Philippine English

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Philippine English refers to the English language as it is spoken in the Philippines, where it is one of two official languages, the other being Filipino, which is based on Tagalog. Filipinos are at least bilingual, knowing their native, regional language (which can be Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilokano, or one of a number of other languages), and Filipino and/or English as their second and third language. A recent trend, especially in the Metro Manila area, is that more and more Filipino children in fact speak English as their native language. English is widely used in areas such as education, print and broadcast media, and business, and is used as a lingua franca throughout the archipelago.



There is no universally accepted standard of Philippine English, though most Filipinos tend to follow after American spelling. Usage of British spelling, though, is widely understood.


Main article: phonemic differentiation.

Educated Philippine English tends to follow American rather than British pronunciation, as is the case in most other countries in Southeast Asia.

English is often the language of choice for reading and writing among educated Filipinos, but it is less commonly used in everyday speech. As such, mispronunciation can sometimes occur for English words whose spellings differ significantly from their correct American or British pronunciations. Examples of common mispronunciations are margarine (mispronounced with hard g as in get instead of the j sound or soft g as in gem), lead (as in lead pipe, mispronounced to sound like "lead", meaning leadership, instead of sounding like "led"), lettuce (mostly pronounced as spelled instead of sounding like "letis"), salmon (silent L often pronounced), climber (silent b sometimes pronounced), etc. All vowels in unaccented last syllables are pronounced in vowels themselves except letter e before r, which is still pronounced schwa. Examples are capital as |KA-pi-tahl|, popular as |PO-pyoo-lar|, business as |BIS-ness|, channel as |CHA-nell|, actor as |AK-tor|, and culture as |KUL-choor|.

Filipinos, in informal situations, sometimes infuse native words into their English . For example, "Let's go home na" (Let's go home already). More on this can be found at Englog, although many Filipinos still refer to this as Taglish.

Most of the peculiarities of Philippine English pronunciation have to do with the lack of certain sounds in the indigenous Philippine languages. For example, the sounds for the short a (as in cap, IPA: æ), short o (as in cop, IPA: ɒ), and short u (as in cup, IPA: ʌ) are often merged into the same sound like the a as in father (IPA: ɑ). The closest sound when Filipinos pronounce the three words will be like cop (using the American pronunciation [kɑp] as the sounds for IPA symbols ɒ and ɑ have merged in most American dialects). Diphthongs are also sometimes pronounced as individual vowels. The sounds for k, p, and t are oftentimes without aspiration.

Vocabulary and Usage

Where Philippine English shares vocabulary with other English dialects, it shares more similarities with American English than with British English.

Some words in Philippine English have a different meaning from their counterparts in standard American or British English. In addition, there are some words and phrases which are peculiar to Philippine English and do not appear in other English dialects at all. Some examples are:

  • Commander - (slang) for My wife.
  • C.R. - toilet, bathroom. C.R. are initials for Comfort Room.
  • every now and then - often
  • for a while - used on the telephone to mean please hold
  • get/go down the bus - Get off the bus.
  • open/close the light. - Switch on/off the light.
  • ref - refrigerator
  • salvage - murdered for political reasons or by police/military elements.
  • take home - take-out (or "to go" in AE)
  • the other day - the day before yesterday
  • course - one's major in college (as opposed to a single class in AE)
  • Gimmick - have a good time, party, watch a movie.


Although the first exposure to English was in 1762, when the British invaded Manila, English from that time never had any lasting influence. English was assimilated when the United States took over the government. In 1898, Spain ceded control of the Philippines to the United States under the Treaty of Paris, and thereafter the Americans controlled the Philippines until it gained its independence in 1945. The Americans established a system of public education wherein English was used as the main language of instruction. After independence, the Philippine government continued public education in English, while at the same time establishing Filipino as its national language. A parallel system of private schools, many of which were established by the Catholic Church, follows with the dual-language system, although private schools tend to use English more than Filipino in their instruction.

At present, the abundant supply of speakers of English in the Philippines and low labor costs have enabled it to be competitive in the international call center and outsourcing industry.

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