Tagalog: Dying a Painful Death

The national language of my beloved country, the Philippines, takes many names. From the 1930s to the early 1970s, to the latter half of 1980s; it was called Pilipino, Tagalog, and Filipino; respectively – the latter being the most politically correct term for “Filipino” refers to Tagalog that includes Western influences (English and Spanish). Whatever you call it, I have witnessed its initially slow and now accelerating deterioration.  I am lucky to have been able to see Filipinos observing the proper use of our language when I was a child. I mainly attribute this to spending a few summer vacations in Quezon, a province where the Father of the National Language hails from (former President Manuel L. Quezon). Here, everyone spoke in Tagalog; not Filipino. If I would conveniently say toothbrush, it’s more familiar to them if you said sepilyo. I had no clue that brushing your teeth even had a verb in Tagalog, too, and that’s hiso or maghiso. This is also where I constantly heard subalit (Tagalog word for but) when I usually hear pero (from our Spanish influence) and maaari (Tagalog word for can/could) instead of the simple “pwede”. Nobody said girlfriend or boyfriend or, heaven help you, “syota” (derived from “short time”). People used “katipan”. Looking at my own examples, I know I’m giving extremely simple Tagalog words for when I listen to them chat, I would get lost in translation a few times.  And since I’m a pretty talkative kid, I usually was inquisitive. Now I know that’s a good thing. These are some words, phrases, and sentences that amused me:

  • Wari ko nga (I think so, too)
  • Libagin (laundry)
  • Talatinigan (dictionary)
  • Balintataw (eye’s pupil)
  • Ya yano ya (an expression that shows exasperation)

See, Tagalog, the Philippine language that is devoid of any Western influence is a beautiful language. Sadly, I just hear it in oral declamation contests (“talumpati”) in school or a speech choir (“sabayang pagbigkas”). Year after year, new trends come in: new words, new terms, new phrases. We welcome these with open arms and incorporate them into our already complex language and vocabulary. Filipinos are skilled in mimicking or imitating accents. I would consider this colonial mentality in the Philippines because, admittedly, majority of Filipinos look at English (or being able to speak in English well) as either a status symbol or being intelligent. They fail to realize that communication is a skill, not intelligence. No longer caring to find out the correct term, we easily add a prefix or suffix to English words and, voila, a new Filipino word is invented. Just add nag (past tense) or say the first syllable of the English word (future tense) and you’re good to go: nag-join or jo-join. Never mind that you should have said sumali/sumasali or sumapi/sumasapi. So long as the listener understands the speaker, it was good enough. When the Filipinos got used to creating verbs by just adding Tagalog suffixes, they now started putting Tagalog and English together in one sentence. Yes, we have coined the term Taglish but I don’t suppose the intention was to lambast either of the two languages. I still think it all boils down to the type of language you use – whether informal or formal. And this is where the “kolehiyala” or “coño” talk comes in. If it isn’t the Filipino grammar getting jeopardized (e.g. knowing the difference between “ng”, a preposition, and “nang”, an adverb), it’s the pronunciation being Americanized as if to show that English is their first language. You’d usually observe these in Tagalog words that have “r” or “t”. Tagalog “r” sounds are similar to how Hispanics pronounce it and not like the General American English rhotic “r”. The Filipino “t” sounds, on the other hand, are never popped or aspirated — like that sound when you test if a microphone is working. Let me give you a few examples that I’ve painfully had to hear:

  • “Pa-have naman ng water” (Can I have some water?)
  • “It’s like parang kakaines!” (pronounced puh-rung in English phonetics)
  • “Oo, sobrang cute kasi sobrang bango nya and sobrang lines sa katawan and, like, sobrang galling mag-sing!” (a speech crutch: sobra that means “very”)

I won’t torture myself any further in thinking of other examples. The 10 Conyomandments already say a lot: Now, I wouldn’t necessarily blame gay lingo. That’s why they call it their own. It’s supposed to be a language creatively constructed by them for their casual chit-chats. It was never intended for business conversations. I know I shall be looking at this post from time to time and keep listing down Tagalog or Filipino words I just heard for the first time or have not heard for a long time. Filipinos nowadays like perfecting their English when their Filipino is far from perfect. If we can educate ourselves on proper English grammar and pronunciation, is it not imperative to keep our Filipino at par (if not superior over) with our English?


9 thoughts on “Tagalog: Dying a Painful Death

  1. YES!!!! AMEN TO THIS!!!! Nakakalungkot na paunti-unti, nawawala na ang Tagalog sa salita ng mga Pilipino ngayon. I get it that we have to speak English now because we are globalized and westernized but that doesn’t mean we have to almost eradicate speaking our own language! I take great pride in Tagalog and I really hope it does not die out. 😦 Mabuhay!

    • It’s our colonial mentality that’s killing it. We elevate other languages while undermining our own.

      The way we appreciate our language and dialects reflect our weak sense of patriotism. As we improve our English, we sadly have started disrespecting Tagalog.

      I love Tagalog, too. And I will never be ashamed of speaking in Tagalog or think lowly of it, like some of our shameful kababayans.

      Thanks for the read! 🙂

  2. Thank you for posting this! I’ve been studying the language and am a bit of a language purist and so have been conflicted between speaking ‘deeply’ and conventionally. Sadly, when I try the former, people laugh and/or don’t understand me :/ Any idea as to how I should conduct my speech?

    • Thank you for reading my blog, Phillip. I would say I’m a language purist, too. I suggest you lean towards the standards: what should be followed and what is grammatically correct.

      However, you will need to adjust to the kind of audience you have. The use of Taglish (Tagalog & English) is more apt of you’re in a casual conversation with anybody. So, instead of using “ito” (this), say, “‘to”, and in pronunciation, you can use the short i sound for Tagalog words with the vowel “i”, rather than strictly using the long e sound (which our forefathers used).

      You must note, too, that there is an existing (and unfortunate) bias against Tagalog and for English. This explains why there are some who would “show off” just by using English. A pity ’cause Tagalog is definitely a beautiful language.

      Hope this helps!

  3. I so agree about this argument that traditional tagalog is dyeing and us filipino people are not even taking the initiative to learn and understand our own language, but learning more about others language.
    But how can filipino people learn our own language when school are teaching more about english or western ways than our own, I hear that tagalong subject had move to be added to another subject in school and english has it own whole subject. What does this say about us filipino, that we rather embrace others culture than our own. When foreigner are willingly want to learn our culture because they find our language and culture fascinating and interesting.
    I think that we filipino people should embrace more of our culture and language.

    Sorry about this long blabber talk about tagalong words, but I’m just simply disapointed as a filipino that where not embracing our own culture and language more.

    And thanks for this lovely statement about traditional tagalog dying. 🙂

    • My apologies for the delayed reply, dear. No, it’s not blabber. I like healthy and insightful discussions.

      Your observations are what my foreign friends also have/had. Mostly, Filipinos lean towards American English, as well, that it’s not a secret how it’s used to show social status or even as a means to discriminate against fellow Filipinos. It is a sad fact. Though I know so many who love Filipino or Tagalog (and their own dialects), you can’t close your eyes to the realities happening around you.

      There’s always a Linggo ng Wika, the subject “Filipino”, Filipiniana days, balagtasan in school. The correct use of the language in all venues (even on social networking sites) is what I would want to be encouraged more.

      Thanks for reading my blog! 🙂

  4. I think the same, I have been saying stuff like this for ages even I’m not that old(20) , I think that as a Filipino American we shouldn’t be ashamed in speaking Tagalog/Filipino, I quite getting sick of the Philippines trying to be like america in everything, that’s what makes a country unquie its diverristy, but anyway, I really don’t thing Tagalog is dying, I’m mean whgast like 80-90% speak fluently mostly as a second language but still, I think the smaller languagesx in the Philippines are dying, but I consider that a VERY good thing, because if the Philippines wants too be a first world country than their going have to speak one language,( they could maybe have 2 ) but apparently no filkupinos wants that, anyway, that’s my thoughtrsz on that:-)

    • Yes, the dialects! I see what you mean, I should have been more clear when I said “death” of Tagalog. The language will be around until nobody uses it, anymore. However, when there is no regard for the correct usage and/or if there is a higher appreciation for other languages (like we’d be particular with someone’s pronunciation and grammar if it’s in spoken/written English, but we deal with those of Tagalog’s lightly), that is the beginning of the end.

      Thank you for your insights! 🙂

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