FAQ

What Language do People in the Philippines Speak?

Written by Patrick
Travel Insurance

The official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and English. Different regions of the Philippines speak different regional languages. Although there are 183 different dialects spoken in the Philippines, the following is a short list of the most common languages spoken in the Philippines:

Bisaya

Bisaya, also known as Visayan, encompasses a group of languages spoken in the Visayas and Mindanao regions of the Philippines. Cebuano, one of the major languages in the country, is a variant of Bisaya and is spoken by a significant portion of the population, particularly in Cebu and other surrounding islands. Unlike Tagalog, the main language in the central and southern parts of Luzon, Bisaya is widespread in the Visayas and Mindanao regions, highlighting the linguistic diversity across the Philippines.

Learning and understanding Bisaya can offer both cultural insights and practical benefits for communication within the Visayas and Mindanao regions. With its prominence in these areas, gaining proficiency in Bisaya can foster meaningful interactions and connections with the local communities, providing a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances and traditions that define the Philippines.

Cebuano

Cebuano, also known as Binisaya, Bisayan, Sebuano, Sugbuanon, Sugbuhanon, and Visayan, is the major language of the Visayan islands, including Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol, and parts of Mindanao in the Philippines. It belongs to the Malayo-Polynesian group of languages within the Austronesian language family. The language has three vowel phonemes and sixteen consonant phonemes, with vowel length making a difference in word meaning. Cebuano has a rich vocabulary that includes words of Spanish, Chinese, Arabic, and English origin due to historical influences. It is estimated that there are 15.8 million people in the Philippines who speak Cebuano as their first language, making it the second most spoken language in the country after Tagalog. Cebuano is used as the medium of instruction in Grades I and II, after which instruction is shifted to Filipino, the national language of the Philippines, and English.

Chavacano

Chavacano, also called Chabacano, is a special Spanish-based creole language spoken in the Philippines. It developed during the time of Spanish colonization and has changed over many years due to interactions with local languages, creating a unique blend. The language is mainly used in the southern Philippines, especially in Zamboanga City and nearby areas. Chavacano combines Spanish vocabulary and grammar with elements from various Philippine languages like Cebuano and Tagalog. This mix gives Chavacano its distinct identity, setting it apart from regular Spanish and other creole languages. Despite being a minority language, there are ongoing efforts to protect and promote Chavacano as an important part of the Philippines’ cultural and linguistic diversity.

Hiligaynon

Hiligaynon, also known as Ilonggo, is an Austronesian regional language spoken in the Philippines by approximately 9.1 million people, predominantly in Western Visayas and SOCCSKSARGEN. It is the second-most widely spoken language in the Visayas and belongs to the Bisayan languages, with its closest relatives being Capiznon, Masbatenyo, and Porohanon. Hiligaynon has no official status in the Philippines but is used as a language of wider communication in the areas where it is spoken. Many speakers of Hiligaynon also speak Filipino and/or English, reflecting the linguistic diversity in the region.

Ilocano

Ilocano, also known as Ilokano, is an Austronesian language spoken in the Philippines, primarily by Ilocano people and as a lingua franca by the Igorot people and the native settlers of Cagayan Valley. It is the third most-spoken language in the Philippines, after Tagalog and English. Ilocano has two main mutually intelligible dialects: Northern and Southern, each with slight phonological differences. The language features a relatively straightforward sound system with distinct vowel and consonant phonemes, and its grammar incorporates a focus system for verbs and the use of affixes to indicate tense, aspect, mood, and grammatical relations. The Ilocano language has a rich and diverse vocabulary, incorporating Austronesian roots and loanwords from Spanish, English, Chinese, Malay, and other languages.

Kapampangan

Kapampangan, also known as Capampáñgan or Pampangan, is an Austronesian language and one of the eight major languages of the Philippines. It is the primary language of the entire province of Pampanga and southern Tarlac, as well as northeastern Bataan, and is spoken as a second language by some Aeta groups in the southern part of Central Luzon. The language is known honorifically as Amánung Sísuan (‘breastfed, or nurtured, language’) and is spoken by approximately 2.3 million people. Kapampangan has a rich vocabulary and is spoken in various provinces surrounding Pampanga, reflecting its significance as a language of cultural and historical importance in the Philippines.

Maguindanaon

Maguindanao, also known as Magindanao or Magindanaw, is an Austronesian language spoken by a majority of the population of Maguindanao province in the Philippines. It is also spoken by sizable minorities in different parts of Mindanao such as the cities of Zamboanga, Davao, and General Santos, and the provinces of North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, South Cotabato, Sarangani, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, as well as Metro Manila. The language has three main dialects: Taw sa ilud, Taw sa laya, and Biwangen. Maguindanao is closely related to Iranun, which is spoken in the same area. It is a statutory language of provincial identity in several provinces in Mindanao. Maguindanao holds historical significance as the language of the Sultanate of Maguindanao, which existed before and during the Spanish colonial period from 1521 to 1898. It is a vital means of communication and cultural expression for the people in the region, reflecting the linguistic diversity and rich heritage of the Philippines.

Tagalog

Tagalog, also known as Filipino, is a major language spoken in the Philippines, a country with a population of over 100 million. It is the native language of the people in the Tagalog region in the central and southern island of Luzon. Tagalog was declared the basis for the national language in 1937 by then President of the Commonwealth Republic, Manuel L. Quezon, and was renamed Pilipino in 1959. Although Filipino and English were declared as the official languages in the 1972 Constitution, with Filipino as the new national language, by 1986, Filipino, based on the national lingua franca, became the national language of the Philippines. The history of the language’s development has led to questions about the relationship between Filipino and Tagalog, with experts predicting that at some point in the future, Filipino and Tagalog will split up and become truly separate languages.

Tausug

The Tausug language is a prominent language spoken by the Tausug people, primarily in the Sulu Archipelago in the southern Philippines. It is a part of the Sama-Bajaw languages within the Austronesian language family. The Tausug language is characterized by its unique writing system, which uses a variant of the Arabic script known as Jawi. This writing system has played a crucial role in preserving Tausug cultural and historical texts, allowing for the transmission of knowledge and traditions across generations.

Waray

The Waray language, also known as Waray-Waray, is a major language spoken in the Eastern Visayas region of the Philippines. With roots dating back centuries, it has evolved into a distinct language with its own unique characteristics. The Waray people primarily inhabit the islands of Leyte and Samar, contributing to the language’s significant presence in the region. The Waray language belongs to the Bisayan group of languages and shares similarities with other Philippine languages, particularly Cebuano and Hiligaynon.

The Philippines has many different languages due to its diverse collection of islands and rich history. Many ethnic groups across the islands speak indigenous languages, adding to the country’s linguistic variety. This diversity reflects the Philippines’ unique history shaped by trade, colonization, and cultural exchanges, highlighting the importance of language in the nation’s identity and heritage.

Philippine Languages Map

Caption:  Philippine Languages Map | Image Source

READ MORE:  Common Filipino Words & Phrases

About the Author

Patrick

Patrick is an entrepreneur, digital nomad, explorer, and photographer. Patrick is always in search of fun and adventure. He is well travelled throughout the world, and although location independent, his home base is Phoenix, Arizona in the USA. Patrick loves island lifestyle which is no wonder why he is so interested in spending time in the Philippines with it’s over 7,000 islands. Patrick created this site to share his knowledge of and experiences in the Philippines with Filipinos as well as other foreigners.

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