The language of the Philippines was originally written in the Baybayin script, which in turn is similar to those used in Java, Bali and Sumatra. (For those not so familiar with these languages, they date back to the Brahmi inscriptions in India in the third century BC).
Today, the Latin alphabet has replaced the previous one and is the means by which we write Tagalog, the common name for the language of the Philippines, although not exactly the same since Filipino is a variant of Tagalog. Tagalog means “resident beside the river.”
In the Philippines, due to a history of multiple settlements, more than 170 languages are spoken and only 2 of them are official in the country: Filipino and English.
With very little written, not much is known about this language for the history prior to the arrival of the Spanish during the sixteenth century.
The Tagalog alphabet is made up of syllables, where each consonant has an inherent vowel /a/. Other vowels are indicated by different letters separately or through dashes. A dash over a consonant turns the vowel into /i/ or /e/, while a dash below transforms it into /o/ or /u/.
The language is written from left to right horizontally. This is important information for the world of translation, either to analyze a work originally written in Tagalog or to know how to deliver a translation into that language.
In many of our articles we emphasize the influence of a culture on a language and thus we know the importance of transmitting a concept to another target language and culture, although sometimes this requires us to separate ourselves from the the words on page.
Here are some concepts in the Filipino culture, that although some do have an equivalent in translation, others can only be truly expressed through the explanation of the concept, rather than a literal translation, since anything short of an explanation would be a bit unfair when expressing concept that the word represents:
* Pamilya: family (in this term also shows the influence of Spanish).
* Pagiging magalang: be respectful, especially to elders (it is known that in most Asian cultures, elders must be deeply respected). Something interesting about the latter: there is no Tagalog word for “nursing home” as it is known in cultures where children leave their parents in the care of an institution. It is a concept that is rather inconceivable to this culture and something very interesting for translation.
* Pagtutulungan: neighborly solidarity, which provides mutual assistance. Filipinos, as in most Asian cultures, include many collectivist villages where group welfare takes precedence over the welfare of the individual. This worldview brings about several terms related to the special bond between people.
* Bayanihan: community spirit.
* Ningas-kugon: refers to the cultural characteristic of Filipinos to embark on a task with enthusiasm and then lose it quickly.
English at present:
With respect to the other official language, English traces its roots in the Philippines to colonization. The United States colonized the Philippines from 1898 to 1946. Just as the Spanish learned to leave its mark, English also seeped into the language, food, movies and sports of the country.
Some English words: fast-food, PC, reset.
I mentioned above that only Filipino and English are official languages of this country, but there is a strong Spanish influence.
The colonization of the Philippines lasted for more than 3 centuries and these centuries were not in vain. There is a strong Spanish and Mexican imprint that was perpetrated in the language, music, dance, food, art, religion.
Some of the many words of Spanish origin: Noche Buena, cariñoso, fiesta, amor propio, palabra de honor, delicadeza (in terms of sense of honor). Moreover, “kultura” is a Tagalog word.
But the islands also reveal Asian influences:
The Filipino people has its ancestors in the Malays, who came from Southeast Asia, the lands of what is now Indonesia. And long before Europeans set foot on Philippine soil, the islanders were familiar to the Chinese. All these Asian ethnic groups left their traces, as seen in martial arts, Asian cuisine, etc.
Even Arab and Indian blood run through the veins of Filipinos, as a result of the trading that has lasted for centuries.
While Tagalog and English are the official languages, over 170 indigenous languages of Malay-Polynesian origin coexist in the Philippines.
The most widely spoken:
* Cebuano: mainly in Central Visayas and Mindanao;
* Ilocano: in Luzon and other islands;
* Hiligaynon or Ilongo: in Western Visayas;
* Bicolano: chiefly in Bicolandia;
* Samareño: mainly in Samar.
And to complete this multicultural mosaic, other minority languages are also spoken, which are products of the influence of immigrants, such as Arabic, Japanese, Malaysian, Korean and some of the many languages of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Bhutan and Nepal.
This is just a brief overview of the languages of the Philippines and let me take this opportunity to stress again the importance of knowing how to transmit a text into another language, beyond the mere words on the page.
You can direct your inquiry to our Translation Services and we will be pleased to assist you.