Filipino/Background

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Speakers[edit]

The Philippines is the only country where Filipino is an official language, though there are many speakers of languages from the Philippines in other countries. Languages from the Philippines are widely-spoken household languages in such countries as Australia, the United States, and Saudi Arabia, though these specific household languages should not be confused with the official Filipino language.

Republic Act No. 7104, "AN ACT CREATING THE COMMISSION ON THE FILIPINO LANGUAGE, PRESCRIBING ITS POWERS, DUTIES AND FUNCTIONS, AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES" Section 2 states that: Sec. 2. Declaration of Policy. — Pursuant to the mandate of the Constitution, it is hereby declared to be a policy, of the Government to ensure and promote the evolution, development and further enrichment of Filipino as the national language of the Philippines, on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages. To this end, the Government shall take the necessary steps to carry out the said policy.

The challenge with the declaration is the fact that the official Filipino language is based upon Tagalog, which is only one of the dozens of languages spoken in the Philippines. Commonly called "dialects" the various languages spoken by Filipinos are mutually unintelligible and therefore are not dialects at all, but rather distinct languages. Therefore, the official declaration to "promote the evolution, development, and further enrichment ... on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages" leaves the door open for adding lexicon from languages other than Tagalog. As a political gesture to unify the various speakers within the Philippines this may have been a good strategy, however the practical reality of combining mutually unintelligible languages results in universal unintelligibility. So, to date, official "Filipino" still most closely resembles Tagalog, the indigenous language spoken by those living near the National Capital Region (NCR) surrounding Manila and in other areas of Luzon.

In practice, Filipinos often speak several languages. The first language learned is the home language, which number in the dozens. Filipino language is officially taught in schools, though as a practical matter Tagalog is actually taught. Tagalog is also used by the national media. Tagalog is often the second language learned for Filipinos that speak one of the many other languages of the Philippines at home.

Since the time of the U.S. occupation of the Philippines and subsequent independence, English has been taught in schools and used widely in business. English is the other official language of the Philippines, and is widely spoken especially among educated Filipinos. Since English is taught in school, it is often the second or third language learned by speakers of Tagalog.

Speakers of Tagalog, whether speaking as a home language or a second language, don't speak “pure Tagalog” either. Since Tagalog is the language used by the national media, and because English is an official language as well, the media more accurately uses Taglish, a combination of the languages. To be even more precise, Tagalog, Taglish, and other languages of the Philippines have been influenced heavily with Spanish words and pronunciation since the country was colonized by the Spanish for 300 years.

Taglish is widely spoken among speakers of languages in the Philippines, in part because it is learned through the media. Also, English is widely spoken as one of the official languages, and is taught in schools and is used widely in business.

To sum up, the official "Filipino" language is really not spoken and is a political gesture. As a practical matter, Filipinos often speak many languages. Tagalog, English, and Taglish are widely used when Filipinos with different home languages seek to communicate.

Because many people, particularly those from other nations such as the United States, don't understand the difference between official Filipino and Tagalog, and in fact may be unaware that Tagalog even exists, it's easier to explain that the language in the Philippines is simply "Filipino". Therefore, common use of the term "Filipino language" as the language spoken in the Philippines generally refers to Tagalog, and not the official Filipino language, which is not spoken. As a practical reality, however, Filipino is synonymous with Tagalog. Therefore, speakers of "Filipino" are actually speakers of “Tagalog” or “Taglish”.

Writing[edit]

Filipino uses the Roman script. The Filipino alphabet has 28 letters: 26 are the same as in English and one is uniquely from Spanish ( ñ ). The 16th letter is ng, which is theoretically counted as only one letter.

Filipino and Tagalog[edit]

Filipino, being the official national language of the Philippines, was designed to be an amalgamation of the different languages of the Philippine islands. The basis of the official Filipino language is Tagalog, a Philippine language spoken by the people of Central and Southern Luzon. It was chosen mostly because it was the American Commonwealth government in Manila which pushed for a national language to counter what nationalists perceived as Americanization of Philippine culture. Manuel L. Quezon, a Tagalog, was head of the Commonwealth government from 1935 to his death in 1944. One of the nationalistic movements pushed by the Tagalogs, together with other groups, was a language movement that declared Filipino as the national language. Lope K. Santos developed his Grammar for the Tagalog language in the first decade of the 20th century, and the movers in Philippine government and society adopted Tagalog as basis for the new official language, with an intention to change the lexicon and possibly the syntax to accommodate other ethnic groups.

Tagalog is the main grammatical and lexical basis for the official Filipino language, although words from other Philippine languages are included. Because of its similarity or resemblance to Tagalog, some people use the word Tagalog in describing the official Filipino language. Also, because the official Filipino language is includes grammatical and lexical elements from other Philippine languages, the official Filipino language is an amalgamation that is generally is not intelligible by anyone speaking one of the spoken languages in the Philippines, including Tagalog. In practice, official Filipino language is not spoken, it is approximated by speaking Tagalog.

This has resulted in considerable resentment by some members other dominant Philippine groups, who continue to use their own languages instead of Filipino in their formal and informal transactions. Also, since members of other dominant Philippine groups have likely learned Tagalog, not official Filipino in school and through the media, they may not identify as speaking Filipino and may instead identify as being Tagalog-speaking. One must keep in mind that official Filipino is not the same as Tagalog, but from a practical standpoint official Filipino doesn't exist as a spoken language.

The government and the educational leaders of the country have increasingly used English as one of the unifying languages for the Philippines. Official Filipino is not spoken, Tagalog is taught and used in the media, and Tagalog in the media is increasingly being mixed with English. Tagalog is morphing to become Taglish in the media. This trend will likely continue as the education system increasingly adopts English in all areas of the country.

At present, there are two unifying languages within the Philippines. Tagalog is taught and spoken while being referred to as Filipino for official purposes. English is widely taught and spoken. When speakers of other Philippine languages meet, they must determine if their conversation will work better in Tagalog or English. Most likely, it will involve both Tagalog and English, thus Taglish.

The Sentro ng Wikang Filipino (SWF) has started to increase the vocabulary for Filipino, first adding words from other Philippine languages from a Tagalog base, and then adding words from English and other Indo-European languages. The goal of SWF seems to create a language that will express scholastic as well as ordinary ideas, thoughts and nuances that are common to Filipinos of whatever ethnic group.