More than 180 languages and dialects are spoken in the archipelago, almost all of them belonging to the Borneo-Philippines group of the Malayo-Polynesian language branch of the Austronesian language family. According to the 1987 Constitution, Filipino and English are both the official languages. Many Filipinos understand, write and speak English, Filipino and their respective regional languages.
Filipino is the de facto standardized version of Tagalog spoken in Metro Manila and urban centers and one of the official languages in the country. English, the other official language, is widely used as a lingua franca throughout the country.
Twelve major regional languages are the auxiliary official languages of their respective regions, each with over one million speakers: Tagalog, Cebuano, Ilocano, Hiligaynon, Waray-Waray, Kapampangan, Bikol, Pangasinan. Kinaray-a, Maranao, Maguindanao and Tausug.
English was imposed by Americans during the U.S. intervention and colonization of the archipelago. English is used in education, churches, religious affairs, print and broadcast media, and business, though the number of people who use it as a second language far outnumber those who speak it as a first language. Still, English is the preferred medium for textbooks and instruction for secondary and tertiary levels. Movies and TV programs in English are not subtitled but many films and TV programs are produced in Filipino. English is the sole language of the law courts.
Spanish was the original official language of the country for more than three centuries, and became the lingua franca of the Philippines in the 19th and early 20th centuries. Spanish was the language of the Philippine Revolution, and the 1899 Malolos Constitution proclaimed it as the official language. However, Spanish was spoken by a total of 60% of the population in the early 1900’s as a first, second or third language. Following the American occupation of the Philippines, its use declined after 1940. Currently, only a few Mestizos of Spanish or Hispanic origin speak it as their first language, although a few others use it together with Filipino and English.
Both Spanish and Arabic are used as auxiliary languages in the Philippines. The use of Arabic is prevalent among Filipino Muslims and taught in madrasah (Muslim) schools.