Sloppiness in spoken and written Tagalog

By Frederik De Vos

One of the things that can make Tagalog confusing for learners is that many people speak and write it rather sloppily. This isn't just a problem with Tagalog. In fact, a lot of people speak their own language very sloppily.

In this article, I'd like to give an overview of the typical "incorrect" uses of the language. Of course, one could argue that it's the people themselves who make the language, rather than the grammarians, and that grammarians should simply take note and edit their grammar books instead of dictating how people ought to speak. But that's a different story!

In our course, we've tried to stay as close as possible to the way people really speak, without using sloppy language. This means that both in terms of grammar and in terms of spelling, we've followed convention.

You'll find that we often use English words in our course instead of native Tagalog words. These words are in common use in "standard" Manila Tagalog, even more common than the native word. We haven't tried to make the lessons easier on purpose by using English.

Below are a few examples of sloppy use of Tagalog.


Switching between English and Tagalog phrases in the same sentence or combining English and Tagalog constructions

Affixes being omitted

Ang disappearing

Si instead of ang:

Yung instead of ang:

Ang omitted:


Shorthand used in text messages or online

Of course, like in any language, there are also shortened word forms that aren't really considered sloppy. Some examples in Tagalog are bat (bakit)why and san (saan, nasaan)where.

As an exercise, see if you can decipher the following text messages:

1. gud am. d2 n aq. san u?
2. alis nlng me. kc tagal mo.

(Scroll down for the answers.)

1. gud am. d2 n aq. san u?
(Good morning. Nandito na ako. Nasaan ka?)
Good morning. I'm here now. Where are you?

2. alis nlng me. kc tagal mo.
(Aalis na lang ako. Kasi ang tagal mo.)
I'm leaving. Because it's taking you so long.

It's quite normal to be confused at first. Don't worry, you'll get used to it!

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