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Spanish in the Philippines

October 29th, 2010 by michelleb

Although English is the official language in the Philippines, Spanish is still perceived as an elite language for its historical and cultural importance, much more than English. In fact, Mestizo families and young students continued to use Spanish, especially in the provinces of Cebu, Zamboanga and Bacolod.

This is consequence of the Spanish roots left in the throughout the colonial period, from 1565, when the was first introduced, up to the beginning of the twentieth century, when American hegemony started. In 1990 there were about 2,658 Spanish speakers in the country. This number does not include the 300,000 natives who speak Chavacano, one of the 170 languages of the Philippines and the most similar one to Spanish.

Currently in the Philippines there are many borrowings from Spanish. Because of the cultural basis and for historical reasons, the country supports the use of Spanish in the legal documents and in court. Moreover, today, the importance of Spanish in this country has grown due to the demand of call centers. Spanish is not the official language since 1973, and since the 1987 is no longer a compulsory subject in schools.

Despite the fact that the historical and cultural base of Spanish spoken in the Philippines is of Mexican origin (the Philippines was a Spanish colony administered by Mexico), today the country is trying to promote pure Castilian. There are more than 10,000 Spanish words in different dialects of the Philippines. These are mostly words and loans from Old Castilian and Creole mixes. The most interesting aspect is the existence of false friends, which are words used in the Filipino language, which by their phonetic or graphic could be confused with Spanish words, but in reality are in Filipino, have an entirely different another meaning.

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