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My Working Language Pairs

Native Languages: TL/Filipino; EN (Philippines); HIL (Less dominant)

  • English<>Tagalog/Filipino
  • English<>Hiligaynon/Ilonggo
  • English<>Kinaray-a/Karay-a
  • French>English
  • French>Tagalog/Filipino
  • French>Hiligaynon/Ilonggo
  • French>Kinaray-a/Karay-a

Mother Tongue

In a country like France, where there is only one language, the definition of mother tongue is quite evident and very restrictive: it is the language (often the only one that is used and understood!) spoken by the mother in the family.

But in a country like the Philippines, where there are 87 languages and where there are more than 150 dialects, this restrictive concept of mother tongue is not applicable anymore, and this becomes very vague. Certain languages are used more often and are better-mastered than those that are commonly used by parents. That is what is in my own case:

  • My mother belonged to the Ilonggo ethnic group and so she, most of the time, spoke Hiligaynon. Hiligaynon is also the language used by our neighbors and friends.
  • My father belonged to the Karay-a ethnic group and spoke Kinaray-a. But living in an Ilonggo region, he generally spoke Hiligaynon. For myself, I speak Kinaray-a because I visit relatives on the father's side, on rare occasions.
  • At school, just like all Filipino children, I learned Filipino and English which are the only languages spoken since kindergarten. These are the only two languages whose grammatical and orthographic rules we learn.
  • English, Filipino and Tagalog, beside from being the official languages and media of instruction (except for pure tagalog), are languages used by the media. So I got immersed in an environment where these languages are continually used. All the films and television shows I saw and the radio programming I heard were in these three languages.
  • I did some of my university courses in Manila. I worked and lived there for many years... in a pure-Tagalog environment.

So, we understand that the concept of mother tongue is totally different from what is conceived in countries where there is only one language! I cannot consider Kinaray-a -- eventhough it is my father tongue and I used it when I was younger -- as a mother tongue. However, I am almost more familiar with English and Tagalog/Filipino and I master them better than Hiligaynon which is yet my real and only "mother tongue" if we apply the strict definition.

Again, according to the strict definition, "mother tongue" is the language used in lullabies sang to an infant. But in my case, I heard lullabies in Hiligaynon indeed, but I heard them as much as, if not more, in Tagalog or English!

On the other hand, though it appears strange to some, it is a fact (and unfortunately a reality to a lot of emigrated Filipino children) that one's mother tongue can be totally forgotten. Thus, this concept cannot have any value as for the mastery of a language!

Therefore, what I define as my mother tongue does not correspond to the strict and (very) restrictive definition, but to the reality of things in an environment where no single conversation, or even phrase, is effectively multilingual. And this reality shows that what the strict and restrictive definition considers as my mother tongue is not what I master best.

Philippine Languages

Philippine languages are part of Austronesian linguistics, once called Malayo-Polynesian. Latin alphabet, with a few variants, is used at present. Let us note letters less and the nga that becomes "ng", provided that a correspondence is possible... Effectively, the initial alphabetalibata was syllabic. The alphabetic order is a little different compared to the classic one, reflecting the one of this old writing, regrettably forgotten since the Spanish invasion.

Being a group of living languages with continuous evolution, an important part of the vocabulary is now taken from Spanish and English words. The spelling is often reviewed to the Filipino way, and except the rules of musculine and feminine grammatical genders which were kept from Spanish origin, the grammar remains to be of the Philippine languages, which is often very puzzling to Westerners.

One of the characteristics of Philippine languages, probably due to their big number and the necessity to adapt to foreign listeners, is having mixed words and even phrase elements from several languages. So, in the streets of Manila, one often speaks what is called "Taglish", a kind of slang coming from Tagalog and English mixture.

Tagalog vs. Filipino

Tagalog is widely identified to be the native language of the Tagalog ethnic group Approximately 30% of the 84 Million population of the country, living in the southern part of Luzon

The Philippine islands are geographically divided into three main areas, namely Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.
while Filipino is supposed to be the language of the Philippines as it is the first national language (English is the second). However many think, especially non-Filipinos that Tagalog is the national language of the Philippines and that Filipino is also Tagalog.

We can also consider that Filipino is not a native language of anybody. This is an artificial language  which aims to unify all the ethnicities of my country (the Philippines). There have been controversial issues about Filipino versus Tagalog...

But if your target market or audience is the whole Philippines or Filipinos in other parts of the world or Filipinos all over the world, I suggest you go for Filipino and not for pure-Tagalog translations. As there are some Tagalog terms which are not common or not easy to understand for non-Tagalogs.


Hiligaynon is also called Ilonggo (sometimes misspelled as Ilongo). Hiligaynon is the language of Ilonggo people, spoken in the province of Iloilo on the island of Panay and in Negros Occidental. In fact, ethnologists and linguists talk about the Ilonggo people (the ethnic group) whose language is Hiligaynon. But Ilonggos themselves say that they speak Ilonggo!

There are approximately 7 million people in the Philippines speaking Hiligaynon as their first language. In addition to that, approximately 4 million people speak Hiligaynon as a second or third language. It is the third language in the Philippines by number of speakers.


It is the language of Karay-a people, principally spoken in the province of Antique, on the Island of Panay.

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