About Philippine English

phil eng

A bit about my situation and the current situation of English in the Philippines

One of the reasons why I haven’t been blogging often is because I’ve been busy teaching English here in the Philippines. You might be thinking to yourself, why I am teaching English in a country that already can speak English? That fact isn’t always 100% true.

Only less than 60% of the population can speak English.

I currently teach at a school in the province of Laguna and the level of education of the residents in the provinces especially in English is not on par with, say, those living in cities like Metro Manila or those educated at one of the elite schools/universities in the country. The school I am teaching at is not one of them.

I go back and forth between Laguna and Quezon City. You can hear both Tagalog and English or “Taglish” (mixing English and Tagalog) in Metro Manila. The main language spoken in the province of Laguna is Tagalog and very little to no English, not even Taglish. Because of this, there are almost no opportunities for students to practise speaking English with locals in Laguna. Now that I am here, my job is to improve their level of English in vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation, a little bit of grammar and conversational skills. They are also encouraged to use this opportunity to practise their English with an actual native English-speaker such as myself, even though I tend to speak Tagalog to them outside of class only. In class however, I force them to sacrifice one or two hours to speak English and no Tagalog. My reason is for them to be immersed into the English language.

My job is to also give my students the confidence to speak English because a lot of them have the knowledge but are too shy to apply. They “nosebleed” (I will discuss more about this term later) whenever I speak too much English to them.


There is a difference between the Philippines and other Asian countries like India, Malaysia and Singapore that can speak English. Unlike those countries where their English is based off British English because of history of British colonial rule, Philippine English is generally based off American English because of 50 years of American rule.

There was a time when the Philippines had three official languages: Filipino, Spanish and English. Later, it’s just Filipino and English completely phasing out Spanish as an important language.


There are vocabulary that are based off American English and some that are unique to Philippine English.

Philippine Australian
to alight to get off, disembark
brownout blackout
buy 1 take 1 buy 1 get 1 free
comfort room bathroom
dine in eat in
load credit (mobile phone)
McDo (McDonald’s) Maccas (McDonald’s)
ref fridge
rubber shoes runners
takeout takeaway
to open to turn on
to put off/close to turn off


When it comes to numbers, for the most part, each Philippine language has their own vocabulary for numbers. However, generally Filipinos use numbers from three different languages for different purposes: English, Spanish and their own language but for this case, Tagalog.

By the way, I am writing this based on my experiences in living in Laguna.

When it comes to telling time in Tagalog, it used to be:

2:00 pm – sa ikalawa sa hapon
3:30 pm – sa ikatlo at kalahati

However it fell out of fashion so then one would use the Spanish way instead.

2:00 pm – a las dos
3:30 pm – a las tres y media

Eventually, however time is now being said the English way.

2:00 pm – two o’clock
3:30 pm – three thirty

When it comes to counting items especially money and age, it varies.

The Tagalog numbers are usually said if it’s less than 10. Sometimes people use Spanish numbers.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
Tagalog isa dalawa tatlo apat lima anim pito walo siyam sampu
Spanish kwatro singko ses siyete otso nuwebe

I did not include the Spanish numbers for 1, 2, 3, 10 because they are rarely used and the Tagalog and English equivalents are used instead.

However, despite having actually number vocabulary in Tagalog, for numbers greater than 10, people generally use either the English or Spanish numbers. For more than 100, English is mainly used in spoken language.


There is a term among Filipinos called “nosebleed”. Filipinos “nosebleed” when they listen to someone, mainly a native English-speaker speaking English continuously with their natural accent, pronunciation, deep vocabulary, slang, figures of speech and fluency. When Filipinos “nosebleed”, they are unable to understand a word being said or they are unable to reply back in English because they lack vocabulary.

I am encouraged to speak English to my students and they too are encouraged to speak English to me for their English-learning benefits. Whenever I speak English to them, they tend to become shy.

Can I speak just English in the Philippines?

Because English is one of the two official languages in the Philippines, is speaking only English enough? Once again it may differ from place to place. Big cities like Metro Manila and Cebu and maybe touristy places (e.g. Boracay) have a high frequency of usage of English mainly for business because those places are usually the economic centres of the country.

Personally, whether or not the people in a specific place can speak English, I would still encourage you to learn a bit of the local language. You don’t have to be fluent or have a large list of vocabulary. As with any country or region, learning a little bit of the local language will gain you more friends and you won’t be seen as a typical foreigner who comes to the place and sees it as just another holiday place rather than another country with its own culture. Personally, I don’t think I could survive in Laguna by speaking just English.


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