Can they speak the same language?
When I was growing up, my parents would speak both Tagalog and English to each other but only English to me. Why only English? Because I grew up in countries where English is primarily spoken (including Australia). Sometimes my parents would teach me a few Tagalog words. As a kid I would call them Filipino words. Every time relatives call the language Tagalog, I would always call it Filipino. Eventually, I would call it Tagalog too.
Later, I found out that the names Tagalog and Filipino (also known as Pilipino) both refer to the same language and are often interchanged for different purposes. Much like Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Malaysia or Spanish and Castillian.
They both have the same grammar, vocabulary and syntax. Are there any differences between the two? Why does one language have two or three names?
How Tagalog became Filipino/Pilipino
Before the arrival of the Spaniards, there was no unifying language in the archipelago, although Tagalog, Cebuano and Ilokano were the three most common languages. After independence from Spain, the Philippines needed a unifying language other than Spanish. A language of the Filipino nation.
The national constitution requested a national language based off an existing language native to the Philippines. In 1937, a committee consisting of members of different languages held an election in order to decide which language would become the Filipino language. The committee chose Tagalog because it was a widely spoken languages in the archipelago and there were more publications in Tagalog. However, speakers of other languages complained about why their language wasn’t chosen.
The national language based off Tagalog was renamed to Pilipino in 1959 then later to Filipino in 1973. As of now, the official languages of the Philippines are Filipino and English.
What to call it
I, personally, call it Tagalog. Probably because that’s just how I grew up especially when the majority of my relatives come from the Tagalog areas. There are however times when I do call the language Filipino. It’s mainly because of laziness. When non-Filipinos ask me what languages I speak, if I answer “Tagalog”, they would usually ask “What is Tagalog?” causing me to explain what it is. But if I answer “Filipino” they will think “oh yeah, the language of the Philippines” thus saving me time and breath of having an explanation what Tagalog is. Only among Filipinos do I refer the language as Tagalog. I’ll be honest, I’m aware that I was being lazy and not helping spread the awareness of the term Tagalog nor the fact that there are 150+ languages spoken in the Philippines other than Tagalog/Filipino.
Sometimes when I think of Tagalog, it only refers to the language and its dialects mainly spoken by the Tagalog people of Manila, Central and Southern Luzon in the Philippines. There are other dialects of Tagalog such as from Batangas, Marinduque, etc. There are possibly words in Tagalog dialects that are considered old-fashioned and are mainly spoken in the provinces and rarely in cities like Manila. The term also sounds more regional or specific to an ethnic group.
Whereas, to me, the term Filipino (or Pilipino) refers to the vernacular of the Tagalog language that is standardised, mainly spoken in Manila, currently taught in schools, designated as the national language as well as spoken as the official language of the country. The term Filipino gives an inclusive, broad or national connotation. Nonetheless, some Filipinos do use the term Tagalog.
The difference between Tagalog and Filipino has been debated. To some people, Tagalog refers to the language while Filipino refers to the nationality.
Filipino vs Philippine
There is a difference between Filipino and Philippine languages. While Filipino refers to one language, a Philippine language refers to any language native to the Philippines. There are currently more than 150 languages in the Philippine language subbranch of the Malayo-Polynesian language family all spoken in the archipelago. Philippine languages include Cebuano, Ilokano, Ilonggo, Maranao, Tausug and, of course, Filipino/Tagalog. Those languages are all group together because they have a similar grammatical system, vocabulary and origin. Because the Chavacano language is a creole language based off Spanish and didn’t originate in the Philippines, it is not considered part of the Philippine language group.
If you ever wondered why people call it Tagalog or Filipino, these are some of the reasons why. You may come across instruction manuals, brochures or applications that has Tagalog or Filipino as a language option. As well as language textbooks and phrasebooks that teach either Tagalog or Filipino.
In my other articles I have been calling the language Tagalog and I would continue to do so, once again, out of personal familiarity and to spread the awareness of the term Tagalog along with other Philippine languages. So now, when I say Tagalog, you know which language I mean.