Taglish: The Unofficial Language of the Philippines

Manila, Capital of the Philippines

It is great to be able to speak more than one language. Being multilingual has so many benefits, and we have covered them before. So what happens when you combine two languages together? That is how the Philippines ended up with Taglish. 

Taglish is the combination of Tagalog and English, both in name and in substance. It is the name given to the phenomenon where the two languages are combined into one sentence in everyday speech. It is also common to see in writing too.

Here, we will have a look at why Taglish exists, and what it would sound like. 

The Background

The Philippines has a long history of different settlers occupying the country. Most notable for this case was America, who resided in the country for around 40 years. Over that period, English became more widespread and began to be taught in schools. It is due to this that English became so prominent.

Today, there are two official national languages recognized in the Philippines: Filipino (a standardized version of Tagalog) and English. These are the languages taught in school, used in workplaces and in law , etc. At least, that is how things appear. In practise, however, people have adapted the languages into one.

Taglish is a mixture of two languages, the code-switching of English and Tagalog. A sentence would take elements from both languages and combine them. Sometimes, it may be the most efficient way to talk, with ideas and concepts being simpler to explain in one language while other things are easier to say in the other language. If you are visiting for Christmas, you will likely hear it a lot.

Ultimately, mixing both Tagalog and English provides the best of both worlds in terms of getting an idea across. 

Unstandardized and Unofficial

Taglish is by no means standardized. It is a colloquial language used in mainly informal situations between family, friends and everyday conversation. Therefore, there is no official way to speak it. Since a lot of people, especially in the cities, can speak Tagalog and English to some degree, they should be able to understand any coherent combination of the two.

While a lot of the Taglish spoken in the country takes place in metro Manila and some other big cities, it is also worth noting that it has developed in overseas Filipino communities too. These will understandably be different from that spoken in the Philippines, showing how it has developed by itself.

Language experts and teachers alike generally disapprove of the use of Taglish. This is likely due to the fact that is informal. For children, it may also be harmful in their learning and understanding of English. However, many also see it as reflecting a high proficiency in the languages, especially due to the fluent nature of code switching. Similarly, it offers unique ways of expression that would not be possible with one language alone.

How Does it Work?

Again, due to the unstandardized nature, it is difficult to give a general rule. Some sentences may have majority Tagalog vocabulary with a few English words or vice versa. However, it is much more complex than using simple loan words from English, or making English words sound more like Tagalog.

Here is an example of a common expression that code switches between English and Tagalog: 

‘Tara let’s’

In pure Tagalog, the phrase would be ‘Tara na’, and in English it is ‘Let’s go’. As you can see in this case, it is a simple change of one word. It does get more complicated, however.

‘Finished na ba yung homework mo?’

In this phrase, you can see how it switches between the languages within the sentence. In Tagalog, this would be ‘Natapos mo na ba yung takdáng-aralín mo?’ while in English, it would be ‘Have you finished your homework?’.

As you can see from just these two examples, phrases short and long can contain elements from both languages. Whether they change with each sentence or within each sentence, different elements from English and Tagalog will begin to appear.

The Best of Both Worlds

For Filipinos, Taglish has become a normal everyday thing. Though it may be difficult to comprehend for many people, it comes very naturally to the people of the Philippines. Some questions to think about is whether Taglish is a natural evolution of the Tagalog language and whether it is just adjusting to the modern way of speaking. In a country home to hundreds of languages, this sort of occurrence shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. I imagine it is helpful when learning new languages.

Taglish is just one example of ‘code switching’ between English and a local language. There are of course examples of languages other than English being mixed with other prominent languages in a country. It is very interesting to see and hear, showing a lot about the linguistic culture of a location.

Want to start speaking Tagalog like a true local? You will need to learn some Tagalog first. Try out the Ling Tagalog app to practice and learn new vocabulary to get started.

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