The Languages spoken in Philippines


There are at least 170 languages and dialects in the Philippines; nearly all of it belongs to the Borneo-Philippines collection of the Malayo-Polynesian language branch of the Austronesian language family.

For more than 3 centuries Spanish was the official language of the Philippines and became the lingua franca in the 19th and early 20th centuries. But after the occupation of the Americans in the 1940’s and the obligation of using English, Spanish declined steadily. The 1987 Constitution declares Filipino and English as official languages. Majority of the Filipinos speak, write and understand Filipino and English. Filipino is de facto standardized translation of Tagalog spoken in Metropolitan Manila and city centers while English is extensively used as the lingua franca throughout the country. There are 12 major regional languages or dialects that are still prevalent in specific provinces: Cebuano, Ilokano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Bikolano, Kapampangan, Pangasinan, Maranao, Maguindanao, Kinaray-a, Tausug and Chavacano.

Filipinos prefer to use Filipino or their regional dialects in personal and informal conversations. English is primarily spoken in education, business, government, medicine, legal system and various formal ceremonies. School textbooks for subjects such as physics, biology, religion, calculus, and accounting are widely printed in English as has no Filipino versions. American movies and TV programs showed in local networks are not subtitled but most films and TV programs are produced in Filipino.

Spanish is still a subject taught in some universities. Other foreign languages that are spoken in some areas especially by overseas immigrants are Chinese, Arabic, Japanese and Malay.