A country just the size of California has 175 spoken languages

The country is the Philippines, of course.

How come there are 175 languages spoken in such a small country ? Answer : It’s an archipelago of 7,641 islands. The inhabitants of each island in ancient times developed their own language.

So, how do they understand each other ? Answer : They don’t … and didn’t , until Spain came to the scene, united the islands and named the country Las Islas Filipinas ( formerly ???….actually, nameless )in honor of King Philip ll of Spain , and later Anglicized as Philippines by the Americans.

So, why do Filipinos not speak Spanish like South America ? Answer : With the inhabitants speaking 175 different languages, I ;m sure the Spaniards thought it was too troublesome so they just gave up and fortunately, didn’t even try to impose their language on the inhabitants, unlike what they did in Latin America. Speak Spanish or die.

So, how did the Filipinos communicate with each other ? Answer: They had to learn Spanish so that they could communicate with different groups and, most importantly , with the ruling government. I assume it was easier for Filipinos to learn one new language than to learn 175 ones. LOL Filipinos that time did speak Spanish as a second language. Under Spanish rule for 377 years, that was a given.

( ponders )

377 years ! That’s hardcore. Not complaining though. I mean, I wouldn’t be here blogging / existing if not for one adventurous Spaniard from Segovia, Spain . Sorry, off topic. ^_^”

But, how come Filipinos don’t speak Spanish ? The US colonized the Philippines in 1898, ( after the Spanish – American War) and made English the official language and the medium of instruction in schools , in all levels, so those born during American colonial rule grew up learning English , while the rest had to learn another language, yet again . And though the Philippines acquired its independence in 1946, English remained an official language up to present, together with Filipino language, which is based in Tagalog , the lingua franca in the capital region ( Manila ) Tagalog non-speakers had to learn another language for the third time. Filipino language based on Tagalog was added to school curriculum. ( Although , for a time, people from the island of Cebu complained that since there were more Cebuano speakers than Tagalog speakers, the national language should be based on Cebuano ) Anyway, all Filipinos can now understand and speak Tagalog , and that’s a good thing. Native Tagalog speakers , however, still cannot understand the other languages. (+_+ )

So, how different is Tagalog from other Filipino languages ? Answer : As different as Greek from German.

Ex : Where are you going ?

Tagalog : Saan ka pupunta ?

Pampagueno: Nun ka munta ? ( The province of Pampanga is just 66 km. or 41 miles from Manila )

Ilocano: Ayanna papanam ? ( Ilocos Sur is about 297 km / 184 miles from Manila )

Cebuano : Asa ka padulong ? ( Cebu is an island south of Manila, about 573 km. /356 miles )

Ilongo : Diin ka makadto ? ( Ilo-ilo , where Ilongo is spoken, is an island south of Manila , about 465 km/ 289 miles)

Chavacano : Donde ta anda tu ? ( Zamboanga where Chavacano is spoken , is part of Mindanao Island, south of Manila, about 859 km/534 miles)

Although these languages are so different from each other, they sound the same to non-Filipinos.

Except Chavacano.

Check out a Tagalog music video , Dahil Sa ‘ Yo ( Because of You )on my previous post and see if you can detect the difference between Tagalog and Chavacano. Oh, alright, I;m reposting it here. I know you busy folks won’t bother. ( “_” )

So here’s a Chavacano song, Porque ( Because ), sang by Aria Clemente and David DiMuzio. Can you detect the difference between the 2 songs?

Listen to a foreign song, be curious, be entertained.

Please comment down below if you’ve detected the difference.. I’d love to hear from you, dear readers.

Bye for now. Be Safe . Keep your mask on.

39 responses to this post.

  1. Oh my gosh!😱 just imagining trying to teach all those people Spanish back then! Wow!
    The only words I know from working with the Filipinos? Oh my gulay! Kuya!
    I don’t pick up languages! So if I lived in the Philippines back then and even now? I would be screwed! 😂


    • Bes, Tagalog is one of the top 10 easiest language to learn. No problem. Filipinos aren’t fluent, either. The country has unofficially acknowledge Taglish as a language. Taglish is English-Tagalog in one sentence. LOL kuya is honorific name for an older brother. And gulay is Tagalog for vegetable. He he Filipinos don’t want to use the name of God casually.


    • Bes, did you listen to the songs? o_O


      • Yes. At first I thought he was going to sing Kelly Clarkson’s “because of you” 🤦‍♀️😂😩 wow! I’m so smrt!
        It was very nice song.
        The second song reminded me of walks on the beach. So soft romantic


  2. Interesting essay, thanks a lot. The only words that rang a bell for me are .” Donde ta anda tu ? (Chavacano)”. These indeed bear some similarities to Spanish (a donde tu vas/andar)


    • Chavacano is Spanish Creole.

      I didn’t know the Philippines has so many languages. We were at San Francisco airport in 2010. There was a family of Filipinos conversing in a language I couldn’t understand. I was confused so I asked my mother if she could understand them and why they were speaking a different language. That’s when she told me about the 175 languages, and, oh, she couldn’t understand them, either, lol. Amazing !


  3. A Bicolano once taught me a phrase in Bicolano: “magayon ang Mayon!”


    • OMG ! I was reading your second comment, but it suddenly disappeared. You wrote something like, You’re fluent in Tagalog but couldn’t understand Ilocano ? ( By the way, you are more than fluent. Where the heck did you learn those ” deep ” Tagalog words from ? lol. You’re amazing.


      • I can still see my second comment. How did I learn Tagalog? Well, I live with my Filipina wife and my Filipina mother in law….how else could it be? I am exposed to Tagalog day in and day out (way too much maybe)…nice article, your blog is getting more and more interesting


  4. I speak Tagalog rather fluently but while in Ilocos I couldn’t understand a word


    • Oh, it’s here ! !

      What does magayon ang Mayon mean ?

      I have 2 Filipino co-workers . We were having lunch one time … then they deliberately conversed in Ilongo. I was like , Hey, what are you two talking about ! Speak English ! ! Then they said, ” We can’t because we;re actually selling you off, tee hee. “


      • According to what my Bicolano friend said this expression means that the Mayon volcano is maganda


      • It is good that hindi ako maibebenta sa bahay ko dahil marunong akong magsalita ng wika ng mga kapamilya ko…. interestingly my wife’s village borders on a Kapampangan speaking town in Pampanga na nasa kabilang parte ng ilog. Weird….


        • ” Weird “……. Exactly ! ! ! I mean, Pampanga is just 60 km from Manila ! How ????


          • So is my wife’s village: San Ildefonso. Ang Pampanga ay nasa kabilang parte ng tulay


            • So, your wife’s from Tarlac ??? And the only thing that separates the two is a BRIDGE , but they speak a different language ? That’s unbelievable ! ! !

            • She is from Bulacan. Pampanga is only few hundred meters from the poblacion of San Ildefonso. We actually have similar places in Italy. In the Northern Italian region of South Tyrol half the population speaks Italian and the other half is German speaking. In the Trieste area there are some Slovenian speaking minorities and in the Valle d’Aosta there are French speaking ones….my country is not as multilingual as the Philippines but, at least, my wife’s land and mine have something in common…apart from the nice beaches and great food

            • Whoa ! She’s from Bulacan ? They speak the ” deepest ” , most pure Tagalog language … so I heard . Ha ! No wonder your Tagalog is deep ! To be honest, I don’t know some of the Tagalog words that you use on your blog. Mine is purely conversational. I bet you use ” subalit or ngunit, instead of “pero.”

            • Indeed, I use ngunit and subalit rather than “pero” because “pero” is the asawang lalaki of “pera” at wala akong pera….haha

            • Ha Ha Ha Ha ! !

  5. Nice article! I can speak 3 of those many languages – Tagalog, Ilocano, and Ibanag. Tagalog, officially named Filipino, is spoken by a majority of Filipinos.


    • Before 2010 , I didn’t know the Philippines had so many languages. At San Francisco airport, I heard a group of Filipinos speaking in a language I couldn’t understand, but they were clearly Filipinos. I checked out their ID tag, the adress was Pampanga. I looked at a Philippine map, and Pampanga is just 40 miles ! ! How ???? Anyway, it’s amazing.


    • Oh, wait, my mom said she used to understand a bit of Ilongo ( her father’s from Aklan ) ,


      • It is safe to assume that majority of Filipinos could speak at least two to three of our native dialects – Tagalog and those that are spoken in their specific regions.


  6. Loved the songs, there was a difference in the words but the tone was soft and romantic! 🙂


  7. My dad knows chavacano! Province like Cavite used Chavacano for quite some time. It’s just sad that they didn’t sustain it.

    Beautiful language 🙂


    • There are now native Chavacano speakers from Cavite who have started to revive the language in cavite. The problem is, Tagalog speakers have now outnumbered Chavacano speakers in cavite since a long time ago. And Cavite is just too close to Manila, and it seems it’s practically a part of Metro-manila region. I hope these languages can be preserved.


  8. That’s amazing. Some of the people who speak a unique language there must be very few in number.


    • Oh, In fact, each language has millions of speakers. They even say Cebuano language has more speakers than the official Filipino language based on Tagalog. Cebuanos complained at first, but of course they couldn’t do anything to change that. It’s sad though that some unique languages spoken by indigenous Filipinos ( ex: Igorots/Ifugaos , who live in the Cordilleras and Sierra Madre mountains and have remained “pure” since pre-colonial times ) are dwindling and disappearing. I am sure their languages are the original ones spoken by our ancestors before the Spaniards came.


  9. Fascinating to read of such extreme diversity in your country without the divisive effect of Civil War. Or am I mistaken?


    • There’s an on-going civil war in the southernmost part of the country, between Muslims and Christians, dating back to hundreds of years, even during the Spanish colonial times. It culminated in 2017 when a group of Muslims attacked a city in Mindanao that led to an all-out battle with thousands killed. The Muslims are about 10% of the population, and live in the southernmost part, near Indonesia which is 97 % Muslims, while the Philippines is over 90% Christian, 85% of which are Catholics. Some Muslims fighting the Philippine government come from Indonesia. But, there’s been some peace in Mindanao now, owing to what happened in 2017, and these rebels lost the support of Muslim Filipinos.

      having one language somehow lessens the division. they have to learn Tagalog, the official language. It is what it is. They know they can’t have a country whose citizens don’t understand each other.


    • Ha ha ! I know , right. I type what ‘s on my mind without even considering the relevance to the topic…. the problem is, there’s no topic. lol


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