Understanding Filipino English

English is widely spoken in the Philippines, in fact it’s one of the official languages here (there are 2 – the other is Tagalog).  Almost everyone you speak to will be able to speak back to you in English, and mostly it’s flawless.

What I’ve noticed though, is that there are certain turns of phrase which have a different meaning in the UK to what they have here.

Now fall in line and I’ll explain more.  ‘Fall in line’ – I see this sign up everywhere.  I’m used to ‘Please form a line’ or more simply ‘Line up’.  It sounds so formal and always makes me smile.

If you ask someone for something and they don’t have it straight away, they say: “For a while ma’am”.  I’d been more used to “Give me a sec”, or “Please wait while I get that for you” or something to that effect.

Another I’ve noticed, when people want to explain something that has been going on for a while, they say “For the longest time.”

“If ever” is used in the same way that we would use “when” e.g. “if ever your visa arrives” to indicate that “when my visa arrives”.

“Already” is used frequently, but not in a way I am used to it.  When we say ‘already’, generally we mean that an event has definitely occurred.  In Filipino English it is used for emphasis e.g. “He’s taking medication for his cholesterol already” where we might simply say “He’s on medication for his cholesterol”.

Update: 9 December 2013

This past weekend, whilst flying from Manila to Cebu on Air Asia Zest, I was reminded of another peculiar Filipino-English phrase.  Instead of asking you to ‘disembark’, you are asked to ‘de-plane’.  Love it.

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