Is Filipino Spanish?

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If you’ve ever overheard Philippine natives talking (and you happen to know some Spanish), then chances are you’ve wondered if Filipino is a Spanish dialect. That’s because there are many words in Filipino that sound and mean the same as Spanish.

However, even though they sound the same, “Filipino” is a language all of its own and refers to the official national language of the Philippines (also called Tagalog). It’s also common for Philippine natives also call themselves Filipino. So the short answer is, “No. Filipino is not Spanish.”

So why do people think that it might be Spanish? … Well, there is LOTS of historical Spanish influence on the country that has grafted itself into the language and culture, but it’s nothing close to Spanish. Let’s dig in!

Spanish Influence on Filipino (Tagalog)

Filipino was deeply impacted by Spanish—that’s one of the lasting effects of more than 300 years of Spanish rule in the Philippines that started way back in the 16th century. To this day, Filipinos still use the words that came from Spanish.

Here’s one example: Listen to this Filipino phrase with me: Kamusta?

^ Kamusta? (How are you?)

Kamusta sounds almost identical to its Spanish origin: Como está? And they both mean “How are you?” Listen to them back to back below. Can you hear the slight differences?

^ Kamusta? vs. ¿Cómo está?

Kamusta?” or “Kamusta ka?” is a Filipino word that means “How are you?” Try it yourself: Kamusta ka? (Ka – mus – ta ka?)

^ Kamusta ka? (How are you? – More personal)

If you’re familiar with Spanish you probably noticed the similarity right away, right? This is just one example of a popular Filipino phrase that came from Spanish. There are many other examples of such phrases and words.

Let’s Practice Saying ‘How are you?’ in Filipino (Tagalog)

Here are a few different phrases using “Kamusta…?” in Tagalog (Filipino):

Kamusta nanay mo? (How is your Mom?)
Kamusta pakiramdam mo? (How are you feeling?)
Kamusta trabaho mo? (How’s your work?)

^ Kamusta nanay mo? (How is your Mom?)
^ Kamusta pakiramdam mo? (How are you feeling?)
^ Kamusta trabaho mo? (How’s your work?)

Filipino Is Influenced by Spanish, Not Defined by it

The Filipino language being deeply influenced by Spanish for a large part of its history is not the same as being totally defined by it. And despite the many vocabulary similarities between the two languages, Filipino, as a whole, is not Spanish nor does it sound Spanish. You’ll definitely notice this as you begin to learn more Tagalog.

In fact, as a whole it doesn’t sound close to any Latin based language (Italian, French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc). With most of these Latin-based languages you can get a head-start by learning one and then the other, but that’s simply not the case when it comes to Filipino. Sure, many words sound similar, nearly exactly the same in many cases, but the Filipino language as a whole is a completely different work of art. And you’re going to love learning it!

More than 3 centuries of Spanish rule in the Philippines inevitably had an influence over the Filipino language, but the Philippines still pretty much maintained its major regional and indigenous languages which belong to the AUSTRONESIAN language family. Today, it is very rare, if not impossible, to find a true Spanish speaker in the country.

To Sum it All Up

In the same way that the Filipinos, a non-Spanish speaking people, were influenced by Spain during its colonial history but are presently not collectively identified as a Hispanic race, the language Filipino is not defined and should not be described as Spanish or Hispanic. Filipino is not considered a variation, derivative or dialect of Spanish despite Spanish being the origin of similar or identical Filipino words. For more information on this, see our article, ‘Are Filipinos Hispanic?’

Before You Go

Let us know your favorite way to say, “How are you?” in in any first or second language you know? Let’s see how many different ways we can get in the and comments below! 😉

Marie Gutierrez

Filipino (Tagalog) is my native language, but with more than 15 years experience writing professionally in English, I am uniquely qualified to flex my semicolons to help others learn this magnificent language and let you in on cultural insights that you won't get anywhere else.


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