Filipino English can be hard to understand at first
While English has been taught in Philippine public schools since the early
1900s, Filipinos apply the peculiar sounds of the Tagalog dialects they speak.
Sometimes I had to listen hard to determine whether they were speaking English
Few Filipinos will distinguish between the short 'i' sound and the long 'e'
sound; so big will sound like beeg. The mixed 'ae' sound in 'ham' will sound
as hum to a Westerner. Filipinos use vowel sounds as in the Spanish five vowel
sounds without the complex and illogical phonetic variations English gives
to these vowels.
While Filipinos as a people is with an F, the language is Pilipino with a
P. This is because their indigenous languages don't have the "f" sound, which
is substituted by "p". That is why at first Filipino English is hard to understand
until you get use to the absence of certain sounds we are use to in U.S. or
The taxi drivers really have fun as one discussed with me. Germans speaking
English sounds much different and uses some slang expressions that are very
different, likewise Australian English sounds different from Americans English
or British English etc. So Filipinos also have a hard time understanding different
types of English. But they seemed to understand my English better than I could
understand them. They of course are more use to hearing different forms of
English and if I spent more time in the Philippines, I would probably get
use to their pronunciation also.
As Kabayo pointed out: " Remember that Americans are in no position to correct
Filipinos on their English usage. Filipino English is a dialect in its own
right, just as is American English or Australian English. If fact, the Philippines
is the third most populous English speaking country in the world, after India
and the United States."
Kabayo also pointed out:
I would add to your comments that Filipinos speak more deliberately and more
clearly than Americans, whether they're speaking Tagalog or English. Filipinos
say that Americans speak 'slang', which itself has a different meaning to
Filipinos than it does to Americans. When a Filipino says 'slang', he means
'to mumble or speak unclearly'. Listen to Filipinos speaking. You can define
each separate syllable. Now listen to Americans. All of the words are run
together. You're lucky if you can tell where a *sentence* ends, and another
starts. No wonder foreigners have such a difficult time trying to understand
American English, even if they have studied English in their own countries.
So, when in the Philippines, try to speak as the Filipinos do. Not baby talk,
but clearly annunciated standard English, free of American idioms and slang
(American usage of this word now). You will be understood by nearly everyone
when you take the time to speak carefully. They're not deaf, so don't shout
at them! Remember, we are guests in their country / neighborhood / store/
P.S. Did you know that there is at least one Tagalog word in contemporary
American English? It's 'boondocks', derived from the Tagalog word 'bundok',
meaning 'remote places' to Americans, and 'mountain' to Filipinos. This word
was apparently brought back by the turn of the century soldiers or teachers.
Am reading your site and saw the reference to 'boondocks' as a filipino word
taken up in common English.
I'll give you 3 more:
Yoyo, actually a filipino invention and known widely by its original name.
to run amuck (amock?) Amok is actually a filipino word (malay origin) and
means the same in English - to lose control and act dangerously / crazy.
Poontang - As a kid I often heard this referred to when talking about women
or sex, as in "I'm gonna get me some poontang (pussy)" or "that was a sweet
piece of poontang" referring to a sexy girl. I never gave it any thought until
I learned to speak Tagalog and realized that a common slur on someone is 'Puntang
ina mo' - your mother is a prostitute (Puta). I'm sure the navy/airforce coined
the word poontang and brought it home - lucky us (very sarcastically).
Other points people have pointed out:
When a lady friend tells you she's "penis eating", she doesn't mean she enjoys
If a coworker tells you he brought with him some "FUCKED LUNCH", he means
he enjoys home cooking a lot!
As the Phil. secretary will say, "The meeting will push through for a moment."
Azil further commented:
One of the other peculiarities of Filipino English (from an American viewpoint)
is that in some cases the same phrase can have a nearly opposite meaning.
For example, "every now and then", which Americans use to mean "occasionally",
is used my Filipinos to mean "often".
I was once managing an office and a Filipino employee complained to me that
her supervisor was checking on her work "every now and then." I was confused,
because I thought this was pretty reasonable behavior on a supervisor's part.
It turned out, of course, that she felt the supervisor was constantly bugging
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