Eight Major Languages in the Philippines
The many languages and dialects in the Philippines are as diverse and are equally as interesting as its 7,100 plus islands.
The Philippines’ national language is called Filipino. However, there are over a hundred languages all around the country plus a lot more in terms of dialects (language variations). This hub features some of these languages.
Before going into these languages, let me just say that there are some who think that Filipino is the only language in the country and the others are just dialects. However, there are also others who think that the other “dialects” are actually languages in their own rights.
In this hub, I’ve taken on the thinking of the latter mainly due to some things I learned from my English teacher back in college. She said that languages are distinct and separate from each other. You can tell if one is a language if a person speaking it will not be understood by another person who speaks a separate language (for example, somebody from France who speaks only French will not be understood by somebody from Germany who speaks the German language only and vice versa). On the other hand, dialects are variations of a language and, in the Philippines’ case, are spoken in different regions. In contrast to various languages, people speaking in various dialects (that come from the same language) can understand each other. These definitions have stuck to my mind ever since.
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With the above definition in mind, the following are the major languages in the Philippines (major meaning there are over one million speakers):
Tagalog – This language is the basis for the national language of the country. The previous requirement to teach and speak this language in schools nationwide resulted to the huge increase in Tagalog-speaking Filipinos. Tagalog is mainly spoken in the capital of Manila, the Greater Manila Area (or GMA) and the neighboring provinces such as Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Laguna, Cavite and Batangas (with variations in some terms and in the accents). Not only that, one can go to other places around the country and still be universally understood when he or she uses this language because a lot of people around the country speak and understand Tagalog.
Cebuano – This was (and still is) a major contender for the Philippine language with the highest number of native speakers (more than 20% of the entire population of the country). It is mainly spoken in Cebu, one of the most progressive cities in the country. It is also spoken in certain areas in Mindanao, including Davao, Cagayan de Oro, Butuan, Bukidnon and General Santos City.
Ilokano or Ilocano – this is spoken in the northern part of the Philippines. It is related to other languages around the world such as Indonesian, Malay, Hawaiian, Samoan, Tahitian and Chamorro (of Guam). With the spread of the Ilocano people around the country, the use of this language has spread as well.
Bikolano or Bicolano – this is the language spoken in the Bicol Region, one of the biggest regions in the country. There are said to be 8 varieties to this language, categorized according to the geographical locations. A variation of the Bicolano language, the Bisakol language, provides a link between Bicolano and Visayan languages.
Hiligaynon or Ilonggo – A language known for its sweet intonation, the Hiligaynon language is native to more than 7 million Filipinos. In addition, an additional 4 million Filipinos know how to speak this language with a degree of proficiency. It is spoken in Iloilo, Bacolod, PanayIslands, Capiz, Antique and Aklan. It is also spoken in some parts of Mindanao such as in North and South Cotabato. , known for its melting pot of various regions and languages, also has its own share of Hiligaynon-speaking Filipinos.
Waray – this is another language spoken in the Visayas islands (the middle part of the country). It is spoken in Samar and Leyte and is closely associated with the Waray people who are known for their toughness and strength.
Kapampangan – this is a major language found in the Luzon island or the northern part of the country. It is spoken by people from the Pampanga province, a portion of Tarlac and a portion of Bataan. It is also called Pampangueño.
Pangasinense – the language of the Pangasinan province (with a total population of more than 2 million). Pangasinan is a province in Central Luzon. This language is closely-related to the Ibaloi language, which is spoken in the mountain province of Benguet and in BaguioCity (the summer capital of the Philippines).
To demonstrate how different these languages are, shown below are the translations of selected English words to the respective local languages:
These are the major languages spoken in the country. There are a lot more such languages such as those spoken in Mindanaolike Chavacano (a language spoken in Zamboanga City and is closely related to the Spanish language); Surigaonon; Tausug (language spoken by a Muslim tribe bearing the same name); Maranao (another Muslim language); and Butuanon. These various languages highlight not only the regionalistic differences of the Philippines but also the uniqueness of each of the regions found within the country. Some of these languages are slowly declining in use or are slowly merging with other languages. A conscious effort to revive these languages may be needed in the long run to ensure their long-term survival.
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