The Ultimate Guide to Learning the Different Languages in Philippines

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Most Filipinos speak three languages in Philippines: their mother tongue, Tagalog, and English. With 180 languages spoken by locals in different provinces, it’s not surprising or uncommon for a Filipino to be multilingual. 

However, with the rise of modernity and technology, some use slangs for Filipino words that contribute to the extinction of some languages and dialects in the Philippines. That’s why it’s important for everyone to learn and preserve the many Filipino languages that serve as identities of various groups of people in the country.

Let’s take a closer look at the different languages in the Philippines and learn about their roots and importance in the Philippine culture.

Major Languages in Philippines

If you want to learn more about the Filipino Tagalog, Zamboanga language, or indigenous languages in the Philippines, we’ve rounded up a list of languages that Filipinos speak:

  1. Tagalog
  2. Ilocano
  3. Pangasinan
  4. Pampango
  5. Bicol
  6. Cebuano
  7. Hiligaynon
  8. Waray-Samarnon

Source: National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA)

What’s inside this blog?

Whether you want to know about the Filipino Tagalog, Bisaya, Mindanao language, and other Philippines official languages, this blog will guide you through learning the different languages spoken in Philippines.

List of Filipino Languages

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1. Tagalog

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When colonizers came to the Philippines, the Filipinos were forced to speak the colonizers’ languages. For a time, Spanish language in the Philippines was widely spoken during the Spanish era. But as time passed, Tagalog became the Philippines official language. 

Tagalog is a language spoken in Philippines by the ethnic Tagalog people, who make up a quarter of the population of the Philippines, and as a second language by the majority. You might get confused about the Filipino Tagalog as there have been debates whether it’s Filipino or Tagalog. Truth is, both are correct but the national Language or Philippines official language is Filipino. 

Tagalog is the basis of the national language. Three years after the proclamation of Tagalog as the basis of the national language (officially called “Pilipino” since 1959) it was decided as one of the official languages of the Philippines constitution. 

According to NCCA, it is predicted that by the year 2000, the Philippines will be a Filipino lingua franca speaking nation, which is quite an achievement wrought within a time-frame of around 65 years (1935-2000).

2. Ilocano

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Ilocano is the language that most Filipinos speak in Northern Luzon, and its speakers constitute the third largest language community of the Philippines.

This Philippines native language is spoken in Northern Luzon including the Babuyan Islands, Cordillera Administrative Region, Cagayan Valley, northern parts of Central Luzon, Mindoro and scattered areas in Mindanao (the Soccsksargen region in particular). 

In September 2012, the province of La Union passed an ordinance recognizing Ilocano (Iloko) as an official provincial language, alongside Filipino and English, as national and Philippines official languages Filipino, respectively. 

3. Pangasinan

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Pangasinan is the primary and predominant Philippines native language of the entire province of Pangasinan, northern Tarlac, northern part of Luzon’s central plains geographic region, most of whom belong to the Pangasinan ethnic group. 

This Filipino language is also spoken in southwestern La Union, as well as in the municipalities of Benguet, Nueva Vizcaya, Nueva Ecija, Zambales that border Pangasinan, and a few Aeta groups in Central Luzon’s northern part.

Pangasinan is similar to other closely related Filipino dialects and languages, Malay in Malaysia (as Malaysian), Indonesia (as Indonesian), Brunei, and Singapore, Hawaiian in Hawaii and Malagasy in Madagascar. It is also very closely related to the Ibaloi language spoken in the neighboring province of Benguet, located north of Pangasinan. 

4. Pampango

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Pampango or Kapampangan is the primary and predominant language of the entire Pampanga province, southern Tarlac, northeastern Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, and Zambales that border Pampanga. In Mindanao, some Filipinos speak Kapampangan especially in South Cotabato. 

5. Bicol

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The original settlers of Bicol were said to be composed of the Tagalog (who migrated to Camarines Norte and Camarines Sur) and the Visayans (who moved to Masbate and Sorsogon). These migrations and the isolation of certain areas led to the formation of different dialects in the Philippines. In Camarines Norte, the Bicol dialect is interchangeably used with Tagalog, while the one used in Masbate and Sorsogon is mixed with northern Visayan language. And the Catanduanes dialect had been influenced by Samar-Leyte language. 

In the so-called Rinconada towns (which includes Buhi, Bula, Baao, Iriga, Bato and Nabua), the Filipino dialects differ from the Naga language. Though there are different dialects in the region, the Bicolanos can communicate with one another with the “Bicol proper” language in Naga City and the lower Bicol valley.

6. Cebuano

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Cebuano is one of the most widely spoken Philippines local languages. You can hear it in the provinces of Cebu, Bohol, Siquijor, Negros Oriental, northeastern Negros Occidental, (as well as the municipality of Hinoba-an and the cities of Kabankalan and Sipalay to a great extent, alongside Ilonggo), southern Masbate, many parts of Leyte, Biliran, parts of Samar, and large parts of Mindanao. A large portion of the urban population of Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, Surigao and Cotabato is also Cebuano speaking. 

Cebuano is also known as Bisaya but don’t be confused with some Visayan languages and dialects in the Philippines as they have different names for the language. 

7. Hiligaynon

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Hiligaynon, also often referred as Ilonggo, is spoken mainly in Western Visayas (Iloilo, Capiz, Guimaras, and Negros Occidental) and Soccsksargen. It is the second-most widely spoken language in the Visayas and belongs to the Visayan languages, and is more distantly related to other languages in Philippines.

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8. Waray-Samarnon

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Waray-Samarnon is the native language of the Waray people and the second language of the Abaknon people of Capul, Northern Samar, and some Cebuano-speaking peoples of eastern and southern parts of Leyte. It is the third most spoken language among the Visayan languages, next to Cebuano and Hiligaynon.

Other Languages and Dialects in the Philippines

Here’s a list of dialects in the Philippines and other languages spoken in the country:

  1. Ivatan (Batanes)
  2. Ifuntok (language of the indigenous Bontoc people of the Mountain Province)
  3. Ibanag (Northeastern provinces of Isabela and Cagayan)
  4. Gaddang (Magat and upper Cagayan rivers in the Region II, provinces of Nueva Vizcaya, and Isabela)
  5. Sambal (Santa Cruz, Candelaria, Masinloc, Palauig, and Iba in Zambales Province; Pangasinense municipality of Infanta; Panitian, Quezon, Palawan and Barangay Mandaragat or Buncag of Puerto Princesa)
  6. Aklanon (Aklan)
  7. Masbateño (Masbate)
  8. Romblomanon (Romblon)
  9. Bantoanon (Romblon)
  10. Onhan (Romblon)
  11. Kinaray-a (Antique, Iloilo, Panay, and Soccsksargen)
  12. Kabalian (San juan in Southern Leyte)
  13. Surigaonon (Surigao del Norte, Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Sur, some portions of Agusan del Norte, especially the towns near the Mainit Lake, Agusan del Sur and Davao Oriental)
  14. T’boli (South Cotabato, Sarangani, and Sultan Kudarat)
  15. Tausug (Sulu)
  16. Chavacano (Zamboanga City, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga Sibugay, Cavite, Cotabato City, Maguindanao, Davao Region, Davao City, Ternate, Ermita)
  17. Yakan (Basilan Island)
  18. Maguindanao (Maguindanao, Zamboanga, Davao, General Santos City, and the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay)
  19. Maranao (Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur)

Every language represents an identity, it’s a soul to every culture, that is why it’s important to preserve and promote our local language.

Frequently Asked Questions About Languages in Philippines

Q: What are the major languages in Philippines?

A: If you want to learn more about the Filipino Tagalog, Zamboanga language, or indigenous languages in the Philippines, we’ve rounded up a list of languages that Filipinos speak:

  1. Tagalog
  2. Ilocano
  3. Pangasinan
  4. Pampango
  5. Bicol
  6. Cebuano
  7. Hiligaynon
  8. Waray-Samarnon

Q: What is the National Language of the Philippines?

A: Filipino is the National Language of the Philippines. Article XIV section 6 states that “the National language of the Philippines is Filipino. As it evolves, it shall be further developed and enriched on the basis of existing Philippine and other languages.

Source: NCCA

Q: How many languages are spoken in the Philippines?

A: There are about 180 Philippine languages. The 8 major languages are: Tagalog, Ilocano, Pangasinan, Pampango, Bicol, Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Samarnon.

Q: What language is mostly spoken in the Philippines?

A: Filipino language or Tagalog is the most common language in the Philippines.

Q: When is the National Language Month in the Philippines?

A: August is the National Language Month (Buwan ng Wikang Pambansa) in the Philippines.

Q: Is it Filipino or Tagalog?

A: Filipino language and Tagalog are similar. Tagalog is the basis of the national language.

Q: Examples of Philippine English translation:

A: Here are some examples of Philippine English translations you should know in case you’re visiting the country:

  1. Oo = Yes
  2. Hindi = No
  3. Salamat = Thank you
  4. Kumusta = How are you?
  5. Magandang araw = Good day!
  6. Magandang umaga = Good morning!
  7. Magandang hapon = Good afternoon!
  8. Magandang gabi = Good evening!
  9. Magkano = How much?
  10. Paalam = Goodbye

Q: Do Filipinos speak English?

A: Yes, Filipinos speak English as it’s the second mother tongue in the Philippines for those who speak only Tagalog, and the third for those who have local mother tongue Philippines.

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