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The Philippine Languages

Filipino (formerly Pilipino) is based on Tagalog and is the official language of the Philippines.  In spite of being the national language, only about 55 percent of Filipinos speak the language. In addition to Filipino are about 111 distinct indigenous languages and dialects, of which only about 10 are important regionally.

English is generally used for educational, governmental and commercial purposes and is widely understood since it is the medium of instruction in schools.  The Philippines are the third largest group of English speaking people in the world, after the United States and the United Kingdom.  


Since English is widely spoken in the Philippines, it is common to hear Filipinos use a mixture English and Filipino words or phrases, known as "Taglish" (a mixture of English and Tagalog), in their everyday conversations.

A steadily dwindling minority still speak Spanish, which had at one time been an official language. 


Speaking the Language

Everyday Greetings

Tagalog speakers in the Philippines have many ways of greeting other people. It is common also to hear them say "Hi" or "Hello" as a form of greeting, especially among close friends. There are no Tagalog translations for these English greetings because they are basically borrowed terms, and any English-speaking person will be readily understood by Filipinos in general (Yes, Virginia and Joe, English is widely spoken in the Philippines, a former colony of the US of A for nearly 50 years!). Below are a few Tagalog greetings that are importart to learn if one wants to endear himself/herself to Filipinos.

Magandang umaga po. (formal/polite) - Good morning
Magandang umaga. (informal) - Good morning

Magandang tanghali po. (formal/polite) - Good noon
Magandang tanghali. (informal) - Good noon

Magandang hapon po. (formal/polite) - Good afternoon
Magandang hapon. (informal) - Good afternoon

Magandang gabi po. (formal/polite) - Good evening
Magandang gabi. (informal) - Good evening

Kumusta po kayo? (formal/polite) - How are you?
Kumusta ka? (informal) - How are you?

Mabuti po naman. (formal/polite) - I'm fine
Mabuti naman. (informal) - I'm fine

Tuloy po kayo. (formal/polite) - Please, come in
Tuloy. (informal) - Please, come in

Salamat po. (formal/polite) - Thank you
Salamat. (informal) - Thank you

Maraming salamat po. (formal/polite) - Thank you very much
Maraming salamat. (informal) - Thank you very much

Wala pong anuman. (formal/polite) - You are welcome
Walang anuman. (informal) - You are welcome

Opo/ oho. (formal/polite) - Yes
Oo (informal) - Yes

Hindi po/ho (formal/polite) - No
Hindi (informal) - No

Hindi ko po/ho alam. (formal/polite) - I don't know
Hindi ko alam. (informal) - I don't know

Anong oras na po? (formal/polite) - What time is it?
Anong oras na? (informal) - What time is it?

Saan po kayo papunta? (formal/polite) - Where are you going?
Saan ka papunta? (informal) - Where are you going?

Saan po kayo galing? (formal/polite) - Where did you come from?
Saan ka galing? (informal) - Where did you come from?

Ano po ang pangalan nila? (formal/polite) - What is your name?
Anong pangalan mo? (informal) - What is your name?

Ako po si ________ (formal/polite) - I am ______ (name).
Ako si _________ (informal) - I am ______ (name).

Ilang taon na po kayo? (formal/polite) - How old are you?
Ilang taon ka na? (informal) - How old are you?

Ako po ay _______ gulang na. (formal/polite) - I am _______ years old.
Ako ay _______ gulang na. (informal) - I am _______ years old.

Saan po kayo nakatira? (formal/polite) - Where do you live?
Saan ka nakatira? (informal) - Where do you live?

Taga saan po sila? (formal/polite) - Where are you from?
Taga saan ka? (informal) - Where are you from?

Kumain na po ba sila? (formal/polite) - Have you eaten yet?
Kumain ka na ba? (informal) - Have you eaten yet? 

Below is a list of Tagalog words and phrases used in giving or asking for directions.

deretso - straight ahead
(sa) kanan - on the right
(sa) kaliwa - on the left
umikot - turn around
(sa) harap - in front
(sa) likod/likuran - at the back/behind
hilaga - north
silangan - east
kanluran - west
timog - south
(sa) itaas - on top
(sa) ibaba - below/at the bottom
(sa) ilalim - at the bottom
(sa) loob - inside
(sa) labas - outside

There are a number of Tagalog words and phrases which are rather vague in terms of specific distance but signify "nearness" or "farness" of a particular object, thing, or place from the speaker. These are:

doon - yonder (over there)
diyan lang po sa tabi - there, on that side
sa banda po doon - over on that side

Below is a list of Tagalog question words with their corresponding meanings and examples in English.

Ano? - What?
Alin? - Which?
Sino? - Who?
Saan? - Where?
Bakit? - Why?
Kailan? - When?
Paano?/Papaano? - How?
Magkano? - How much? (money)
Nasaan? - Where? (to look for something/somebody)

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