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If You Can Learn Spanish, You Can Learn Tagalog

written by: Larry M. Lynch • edited by: Tricia Goss • updated: 1/5/2012

Are you currently studying Spanish or can already speak Spanish to some degree? Then you're already well on your way to learning Tagalog, the language of the Philippines. How so? Here we view the many similarities between these languages and look at some eye-opening examples to pique your interest.

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    Spanish Words In Tagalog, the Language of the Philippines

    Slowly and clearly, the youngster recited his numbers counting from one up to 25 before the teacher said, “Okay, that’s fine." The class of Spanish-speaking immigrant children looked on, puzzled a bit. “This boy doesn’t look like a Latino," one child quipped.

    That’s right," the teacher responded. “He’s not a Latino and he’s not speaking Spanish either."

    What do you mean?" Another boy’s Mexican father snapped back.

    The boy’s counting in Tagalog, the native language of the Philippines."

    But we can understand him perfectly," more voices in the crowd responded, almost in disbelief.

    Question: So why does Tagalog, a major language of the Philippines, sound like Spanish?

    Answer: It is because; Friends, Romans and countrymen, Tagalog actually is Spanish, in part.

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    Let Me Explain

    Tagalog is a major indigenous Malayo-Polynesian language spoken by more than 30 million people mostly of the Philippines. The country was named for Philip II of Spain around 1565. The country was a former colony of both Spain and the U.S.A. Tagalog is the basis of the country’s national language, also called Filipino or Pilipino. Major linguistic contributions to Tagalog have come from several other languages including English, Hindi, Arabic, Sanskrit, Malay, Chinese, Javanese, Japanese and Tamil.

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    A Distinctive Feature of Tagalog

    One distinctive feature of Tagalog lies in its preference for the use of the Passive Voice. Passive is used extensively in English for reporting, and in documentaries, TV and radio news. While the Spanish language does in fact have a passive voice structure, it is far less commonly used in Spanish than English is. Tagalog makes use of the passive voice more than it does the active voice, and has far more passive voice use than even in English has.

    To illustrate this:

    I ate the food" is in active voice and commonly used in English language discourse.

    The food was eaten by me" is passive voice and although not incorrect in English, it would rarely be used, especially in informal spoken discourse or everyday colloquial speech. The preferred grammatical construction of Tagalog is the Passive voice one.

    Let’s look at an example structure:

    The student studied his lesson in the classroom.

    This sentence can place the stress on different words in the sentence for contextual emphasis.

    “The student studied his lesson in the classroom" places stress on the subject.

    “The student studied his lesson in the classroom" places stress on the action.

    “The student studied his lesson in the classroom" places stress on the object.

    “The student studied his lesson in the classroom" places stress on the location.

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    Can You Say the Numbers in Spanish?

    Do you know enough Spanish to count to twenty-one or so? Then pay attention now and repeat with me (Yes, I can hear you). Numbers in Tagalog are pronounced EXACTLY the same as in Spanish. Their Tagalog phonetic spelling differs however. As a reference, the English equivalents are also shown.

    Tagalog

    Uno

    Dos

    Ttres

    Kuwatro

    Sinko

    Seis

    Siete

    Otso

    Nuwebe

    Diyes

    Onse

    Dose

    Trese

    Katorse

    Kinse

    Disiseis

    disisisiyete

    Disiotso

    Disinuwebe

    Beynte

    Beynte uno …

    Spanish

    Uno

    Dos

    Tres

    Cuatro

    Cinco

    Seis

    Siete

    Ocho

    Nueve

    Diez

    Once

    Doce

    Trece

    Catorce

    Quince

    Dieciséis

    Diecisiete

    Diese Nueve

    Veinte

    Veintiuno

    English

    One

    Two

    Three

    Tour

    Five

    Six

    Seven

    Eight

    Nine

    Ten

    Eleven

    Twelve

    Thirteen

    Fourteen

    Fifteen

    Sixteen

    Seventeen

    Eighteen

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    More Spanish Words in Tagalog

    Want more proof of the ease and similarity the Tagalog language has with Spanish? Then take pronunciation; vowels in Tagalog are pronounced exactly the same as Spanish vowels. Just look at these “foreign" words in Tagalog. See if you can recognize any of them. The more Spanish you know the easier this quick exercise will be. To avoid confusion, accent marks where normally placed, have been omitted.

    alkohol, otel, tabako, radio, sigarilyo, wiski, telepono, pasaporte, bentilador, ponograpo, bangko, plastic, automobile, piyano, semento

    Remember, if you can learn Spanish, then you can learn Tagalog, the language of the Philippines.

    Good luck- and you have my permission to have fun while you’re at it, too.

References