BITS and Pieces

Get global. Get ahead.


Guess the country: a breathtakingly beautiful archipelago in Southeast Asia with over 7000 islands and cultural influences from at least a dozen Eastern and Western countries. That’s right, the Philippines. With 170 languages and 8 major dialects spoken here, what do you even think is its national language? Filipino. Right? Oh but that’s only since as late as 1939.

What was it before that? Tagalog. Now let’s brush up on a fact or two, so you know how to impress your culture-loving and quiz-loving friends the next time 🙂

Tagalog – what and where?

Tagalog is popularly known as the language of the Philippines, and belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian branch of the Austronesian language family. With an estimated 21.5 million speakers speaking it as a first language, it is also spoken across Canada, Guam, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, the UK and the US.

Modern-day Filipino is said to be based on Tagalog. While it is the modified and standardised version of Tagalog, they are still two separate dialects. Tagalog is conventionally related to other Philippine languages such as the Bikol languages, Visayan languages, Ilocano, Kapampangan and Pangasinan, and more distantly to Taiwan, Malay, Hawaiian, Māori and Malagasy.

Tracing back the links

The word is derived from “Taga-ilog,” which literally means a “river native” or “from the river”. After the arrival of the Austronesians, their culture has strongly been evident in the ethnicities, languages, cuisine, music, dance and all other cultural aspects, including influences from Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei as well as Japan, Korea, China, the Indian subcontinent and Arabia due to trade.

Other culture trivia

While the Philippines is an archipelagic country composed of 7641 islands, it is best known for its rich biodiversity. Tourists flock to this large cluster of islands primarily for its beaches, mountains, rainforests, diving spots and waterfront promenades.

As for some fun facts, did you know that Tagalog was proposed to be the national language only in 1939, until it was further modified and was then named as “Filipino” in 1959.

Globalisation factor

When you ask a Filipino today to name the national language of the country, the natural response is “Filipino”. While very few acknowledge that there is any difference between Filipino and Tagalog, a lot of natives see Filipino as more of a Tagalog-Plus.

They learn to speak Filipino now because it is taught in schools and is constitutionally the national language, but English is naturally used in colleges, universities, the courts and the government, and they even pride themselves for having the third largest number of English speakers in the world!

That apart, the thousands of loan words from Spanish and the ever increasing borrowing of vocabulary from English, especially in the urban areas, has now interestingly resulted in the Taglish and Englog languages.

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Alifya Thingna - Associate Director | Key Accounts Having grown up around the Middle East and India, Alifya is a shy, yet friendly and colourful personality with a keen interest in human psychology, ethnology and contemporary dance forms. An aesthete by nature, she is extremely passionate about getting to know new people, immersing herself in new cultures, writing and doing the 'little things' that make this world a better place to live in. She also has a Masters degree in French literature, enjoys biking and is the modern definition of a logophile and an equalist.