Why the Philippines Is the Only Former Spanish Colony That Doesn't Speak Spanish


In history class, we’re often taught that the friars didn’t teach Filipinos to speak Spanish because they wanted us to remain ignorant. But if that’s true, why is it that former colonies in North and South America like Mexico, Colombia, and Venezuela have Spanish as their official language?

According to this video by BBC News Mundo—the Spanish language arm of the BBC—it was a matter of logistics. While Spain would have preferred to establish Spanish as the official language of all their colonies, they ran into a unique problem when it came to the Philippines. The archipelago was populated by various ethnic groups who spoke over a hundred different languages. With just a few friars stationed in the Philippines, translating all those languages into Spanish simply wasn’t feasible.

Instead, the friars decided to learn the most commonly spoken languages, Tagalog and Cebuano, in order to evangelize as many people as they could in the shortest period of time possible. As we all know, they were hugely successful and the Philippines remains predominantly Catholic to this day. 

The rest of the video explains how Spanish became the language of the elite, and how Americans were much more successful at making English one of the country’s official languages. For our part, we’re glad that our country’s rich linguistic diversity remains intact in spite of hundreds of years of colonization.

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Angelica Gutierrez
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