Tagalog is the National Language in the Philippines. It’s also called the Filipino Language and it has been the official language in the Philippines arguably since 1897. But in reality, nobody speaks it fluently. I’ve never really met anyone who speaks it 100% at a time. At school, at work, or anywhere else, it seems that Filipinos speak it with mixtures of other languages. Particularly with Spanish and English.
I have recently noticed that there are plenty of millennial parents who are now teaching their children English more than Tagalog. Most of these parents even talk to their children in English at home. It’s no secret that English has become the second language of the Filipino people and is used mainly for work, academics, and in governance/law. This makes fluent English speakers more likely to achieve higher career opportunities than non-fluent speakers.
So now I wonder: If Filipinos couldn’t even speak Tagalog fluently and English has become the primary language for important things, what then is the future for Tagalog?
What we can easily observe about Tagalog
First off, there are too many syllables in a simple Tagalog word or phrase. This is often inconvenient to speakers. When communicating, people generally want to be precise, practical, and quick with the information they’re passing.
Example: A common word used at work is “schedule” which translates in Tagalog as “talatakdaan”. Schedule has only two syllables while talatakdaan has five. “Lunch” has one syllable while “hapunan” has three. To make the word “chair” plural, you just add s at the end and say “chairs”. For Tagalog, you have to add the word “mga” before the item to pluralize it. So it becomes “mga upuan”, which is five syllables and two words.
With Tagalog, you’ll be making more effort than English when relaying information. This isn’t practical especially at work. Some native speakers have even mentioned that speaking in full Tagalog can be too tiring.
Tagalog is not evolving
Or it’s taking too long to evolve and propagate. As modern trends and technology continue to have an impact on Philippine society, including ideas and pop culture, the Tagalog language doesn’t seem to be at pace with the world’s cultural evolution.
There is no Tagalog for common modern-day words such as”cellphone”, “computer monitor”, “update”, and “laptop”. Even in the academic and medical fields, there are no Tagalog words for “resuscitate” or “vital signs”, etc. For these lack of translations, Filipinos are forced to borrow foreign words to generate communication. This makes English even more appealing to Filipinos for business usage and other matters since Tagalog lack the range of vocabulary for essential modern ideas.
When complex English thoughts are translated into Tagalog, there’s a chance to lose its deeper context and meaning. Even the Tagalog translation of the Bible isn’t even at par with the English version.
Commission on the Filipino Language
The Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) is the official regulating body tasked with developing, preserving, and promoting the Filipino language. It has been heavily criticized in the past for supposedly failing in its duty to further develop the Filipino language.
In May 2019, when the Supreme Court backed the Commission on Higher Education’s memorandum for declaring Filipino subject (Panitikan) as no longer a core subject and only optional for colleges, the KWF was once again put on the spotlight as public outrage became eminent. Chairman Virgilio S. Almario states that the law (R.A.7104) did not have “enough depth“, indicating that there are no clear provisions for KWF to make constructive actions to advance Tagalog for institutional use.
Overall, whether by government failures or lapses in laws, Tagalog has failed to be enriched.
Filipinos pivot to Taglish
Taglish is now the common language of modern Filipinos. The word Taglish is derived from the words Tagalog and English, indicating the blending of both languages into one. I would attest that it’s even more natural to speak in Taglish these days than to speak in full Tagalog.
English words supplement what’s lacking in Filipino vocabulary. It also provides additional context for the complicated modes of ideas and communication that Tagalog speakers couldn’t verbalize natively.
The future of Tagalog
The future of Tagalog is uncertain. It’s still mainly used by Filipinos but imperfectly and informally. With English as the primary language for work, governance, and academics, more and more people are favoring English over Tagalog.
English has set the Philippines on the world stage of economic relevance, it would be hard to press the public to preserve Tagalog. The use of Taglish is enough proof that Filipinos choose to be practical rather than be national. Any means by the government to push for the sole use of Tagalog on any institution or person might only be futile.
In modern culture
People who purely speak Tagalog are often doing it for academic purposes or educational entertainment. It is mostly spoken in its pure form during student performances in Buwan ng Wika.
Is Tagalog dying?
Filipinos are people of different ethnicity and background. With that comes different languages or dialects. As a matter of fact, Tagalog wasn’t even the most used language in the Philippines prior to its nationalization in 1937 which generated controversies. Some saw the nationalization of it as the death of other languages and dialects in the Philippines.
In a study by the Commission on the Filipino Language in 2015, there are now 37 languages that are classified as endangered. With some of them being spoken by a handful of people left. The same fate might be for Tagalog in 70 years time.
It is not hard to imagine. Remember that Spanish was once spoken in the Philippines on the same level we speak English today just about 100 years ago. Spanish gradually disappeared after the nationalization of Tagalog and the masses favoring English as a second language.
Filipinos today think globally. With ambitions of travelling, working, and doing business abroad, or even meeting new friends from other countries, prioritizing English over the native language has become the norm.
But one must also keep in mind that the death of a language isn’t exactly bad. At times, it’s inevitable. Languages are known to die just like Latin and Aramaic. Even the English that we know of today might be far different in the next 300 years.