A Look at the Tagalog Language

Method and Conclusion. See here.

Results. A ratings system was designed in terms of how difficult it would be for an English-language speaker to learn the language. In the case of English, English was judged according to how hard it would be for a non-English speaker to learn the language. Speaking, reading and writing were all considered.

Ratings: Languages are rated 1-6, easiest to hardest. 1 = easiest, 2 = moderately easy to average, 3 = average to moderately difficult, 4 = very difficult, 5 = extremely difficult, 6 = most difficult of all. Ratings are impressionistic.

Time needed. Time needed for an English language speaker to learn the language “reasonably well”: Level 1 languages = 3 months-1 year. Level 2 languages = 6 months-1 year. Level 3 languages = 1-2 years. Level 4 languages = 2 years. Level 5 languages = 3-4 years, but some may take longer. Level 6 languages = more than 4 years.

This post will look at the Tagalog language in terms of how difficult it would be for an English speaker to learn it.

Greater Central Philippine
Central Philippine

We recently looked at two easy languages, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay, which are actually two forms of the same language. A well-known nearby language is Tagalog, the national language of the Philippines. Tagalog is much harder than Malay or Indonesian. Compared to many European languages, Tagalog syntax, morphology and semantics are often quite different. Also, Tagalog is typically spoken very fast. Unlike Malay, verbs conjugate quite a bit in Tagalog. The main idea of Tagalog grammar is something called focus. Once you figure that out, the language gets pretty easy, but until you understand that concept, you are going to have a hard time. Everything is affixed in Tagalog.

However, articles and creation of adjectives from nouns is very easy.


ganda –      “beauty” (noun)
maganda – “beautiful” (adjective)

Tagalog gets a 4 rating, very difficult.


Filed under Applied, Austro-Tai, Austronesian, Language Families, Language Learning, Linguistics, Malayo-Polynesian, Philippine

5 responses to “A Look at the Tagalog Language

  1. Joerg Hensiek

    this here should be of interest to you, Robert. New genetic evidence proves that Austronesians (and therefore probably also the Austronesian languages) have their origin in Indonesia, not Taiwan:

    • This makes no sense at all as the homeland of the Austronesian languages must be in Taiwan as the Taiwanese languages are so radically different and more archaic than the whole rest of the family. There is no way that Indonesia could be the homeland as the Austronesian languages in Indonesia are not very old.

      • Joerg Hensiek

        well, the DNA research did in fact focus much more on the people than the languages. Perhaps the origin of modern Austronesian languages was indeed in Taiwan, but the large majority of Austronesian people(s) came, as it seems and DNA is hard evidence, from Indonesia. Perhaps their languages vanished when Taiwanese Austronesians – as newcomers and subsequently ruling elites, as the article suggests – became dominant and replaced the old languages. A development like with Hungarian, which replaced all other languages spoken on the territory of modern Hungary, although intitially just spoken by a minority “elite”.

  2. Jason Y

    Tagalog and Cebuano (which I heard when I was there in Cebu) also borrow a lot of words from Spanish (a former ruler besides the USA). Ironically, English has took over much the Phillippines to the point they go back and forth between Filipino languages and English. How did that happen? Why do they like English so much?

  3. Themaker

    What I find the most difficult about Tagalog is that native speakers are not used to foreigners learning the language, so they simply don’t understand you unless you are speaking it perfectly. As an American I’m used to people butchering English so it doesn’t even phase me.
    I actually gave up even trying to speak Cebuano because I was tired of people just giving me blank stares. They know enough English so it’s easier to just do it that way.

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