Tagalog (ta-GA-log) is the national language of the Republic of the Philippines. It was officially renamed Filipino in 1961. Today, it is taught in the elementary and secondary schools of the Philippines, where it is spoken by approximately 45 million people. In the United States, there are at least 900,000 speakers of Tagalog.
Tagalog was selected as the national language of the Philippines in 1946 because it had a rich literary tradition, it was the most widely spoken language in the Republic, and it was considered the language of the revolution against colonialism.
Tagalog is a member of the Western group of Malayo-Polynesian languages. The Malayo-Polynesian languages are unique and do not appear to be related to any other language group. Other Malayo-Polynesian languages include: Malagasy, Malay, and Indonesian.
Other languages of the Philippine Islands include: Visayan, Pampangan, Bikol, & Ilocano. As a result of rule by the United States from 1899 to 1941, English is widely spoken and serves as a second official language.
The Tagalog alphabet consists of twenty letters: 15 consonants and 5 vowels. For hundreds of years, there existed a traditional Tagalog script. It is, however, no longer widely used.
Over time, many words from Malay, Spanish, and English have been introduced, and have become commonly used words in Tagalog. Tagalog grammar has retained its original form and has remained unchanged as new words have been incorporated.
Did you know that the English word "boondocks" is from Tagalog? "Bundok" means mountain, in Tagalog.
Formal and Informal Address
In Tagalog, the particle "po" is used to express respect to the person to whom you are speaking. If you meet a friend on the street you might say, "Magandang araw." (literally, beautiful day). If you meet an older person or a stranger you might say "Magandang araw, po". "Po" is often translated as "sir" or "ma’am".
Some of the vocabulary in Tagalog will be familiar to speakers of English: bangko means bank, sero means zero, tiket means ticket, and kompyuter is recognizable as computer. But don’t be fooled, there are many other words that look the same yet carry very different meanings! For example, at means "and", noon means "at that time" rather than "midday", and mama means "uncle" or "mister".
The sentence order in Tagalog is markedly different from the sentence structure to which we are accustomed. We might say "The crocodile is big." A native speaker of Tagalog would probably say "Malaki ang buwaya," or "Big the crocodile."
To express plural in Tagalog, the article "mga" is often used. For example, "the child" would be "ang bata"; "the children" would be "ang mga bata".
Most nouns in Tagalog are neuter, but some of the nouns which have been borrowed from Spanish are gender specific. Of these, the feminine nouns such as "blusa" (blouse) almost always end in "a" while the masculine nouns such as "amo" (boss) usually end in "o".
Using numbers in Tagalog can be difficult because native speakers use not only Tagalog, but also Spanish and English numbers! Dates, for example, may be expressed in any of these languages. You might hear "sa August one" on August first; "unang araw ng Nobyembre" on November first, or even "a-primero ng Mayo" for May first! If you learn both Spanish and Tagalog numbers you’ll be better equipped to deal with situations involving numbers such as dates, times, prices, and measurements.
Tagalog is a phonetic language and the letters and letter combinations virtually always have the same pronunciation.
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