Languages in the Philippines

First off, I’m not sure if I already discussed this in another article or not, so bear with me. Anyway, while I was playing some LoL (again?), our chat box got filled with a rather heated argument, and although I rarely take it seriously, something caught my eye that made me mad. One of the opponents was chatting in Bisaya, then one of his allies told him because he speaks Bisaya he’s stupid, and called it “Bisaya gaming”. Obviously, this touched a few nerves I also speak Bisaya a lot, so calling someone stupid because he speaks Bisaya means that I’m also stupid for speaking Bisaya.

I'm a proud Bisdak - Bisayang Dako!

I’m a proud Bisdak – Bisayang Dako!

In fact, my Dad brought up a good point, the more languages you know, the smarter you are. So let’s assume the guy from the game knows how to speak Bisaya, Tagalog and English, however he just prefers Bisaya, while the other guy only knows Tagalog and English, this would mean the Bisaya guy is smarter than the Tagalog guy.

I actually saw a video about something similar to this. What happened was, in London, an American tourist would ask someone for directions, but when the guy from London answers him, he doesn’t understand because of the accent, and thinks it’s a different language, and asks the guy to speak in English. This was a prank video BTW, and I know not everyone is like this, it’s just a stereotype, I think. It just reminds me of the Philippine language topic so much, mainly because Tagalog and Bisaya are similar languages, yet are treated very differently.

That’s one thing I like about Davao, being a place where several different cultures coexist, so people don’t mind if you speak Bisaya, Tagalog, English, a combination of two of them, etc.

Honestly, when it comes down to it, I just think those people insulting people over the Internet are just hiding behind the anonymity of it. I don’t really care about most of things they say, but there are just some things that make me mad, and judging a person based on their language is one of those things. That’s just how most people on the Internet are, they don’t care about other people, I don’t know where they get the nerve to insult people they don’t know. Well, I’m getting a bit off topic here, sorry.

Flowers from WowPhilippines

Well anyway, my point is people shouldn’t judge people based on their language, like the old saying goes “Don’t jusge a book by it’s cover”, for all they know, the person they’re insulting could be the next Einstein (I’m using Einstein as an example because they consider Bisaya speakers to be “stupid”). Oh well, untill next time guys :)

Post Author: AJ Martin (149 Posts)

Aaron Martin, also called "AJ," is the son of Bob & Feyma Martin. Aaron is a graduate at Ateneo de Davao University High School in Davao City, Philippines. Aaron was born in the USA, but has lived in the Philippines since age 3.


Comments

    • AJ UK says

      and me!

      Because I live in Davao, a predominantly Bisaya speaking area, I learn Bisaya or at least try.

      Nothing makes the people here happier than when I say good morning to the in Bisaya. I always thought my wife’s family and friends were laughing at my efforts but as she explained they are just happy that I try.

      As for the internet and anonymity, well it’s the same as text messages whereby people say a lot of things that they would not dare say to your face. One of the problems with the modern world.

      Cheers

      The other AJ

      • says

        Hi AJ – I’m actually not that bright, I just learn by persistence. Sometimes I just have to repeat words in my head hundreds of times to remember them. I wish I could speak every language, that would be pretty cool.

  1. says

    I agree with the sentiments voiced in the post. Anyone that can speak any other languages is smart and has my undying respect. I am an Aussie who only speak English our version, and I find that it puts me at a disadvantage when I go to the Philippines as I can not communicate with people who speak no English. I am disadvantaged and really after all the times I have been to the Philippines should have learnt at least conversational Bisaya or Tagalog, even if it just to show respect towards my hosts and then I could be independent and not have to ask my wife or others to tell me what has been said to me.

  2. says

    I honestly proud and respect to all foriegners who speak more than one languages, those are the people should be called very smart because, I tell yah, it is not easy to learn a second language! :-)

  3. says

    At my age I think maybe I would find it very difficult to learn the suitable language to suit me as I have looked at a few programs that are available on the net but have not found they are very useful. most of them require you to use Skype which I have no idea how to use and they also want an arm and a leg to cover the cost to learn the languages

  4. says

    My wife speak I think about 6 or seven different languages, so she is a lot smarter than me, and now our son has started to say a few Bisayan words as I want him to learn the language of his other family in the Philippines and also for him to learn about the different cultures from both Australia and the Philippines. He is only two and a half so he will find it a lot easier than me to learn the language, I am a bit old I think, as they say you can not teach an old dog new tricks lol

  5. says

    My experience, Phillip is that age is not a factor in learning a language when you live where you are surrounded by the language. It will come to you when you live here, a little study will reinforce what you hear on the streets!

  6. says

    It took me four years of having one lesson each week, about 1 to 1.5 hours per lesson. I could have done it much quicker, but I chose to take my time. I thought it would be very difficult, but found it to be a lot easier than I expected.

  7. says

    Yes I agree with that Bob but unfortunately here in Australia it is a bit hard as the only way I hear the Bisaya or Tagalog language being spoken is when the Filipino wives get together at their parties and then they speak too quickly and also they are very busy just catching up with the other girls on all things from the Philippines and they do not want to be disturbed or interrupted by us asking for translations all the time LOL

  8. says

    Speaking too quickly is not a problem. Your brain is picking up on the words even if you cannot understand… then when you have more formal lessons you will realize what you have been hearing all along.

  9. says

    Yeah you are right if I listen to the conversations there are some words that the girls here say that are said in English and I can usually gleam the basis of the conversation from that one English word

  10. says

    When the girls here get together they make the most of it as they do not see each other much so they usually just want to speak to each other in the language that they feel comfortable in speaking. Which is a good thing and we the husbands should allow them to enjoy being with their friends and catching up as we do with our mates

  11. says

    Yeah some blokes married to Filipinos take offence when the wives here speak in their language, an I know of some blokes here that forbid their wives from speaking anything apart from English. That is a ridiculous attitude to take as the ladies are our wives not our property

  12. says

    Bob in a couple of weeks I will be in a position to organize the language course you have available, just got a few other pressing things to pay for at the moment. My Wifes’ older brother passed away from a massive heart attack last weekend he was 38 years old, so we helped the family cover the cost of his funeral etc. What do you require me to do when I am ready to purchase the full course and I assume that the course cost is in US Dollars.

  13. says

    Bob in a couple of weeks I will be in a position to organize the language course you have available, just got a few other pressing things to pay for at the moment. My Wifes’ older brother passed away from a massive heart attack last weekend he was 38 years old, so we helped the family cover the cost of his funeral etc. What do you require me to do when I am ready to purchase the full course and I assume that the course cost is in US Dollars.

  14. says

    No problem on that, Philip. Yes, the price is US Dollars… your Aussie dollar is fairly close these days, right? :-) I will extend your discount code for 1 month, so feel free to use it!

  15. says

    No problem on that, Philip. Yes, the price is US Dollars… your Aussie dollar is fairly close these days, right? :-) I will extend your discount code for 1 month, so feel free to use it!

  16. says

    Yes it is a ridiculous attitude for those blokes to take but some are so very insecure as most blokes that I referred to have been previously married to Filipinos who in the end left the marriage as the husband was to overbearing. What they fail to comprehend is that the women from the Philippines are not stupid and they have minds of their own so if you try and dictate to the and lay down ridiculous rules the girls will not accept that and they will exercise their rights be leaving the marriage. Some men here never learn from there mistakes and believe that they are the rulers of their castles and the girls will just do and except whatever the men say. Not the case

  17. says

    Yes it is a ridiculous attitude for those blokes to take but some are so very insecure as most blokes that I referred to have been previously married to Filipinos who in the end left the marriage as the husband was to overbearing. What they fail to comprehend is that the women from the Philippines are not stupid and they have minds of their own so if you try and dictate to the and lay down ridiculous rules the girls will not accept that and they will exercise their rights be leaving the marriage. Some men here never learn from there mistakes and believe that they are the rulers of their castles and the girls will just do and except whatever the men say. Not the case

  18. says

    Thanks for the offer Bob and I think at todays rate our dollar is around the 92 something cents to the Us Dollar so it is very close. Last year the Aussie dollar for most of 2013 was about $1.04 asgainst your dollar should have bought the course then and I would have saved money.

  19. says

    Thanks for the offer Bob and I think at todays rate our dollar is around the 92 something cents to the Us Dollar so it is very close. Last year the Aussie dollar for most of 2013 was about $1.04 asgainst your dollar should have bought the course then and I would have saved money.

  20. says

    Hi Philip John Lynch – No arrangements need to be made. You just click on that link that I shared above and make the purchase online. There are two ways to pay, either by Paypal, or by a direct credit/debit card payment. You get to choose which you prefer before checking out. After you pay, you will be taken to a webpage where you can download the course. It’s all pretty simple, but I am happy to help if there is any need.

  21. PapaDuck says

    AJ,
    I’m slowly picking up Tagalog from my wife and from Filipino TV Programs. Sometimes the jeepney driver smiles when I use Tagalog to pay the fare or stop the jeepney. The more langueges you know the farther ahead in the world you will be.

  22. Richard says

    Ok..First let me say I am confused by this all.
    I have been trying to learn Tagalog and spoken to a few filipinos on line (text only) and done ok with what few words I have learned. As far as pronunciation I am sure I suck..badly…lol
    While I do understand that in different parts of PI different dialects are spoken. Am I wrong to assume that Tagalog is the universal one?..I plan on staying in Eastern Samar, at least for a while..maybe for good. The local dialect (if that is even the correct term) seems to be “waray-waray” for which I cannot really find much info on. Will the Tagalog I learn be useless?..
    Learning the language is important to me and I look forward to it. It does not come easily to me but I enjoy the challenge of it..:)

    • says

      If you will really be permanent in Samar, then in my opinion you are better to learn waray-waray. For instance, here in Davao where I live, Bisaya is the most widely spoken language. Because of that, I learned Bisaya. Yes, most everybody can speak Tagalog, but if you go out on the street, to the store, the public market or whatever, what you hear is Bisaya. If I had learned Tagalog, I really would not be able to understand anything I hear around me. Yes, I could speak with people, but when they would be done talking in Tagalog with me they would switch back to Bisaya and I would not understand what they are saying. In that case, I might as well just speak English.

    • Aklan Heat says

      Hello there,

      “Will the Tagalog I learn be useless?…”

      No!!! Why? You can use it anywhere, anytime you are in the Philippines! And in any other countries for that matter as well, anywhere in the world, wherever you find Filipinos.

      This is a big plus to me personally, because I met Filipino Ilocanos, Filipino Cebuanos, Filipino Kapampangans, Filipino Pangasinenses, etc….in my travels. When I start talking with them I don’t right away start in their native language/dialects, I wouldn’t know which Filipinos I could be talking to, or where they from, but Filipinos usually start addressing themselves in Tagalog when they meet abroad and my greetings usually Tagalog, common to all Filipinos, “Kumusta na po kayo?” /How are you?” “Taga-saan po kayo sa atin?”/Where are you from ours? “Ours” here meaning Philippines, literally. It’s the Pinoy way of showing respect and sense of unity when conversing to the other Pinoys.

      BTW, Filipinos knew when to speak Tagalog to other Pinoys especially abroad.

      You said you probably would stay there for a while/or for good, in Eastern Samar, Philippines. For you to live with Filipinos in that part of the country, and their everyday spoken language/dialect is Waray-Waray, of course, learn that too. Hang out and learn with them Filipino Waray-Waray and you may start singing a famous Waray-Waray song at a Karaoke parties. LOL!

      You can always use Tagalog, but cannot always use Waray-Waray, when you’re in the Philippines. Who knows you may have to travel to Manila, Boracay, or Ilocos Norte, for example.

      So, good luck learning this languages! dialects! Peace! :-)

        • Jay says

          Hi John,

          I read somewhere that you were going to visit soon. We finally booked our flight last night. I am so stoked! Does anyone still say stoked?

          You are right about Tagalog being an official language although I think technically it is called Filipno, but so is English. My wife’s family mostly speaks Bisayan because they are from the Southern Philippines.

          I find it interesting the cultural differences between the Northern Philipppines and the Southern Philippines is similar to the differences between the Northern US and the Southern US. The difference is that is being discussed here that in the Philippines the Southern part of the country speaks a different language. I have relatives in Bohol who really do not understand Tagalog well due to the education they received. I am pretty sure they understand it better than I, but unfortunately that ain’t saying much.

          II would like to learn more Bisayan because that is what is native to the part of the Philippines I am interested in. I feel confident that the people in Bohol that are educated enough to know Tagalog are also educated enough to know Englisah since it is also an official language of the Philippines.

          Take care and bon voyage to you on your upcomming trip home!

          Jay

          • says

            You are right, Jay, Filipino is the official designation for Tagalog and is an official language of the Philippines in addition to English. What I said in my comment above, though, was Tagalog is the COMMON language of Filipinos.

            What I mean by “common language” is that when two Filipinos from different regions of the Philippines are unable to communicate with one another because of language differences, generally, they will resort to speaking in Tagalog in order to understand one another. Regional pride notwithstanding, Tagalog is more widely spoken and understood than any other Filipino language.

            While Filipino is the formal name for Tagalog, most Filipinos do not call it “Filipino”. The word is a fairly recent invention as applied to a language. “Tagalog”, on the other hand, is worth several hundred years of Filipino history, and is deeply entrenched in the Filipino psyche. Ask the average Filipino on the street today if he speaks Filipino. Nine times out of ten, he will tell you, he speaks Tagalog. LOL

      • louie says

        Aklan Heat,

        You hit the nail on the head on your post. Tagalog can be understood in any parts of the Philippines, so his Tagalog wont go to waste.

        My online friend Angeli (a Tagalog learner) who recenty visited Visayas a few weeks ago has other experience about this topic. She’s an American who are staying and having jobs in France for the moment. During her brief stay in the Visayas, she was surprised to find out very few were able to talk in Tagalog.

        Here’s part of Angeli’s communication to me after her visit in the Visayas.:

        “Hey, you might be surprised to learn that I was in the Phil. from March 14th to April 6th, but I spent practically all my time in the Visayas. The visit was nice but I really thought I would be able to find a Tagalog tutor there to teach me Tagalog face to face but I didn’t. I guess Tagalog speakers are not easy to find in the Visayas. Nobody was able to help me which I found to be a bit odd. I didn’t realize that native Tagalog speakers in the Visayas are rare to find. I was very disappointed.
        I wish I had time to see you but my itinerary was pretty much scheduled by my friends, which didn’t leave me with much time to go off and do things on my own. But I’m planning on going back within one year”.

        I agree with Aaron, you cannot judge a person’s inteligence based on the dialect or language they speak.

        The false argument maybe rooted in the fast when most Bisayan spoken kababayans from the Visayas would come to Manila to seek jobs. Most of them were having difficulty speaking Tagalog without accent. They’d be chided even by their fellow Visayans who first arrived and have stayed longer in Manila, and jokingly would say “Dugay ka na sa Manila Tonto ka pa gid hapon” followed by laughters(not sure if that’s the correct spelling).

  23. Richard says

    Aklan;
    Thank you so much!!!..You just straightened out several of my confusion issues with the language(s) there. I was feeling pretty dense about it all. But the light bulb finally went on over my head..dispelling many of the question marks floating there..:)
    Thanks again.
    ~~Richard

  24. Tonierose says

    If you speak bisaya, Tagalog and English in Davao that is acceptable as it’s commonly known in the south of phils that the dialect spoken is bisaya. But what about the Capampañgan dialect?
    Obviously when in the north if you spoke bisaya people would be shaking their heads thinking , what is this person talking about.. But they would quickly pick up that you’re speaking bisaya. It’s also common in the north of phils to speak a mix of Capampañgan and Tagalog during conversations allot of they time they will add a Third language such as English lol..
    I’m Capampañgan but I also speak Tagalog for I find it hard to see the similarity between bisaya and Tagalog, but than again I grew up in Australia so it could just be me.
    Similarly to your examples when I speak to my cousins in the US they think my English is incorrect due the accent, same
    Goes for when I speak to someone from the UK.. My Aussie accent is rather strong lol so I guess to the brists and yanks I’m speaking some foreign language even to the Filipinos when I speak English they somehow think I’m speaking non English lol. It’s weird.

    • says

      Why speak English to Filipinos when you can speak to them in Tagalog? Even if you grew up in Australia and have a “strong” Aussie accent, I am sure you can shed some of that affectation to make yourself understood, given that you also speak Kapampangan and Tagalog. One of the things I find irritating when I am in the Philippines is to see a Filipino flaunting his knowledge of the English language. It’s sickening.

      • Jay says

        Hi John,

        My wife gets upset when she is watching aTagalog movie on our laptop and they keep breaking into talking English.

        When my wife meets a Filipino here in the US she asks them where they are from. If they are from Bohol, Cebu or Mindinao they talk in Bisayan even though they can talk in Tagalog or English.

        • says

          Hi Jay – Here is my personal opinion. Whether at home or overseas, when Filipinos from the same region of the Philippines meet, the automatic reflex is to speak the dominant language of that region as long as that language is mutually undersood. This is the established protocol, and is expected. It is also a demonstration of kinship and humility.

          If you stray away from this protocol and insist on speaking English when you can darn well speak the native language, you are seen as flaunting your knowledge of the English language.

          When in the Philippines, I always speak Tagalog. I only speak English when circumstances require it.

          • jay says

            Hi John- I get where your comming from Tagalog is a unifying national language. On one visit the President of the Philippines came on tv and gave a speech. She read her speech in English first then in Tagalog. I felt this was kind of disrespectful to her own country. I felt the Tagalog version should have been fist.

            When in the Philippines I encounter a lot of Filipinos who are ashamed that they are not fluent in English. I don’t think or feel they should be ashamed but thet are. I got some understanding of their feelings on one visit I was trying to use some Bisayan phrases and some teenagers started mocking my poor pronunciation. I became angry and embarassed and basically stopped trying to use Bisayan.

            There are parts of the US where it is probably more useful to learn Spanish than English but if someone from say China said they were moving to Miami and that they were only going to learn Spanish not English I might not like that so I am going to make no further comments on this subject for now.

            • says

              Hi Jay – here’s is my opinion.

              In a sense you are correct that Tagalog is the “unifying national language” among Filipinos. A good example of this is when Filipinos from the various regions of the Philippines meet overseas, the first language they would automatically use to communicate is Tagalog – not Ilokano, not Waray, not Cebuano/Binisaya, not Tausug, and so forth, but Tagalog. Guaranteed.

              A Filipino in his right mind does not approach another Filipino stranger in a shopping mall in Singapore or Dubai and start speaking to him/her in Cebuano/Binisaya, or some other language. He/she will initiate the discussion firstly in Tagalog. Once it is established that they are both from the Visayas and Mindanao region, more often than not, they would switch to Cebuano/Binisaya.

              However, I would not say that “Tagalog is the UNIVERSAL language among Filipinos”, as one poster has intimiated because that would not be true. I have never said it, and never will. A Filipino from the Visayas and Mindanao would certainly argue that point, and he/she would be correct, since Cebuano/Binisaya speakers maybe the most “universal” language spoken in the Philippines, if not second to Tagalog.

              What I said was, “Tagalog is the COMMON language of Filipinos” for the same reason I have stated above. “Common” is not the same as” universal”.

              In my view, anyone who aspires to succeed in America should learn English first because the language of law, business and commerce is English. The Spanish language, may someday be the dominant language in states like California and Texas, but for now, it is English. They may be deluded into thinking that Spanish is the more dominant language today because of signs in many stores that says, “Se habla Espanol”, in addition to the fact that many state governments have reached out to accomodate them by printing signs and official documents in Spanish.

  25. says

    Good Article Aaron. I agree, people do hide behind the anonymity of “chat boxes”, and say things that they would otherwise not say to your face. Why worry about it, it’s small cheese.

    I was hoping that your article would explain what a “Happy Bisdak!” as shown in the graphic means. I’m assuming that Bisdak means Bisaya speaker?

  26. says

    Hello AJ. I’m not sure how those games work. But if I were playing with a group of anonymous online folks, and someone from my own team insulted my heritage, I know what I would do. I would quietly make an alliance with the opposing side, and sabotage the other guys game.

    On the local language vs Tagalog, I lean toward the local language. For me at least, out in the Province, Tagalog is only as useful as English. If I spoke Tagalog, I would still be ignorant of all the conversation happening around me since it is in Ilocano. We also have a different wrinkle. Living in the hills as we do, our nearest neighbors speak Ifugau, while the folks in the valley speak Ilocano. Fortunately, most of the Ifugau folks also speak Ilocano.

    An interesting life, all around!

    Take care,
    Pete

    • says

      It’s nice to find a kindred spirit, Pete. When it comes to learning the language I would choose the local language over Tagalog again and again. When I chose to learn the language, I wanted to be able to understand the conversation I heard around me, and to be able to communicate with my wife’s family. With Tagalog, neither of those would be possible. When people say things like “Tagalog is the universal language among Filipinos” well, that is great, but it really doesn’t help me understand the local communication. In my area, if I want to understand the conversation and communicate with people, it’s Bisaya.

      • AJ UK says

        You sound like my wife Bob, for good reasons I might add.

        Whenever we are in a shop or restaurant in Davao City and an assistant addresses her in Tagalog, she will always respond in Bisaya. It’s not so much being bloody minded but the fact that she is proud of her language and doesn’t want it to die out or be watered down.

        One thing we noted is that her nieces now have a mandatory Bisaya lesson each week where that never happened before in their school.

        Cheers

        AJ UK

        • says

          I do that as well, AJ. When I am in a restaurant or shop, sometimes when they hear me speaking Bisaya, they somehow think I can speak Tagalog and start speaking to me in Tagalog. I look at them and say “Di ko kasabot ug Tagalog, Bisaya lang ko.” They always get a smile! ;-)

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