Wikang Filipino – The Evolution of A National Language

Wikang Filipino” translated into English means “Filipino Language”.

Did you know that there are 171 languages spoken in the Philippines?

You read that right. 171. That doesn’t even speak to the hundreds of dialects -about 500- that stem from those 171 languages.

The Philippines is an archipelago made up of 7,107 islands. Many languages and dialects are spoken in the various regions of the country. Despite all the different languages spoken Filipinos are united by one common denominator – their national language.

A Little Bit of History

Spain ruled the Philippines for more than 300 years. As a result, Spanish was widely spoken throughout the country and became the national language of the Philippines.

The Treaty of Paris of 1898 transferred control of the Philippines from Spain to the United States. Although the Philippine Government did not recognize the transfer of power the Philippines became a colony of the United States. English was taught in all the public schools and soon became an official language of the Philippines along with Spanish. As the American occupation progressed the use of Spanish diminished.

In 1937 and Manuel L. Quezon was President of the Philippines at that time. He created the Surian ng Wikang Pambansa (National Language Institute) to select a national language based on one of the native languages.

Tagalog was selected as the basis for the wikang pambansa (national language) because it was the language spoken in Manila which is the economic and political center, thus, Tagalog was understood by many people around the country. President Quezon is considered Ama ng Wikang Pambansa (Father of the National Language).

In 1959 the national language was named Pilipino. This was done to differentiate the national language from the Tagalog people (a specific ethnic group).

A National Language is Reborn

In 1987, the Constitution declared that the national language would be called Filipino. The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino is charged with documenting the evolution of the Filipino language and encouraging the inclusion of words taken from the various native languages.

Today, Filipino and English are the two official languages of the Philippines. Many will still say that the national language is Tagalog. It is not that they believe that the language is not Filipino but refer to them as the same due to their inherent similarities.

Wikang Filipino is an evolution of sorts. The Filipino Language stems from a country’s desire for true identity. It is the by product of a nation that longs for a language that can truly reflect the people it represents. It has gone through a lot of changes, challenges and modifications. It's history has a humble beginning, a glorious past and shows a very promising future.

Here are the 8 major languages spoken in various regions around the country:

  • Tagalog
  • Cebuano
  • Ilocano
  • Bicolano
  • Hiligaynon or Ilonggo
  • Waray
  • Kapampangan
  • Pangasinence

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