The languages in the Philippines and the things you need to know about the different dialects and its corresponding regions.

There are some mix up between whether Filipinos use the language “Filipino” or is it “Tagalog”, well here are some insight between the two. “Filipino” is the national language of the Philippines, as such it is the official language of the country. It is a standardized variety of the “Tagalog” language, an Austronesian regional language that is widely spoken in the Philippines. Tagalog is the first language of 28 million people, or about one-third of the Philippine population, while 45 million speak Tagalog as their second language. Tagalog is among the 185 languages of the Philippines identified in the “Ethnologue”. But today’s Filipino language is best described as “Tagalog-based”, the language is usually called Tagalog within the Philippines and among Filipinos to differentiate it from other Philippine languages. Even though the official view is that Filipino and Tagalog are considered separate languages, Filipino may be considered the official name of Tagalog, or even a synonym of it.


Dialects in the Philippines

There are plenty of languages and dialects in the Philippines, in fact there are 120 to 187 depending on the method of classification. There are different forms of diglossia that exist in the case of regional languages, locals may use their mother tongue or the regional lingua franca to communicate amongst themselves, but sometimes switch to foreign languages when addressing outsiders or foreigners. The diglossia is more evident in the case of other languages such as Ilocano, Pangasinan, Kapampangan, Bikol, Waray, Hiligaynon, Sambal, and Maranao, where the written variant of the language is becoming less and less popular to give way to the use of Filipino. Here is a map that shows where are the local regions and their respective dialects are located.


Indigenous languages

According to Ethnologue, there is a total of 182 native languages are spoken in the nation and four languages have been classified as extinct: Dicamay Agta, Katabaga, Tayabas Ayta and Villaviciosa Agta.

There are 4 indigenous languages with approximately 9 million or more native speakers:

  • Tagalog
  • Cebuano
  • Ilocano
  • Hiligaynon

and 8 with 1 million to 3 million native speakers:

  • Waray
  • Bikol
  • Kapampangan
  • Pangasinan
  • Maranao
  • Tausug
  • Maguindanao
  • Zamboangueño
  • Karay-a
  • Surigaonon

One or more of these is spoken natively by more than 90% of the population.


Native speakers

Here are the population estimates from the 2000 Philippine census by the Philippine Statistics Authority on the number of Filipinos who speak the following 18 languages as a native language.

Language ISO 639-3 Native speakers
Tagalog Tgl 26,387,855
Cebuano Ceb 21,340,000
Ilocano Ilo 7,779,000
Hiligaynon Hil 7,000,979
Waray-Waray War 3,100,000
Central Bikol[23] Bcl 2,500,000
Kapampangan Pam 2,480,000
Pangasinan Pag 2,434,086
Maranao Mrw 2,150,000
Tausug Tsg 1,822,000
Maguindanao Mdh 1,800,000
Zamboangueño Cbk 1,200,000
Kinaray-a Krj 1,051,000
Surigaonon sgd, tgn 1,000,000
Masbateño Msb 530,000
Aklanon akl, mlz 520,000
Ibanag Ibg 320,000
Yakan Yka 110,000
Eskayan Esy 500