There are over 100 separate languages and dialects spoken within the Philippines, but just two official languages: Tagalog and English. Tagalog is spoken as a first language by about 25% of the population, while almost everyone else is able to speak and understand it fluently. Most notably, it is the first language for those living in Central Luzon and Metro Manila, and is the language used in national news broadcasts, television dramas, and films. English is spoken to varying degrees by the majority of Filipinos. The level of English ranges from essentially native level to only basic vocabulary, and is very dependent upon level of education because it is taught in school, along with Tagalog, as one of the country’s official languages. The bilingual abilities of many Filipinos means that they will often switch mid-sentence between languages or mix and match vocabulary when speaking.

The other most commonly spoken language is Cebuano. It is spoken by almost 50 million people mainly in Visayas and Mindanao, where it is also known as Bisaya. These two main indigenous languages—Tagalog and Cebuano—are very distinct from each other such that those who speak Tagalog as a first language cannot understand Cebuano. The reverse is not true because Tagalog is spoken (either as a first language or a second language) by the majority of Filipinos, regardless of whether they speak the language at home.

Other languages spoken include Ilokano, Hiligaynon, and Waray, but these are all spoken in specific regions and are a first language for less than 10% of the population.