Recently, I was looking through some research data about the different languages spoken in the United States. I was surprised to find that Tagalog and the Tagalog-based Filipino combined are the third most commonly spoken languages in the states after Spanish and Chinese. I was unfamiliar with Tagalog and decided to learn a little about it. Here is just a glimpse of what I found out about the language during my studies. I want to make a disclaimer here that I am NOT a language expert with regards to these languages. I felt others would value what I learned during my studies. so I am sharing it here.
The Tagalog language is classified as a member of the Austronesian language family. Formerly known as the Malayo-Polynesian language family, Austronesian is one of the world’s largest language families. It is divided into two groups, Central-Eastern and Western. Tagalog is part of the Western Austronesian group, along with the Javanese, Indonesian and Malay languages.
Historically, Tagalog was the language of the one of the dominant indigenous ethnic groups in the Philippines called the Tagalog people. Tagalog is classified as a member of the Austronesian language family. This is one of the world’s largest language families and is divided into two groups, Central-Eastern and Western. Tagalog is part of the Western Austronesian group.
Spain colonized the Philippines from 1565 – 1898 and greatly impacted the language and culture of the Philippines. Tagalog gained an enormous number of Spanish words and it is estimated that currently 40 percent of informal Tagalog vocabulary consists of Spanish loanwords or words derived from Spanish origins.
The Tagalog language, named the official language of the Philippines in the 1930’s has been embroiled in ethnic debates within the Philippines by Tagalog and non-Tagalog speaking groups ever since that official designation.
When Tagalog was named the official language of the nation in the 1930’s, non-Tagalog speakers felt that by naming Tagalog as the official language, the ethnic Tagalog speakers would dominate over the other language groups. In the late 1950’s, the government renamed Tagalog to Pilipino in an effort to stem the discord over the language. Most recently, in 1987, the language name was once again changed. This time it was named Filipino. Thus, Tagalog and Filipino are virtually the same language and mutually understandable. English is also spoken by many people in the Philippines.
Filipino and English are now the formally recognized languages of the Philippines. People from a non-Tagalog heritage prefer to call the language Filipino while many of those with a Tagalog cultural heritage continue to call it Tagalog. Filipino is formally used in business and in the schools. It is widely accepted that Filipino is a Tagalog-based language. The Tagalog language is spoken as a first language by an estimated 15 million people around the world. It is the largest first language group within the Philippines at almost 14 million native speakers. This is amazing considering there are over one hundred other language groups in the Philippines. A teacher who says that the Philippine national language is “Tagalog” may offend politically conscious Filipinos from other parts of the country where Tagalog is not the first language. Cebueno, Kapampangan, Ilocano are just three of the other languages of the Phillipines.
Tagalog is the third most widely spoken foreign language in households across the United States. As of 2013. immigration data shows that there are an estimated 1,844,000 Filipino-Americans in the United States. In 2013, about 30 percent of Filipino immigrants (age 5 and over) reported limited English proficiency, compared with about 50 percent of the foreign born overall. The greatest number of Tagalog/Filipino speakers are located Hawaii and California.
I found it fun to study a little bit about these languages. I plan to share more that I learned about the Phillipines in the future.
If you are interested in more precise linguistic information about Tagalog go the About World Languages website. If you found this article interesting, you may enjoy other articles I have written about working with various ethnic groups. Click Here