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Taglish, motherf*@ker! Do you speak it?!

A funny thing you`ll notice when you visit the Philippines – especially Manila – is that people do a lot of codeswitching, meaning they switch between languages, mid-stream (as opposed to switching languages for different activities). Tagalog speakers often codeswitch into English and then back into Tagalog, based on what seems to me to be random whims.Tagalog-English codeswitching is so common that it is mockingly and/or affectionately referred to as Taglish. Speakers of other regional languages like Cebuano might codeswitch into English a little bit, but it`s mostly a Tagalog thing, and for that matter mostly a Manila thing.

Taglish example comic

Why mix the two languages???

Good question. I don`t think anybody ever sat down and said “Hey let`s create a mish-mash language that annoys the masses”. But let me speculate for a moment about the root of the issue, which I think lies in the mindset of the colonized.

Philippines is a former colony of the USA, who did a very good job of implementing English education so that Filipinos became proficient in the language of their master. If you look around the world at former colonies you`ll find a lot of places where the colonized still look up to their former masters with admiration, especially the more elite upper classes. They see it as cultured to emulate their former master and speak his language.

Taglish news headlineIn my observation, the wealthiest people in Manila (at least the wealthiest ones I could get anywhere near) usually speak pure English, often with American accents.  Then there are the middle class who enjoy being higher status than most, but aren`t mega-rich by Western standards. These people speak a fair bit of Taglish. Go to one of the middle class shopping malls and you`ll hear it.

Then you get the wannabes, who may or may not be middle class but really want to be part of the “beautiful people” scene. These people jam as many English words into their Tagalog as they possibly can. Go to a high-end nightclub where the people are frontin`. Taglish out the wazoo! There are some genuinely high status people speaking English, and then there are the people desperate to join forces with them — speaking Taglish.

Wannabe elite Filipinos freely mix English into their Tagalog so that can feel high status, that they are not regular Filipinos, they are more American. But this crowd has a lot of cultural and media influence, so “regular” Filipinos see their favorite tv personalities mixing English into their Tagalog, and of course they look up to them and start to imitate them.

This the root of the issue. The elite and wannabe elite trying to sound like they are more American than other people. I am not even Filipino so I could be talking out of my ass, but hey – why isn`t Cebuanish encroaching on the Cebuano language of the Cebu region? I think it`s because the elite and their orbiters don`t live in Cebu.

Taglish posting on noticeboard

What do most Filipinos think of Taglish?

In my experience they usually say (which is not always the same as “do”…) is that Taglish bothers them and that they try to avoid using too much of it. So there is definitely an awareness of of Taglish and an attempt to stop using it, but a lot of people also say it`s hard to stop. Others have no problem with it, seeing language as a means to communicate, and not as something to protect. Here are some comments I`ve seen about Taglish online (all written in pure English by Filipinos, by the way):

  • whenever I hear a socialite wanna-be talking in pure Taglish, it makes me want to hit them in the face.  🙂 seriously, why don’t they just use pure English instead?
  • I say, either speak pure Tagalog or pure English, it’s just too bad how its everywhere, tv, radio, even the news some times
  • Don’t trust those showbiz personalities and the elite who still continue to use Taglish.
  • English, for the rich. Filipino*, for the not so rich. Tag-lish, for the feeling rich. LOL
  • Not annoying for me. I find them funny.
  • It is known as the language of social climbers(not to be rude xD). I use Taglish sometimes, but I switch every sentence, not every other word.
  • I personally have no problems with Taglish. Perhaps because I’m too used to hearing it already. Taglish I think it is a way for most Filipinos to express their thoughts without having to dig deep into a Tagalog dictionary. Our native language is too complex to be translated simply in English, therefore Taglish becomes a solution.
  • Its gonna be a lethal blow to our national identity. Sadly, I noticed a lot of Filipinos see the language as a language for the lower class, which is pure non-sense. Filipino* is a beautiful language and mixing it with any other, in my opinion, is just senseless and shows a lack of national pride.
    Filipino is the official name of the Philippines` official language, which is a standardized form of Tagalog. So Filipino=Tagalog.

Is Taglish a Problem?

Example of TaglishFrom the point of view of national identity or preserving culture, I don`t know,  I`m not a Filipino so I`m not a position to say. But from a linguistic point of view, there`s nothing peculiar about the blending of a colonial language with a native language. There have always been creole languages that resulted from the interaction of different linguistic communities. It`s neither bad nor good, it`s just something that happens.

But Taglish doesn`t seem to me to be a creole or a new language, at least yet. It just seems to be Tagalog, with some English words thrown in. Of course the amount of English depends on the speaker and to what extent they`re trying to act like they`re da bomb, but the sentence structure is all Tagalog so it`s really just the use of loanwords.

My attitude towards languages that seem under threat is not to fear change, but rather to celebrate and love the language you want to preserve. Is there anything inherently bad about inserting some English into Tagalog sentences? I don`t think so, if it`s a choice, but it would just be a shame if people were unable to make that same sentence in pure Tagalog. By loving the Tagalog language, by reading to your kids in Tagalog, by singing songs in Tagalog, and enjoying speaking Tagalog, you`ll be ensuring the long life of the language and making the entrance of some English vocabulary irrelevant.

  • Martie Durana

    as a filipino, I love Taglish the flexibility of both languages to merge into one complete sentence feels like merging two of my personalities. idk i feel like a different person when I speak english filipino and taglish. I think what many fail to see is that language should not be locked up in a tower it evolves. I dont see it as lethal blow to my national identity, it is part of it. mixing english and tagalog doesnt make the language any less beautiful. Its just another way of expressing myself. kaya im so natutuwa sa taglish beh

  • Kuya Dan

    I think that what is actually frowned upon is that what’s regarded as ‘Taglish’ tends to be people who switch Tagalog to English words into the most awkward of places.

    I’m pretty in the middle myself since I didn’t learn Tagalog fully so I need to switch complex Tagalog words into English words instead. To most people, this sounds normal since Tagalog words (specially verbs) are way longer than their English counterpart.

    What a lot of people get annoyed at is just that some people switch the most wierdest words (mainly the basic Tagalog words).

    E.g:

    Can we make bati[truce] na[question particle]?

    ‘Can we make’ is a very basic thing to say and everyone knows how to say this in tagalog. But for some reason, some people use it when you can easily just say : Pwede na ba tayong mag bati?

    But of course this is just my opinion on it and there might be people who’s opposed to using all forms of Taglish or not opposed to it at all.

    Codeswitching is fine as a whole though. I actually codeswitch some Ilocano words into my tagalog is a fairly common basis and many people do it irregardless of it being the regional language or english. It’s just that some codeswitches are more awkward than others XS

  • Kuya Dan

    It can be very worrying sometimes since it just puts more communication barriers to an already linguistically diverse country :/

    Like Upper class tagalog seems to be different to Middle class tagalog or ‘Tropa Tagalog’ or ‘Beki Tagalog’ or ‘Jejemon Tagalog’.

    And this is just Communities within Manila by the way. We need to make sure everyone can still speak and understand standard Tagalog so that we don’t have more language barriers D:

  • I have a feeling that those people condemning Taglish, they themselves speak Taglish, they just do not notice. Taglish is everywhere here in the Philippines, just in different degrees. However, there is a difference between acceptable, normal-sounding Taglish and conyo Taglish. Conyo Taglish is considered annoying and cringe-worthy. For example, “Pwede ka bang uminom ng softdrinks kapag coffee break?” is acceptable but “Kids, ang ating lesson today ay tungkol sa mga colors. Ang color red!” is conyo.

  • HOY

    What do you mean by barrier????Of course, a lot Filipinos can speak and understand standard Tagalog. REGARDLESS IF THEY USUALLY SPEAK IN TAGLISH OR NOT. It’s EVERYWHERE. Common people speak it, tv news is in tagalog, a lot of commercials are in tagalog etc. And so what kung may different way na magsalita ang iba’t ibang classes? GANUN NMN TALAGA. Pumunta ka sa US, malamang iba magsalita ang mga ghetto areas kesa dun sa mga high end places. Obvious naman lingustically diverse ang PILIPINAS. PERO hindi ibig sabihin, hindi may ‘barrier’.

  • Kuya Dan

    Seems like I might have been over-worried at the time. I think its because when I look at the different forms of Tagalog, they are not the same as in the different forms of English. Different forms of English only really vary in accent with some differences in vocabulary and grammar. British English and American English can still be understood since both variants do not have a large difference in vocabulary or grammar. In different forms of Tagalog however, there can be a lot of differences in vocabulary and grammar also tends to change because of how natural Tagalog is as a language to work with different vocabulary and grammar.

    Oo, tama ka na talaga naman na iba magsalita yung mga different classes. Pero worried lang ako dati na masyadong iba na ang mga classes na magsalita. Nakalimutan ko lang yung role ng media sa cohesion ng wikang Filipino.