the Philippines, and is also known as Winaray or Lineyte-Samarnon. It is prominently spoken in the regions of Samar, Leyte, and Biliran.


This originates from i-, which means from and looc meaning cove or bay. It is the third most spoken secondary language used by more than two million natives.


The Hiligaynon language is famously known as Ilonggo. It is the the fourth most spoken language in Philippines and is found to be spoken in the regions of  Western Visayas, western Negros Oriental, southwestern Masbate, coastal Palawan, a few parts of Romblon and some parts of Northern Mindana.


This is the most widely spoken member of the Visayan (Central Philippines) language family. Its name is derived from the Island of Cebu, the second largest metropolitan area of the country.


This is derived from the word pampang which means river bank. It is also spelled as Capampan͠gan, earlier known as Kapampangan. It is one of the major languages of the Philippines. It is spoken in the dialect of Pampang, Tarlac and Bataan, with its origin from the Latin script.


Commonly associated with Central Bikol language or Bikol Naga is a language spoken prominently in the Bicol region of southern Luzon in the Philippines. Also spoken in various regions of Masbate and southwestern parts of Cantanduanes.


Pangasinan, also known as Salitan Pangasinan, is one of the major languages which is officially studied and taught in schools, spoken in the Philippines.It is mainly spoken in the provinces of Pangasinan, Tarlac, La Union, and Benguet.
There are many more native languages spoken in the Philippines, whose origins are still not well-known. Every language still spoken here, truly reflects the varied ethnicity of this nation, and efforts on the part of the National Language Institute and others to ensure that the ancient languages are preserved and not lost by the onslaught of modernization.