Tagalog is one of the most dynamic and ever-changing languages in the world today, and quite interesting to study and learn.
Many Australians know that the Philippines people speak English as a main language, and are content to leave the story there because it’s convenient to them. But there is a second official language in the Philippines, namely Tagalog, a language spoken by about 25% of the population as a first language and 100% of the population as a second language. So even though Tagalog isn’t everyone’s first language, it’s basically the other lingua franca (after English) in that country, and as a result is usually referred to as just Filipino instead of Tagalog.
Tagalog is an Austronesian language, related to Malaysian and Indonesian – as well as, distantly, Hawaiian. What would be considered ‘standard’ Tagalog – although there is no true ‘standard’ – would be the Central dialect (although there are no official dialects), which is spoken primarily in Manilla. The other unofficial dialects are North, South, and Marinduque. The differences between dialects are minor and reserved mainly for pronunciation and some word choices, but translation between them isn’t challenging.
It’s important to note that these four dialects are really just ‘big tents.’ Almost every region of The Philippines has its own dialect in a sense – more than 80 of them.
Tagalog has several interesting linguistic features that get a translation services professional’s heart pounding.
Strangely, although the language has three standard genders (masculine, feminine, and neuter), pronouns are not usually gender-assigned. That means that if you say ‘he’ or ‘she’ in an English sentence, you use the same pronoun (siya) in the Tagalog translation. It literally means ‘that person’ and it doesn’t matter what the original gender is.
The closeness of English and Tagalog culturally is mirrored in some similarities: Both languages use punctuation and emphasis exactly the same way, so all marks get replicated in the translation. This can make learning each language a little easier, because the sentences all have the same ‛signposts’ to guide you.
Unsurprisingly, English has had a huge impact on Tagalog, to the point where extreme code-switching occurs fairly regularly, with speakers switching mid-sentence from one language to the next without pause. There’s a certain amount of disdain for the practice, in all honesty, with older generations considering it anywhere from simply uncouth to outright rude, but it’s increasingly common in younger generations and in the media in The Philippines. The resulting ‘Taglish’ can be a little disconcerting for visitors, especially those who follow my advice and attempt to learn a little Tagalog before they travel – only to be very disoriented when they enter into their first conversation!
Tagalog is a vibrant, living language that guarantees a lot of excitement to those who learn it and embrace its chaotic nature. Like the country and people themselves, Tagalog can be something different every time you speak it or hear it spoken, which is one reason I find it one of the most interesting languages being spoken today.
Image courtesy kwentongnanay.wordpress.com