If You Can Learn Spanish, You Can Learn Tagalog

By Larry M. Lynch

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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.