Filipino and Spanish Words: Spelling the Difference


Have you traveled to the Philippines and noticed local signs with words very similar to Spanish? Or perhaps you have browsed some Filipino website and encountered a Spanish word in it? But just when you are about to get convinced that it is Spanish, you realize that: "it's close, but not quite" as it is spelled in a different way.

It is a fact that Spanish loaned words exist in the Philippine dictionary. History links the Philippines to Spain as its former colony and so a lot of Filipino words sound very much like Spanish.

Also read: Filipino and Spanish Words: Lost in Translation

While the meaning and pronunciation of these Filipino and Spanish words are the same, there may be a difference in the spelling though. If a Hispanic tries to read or write in Filipino, it may get a little tricky. The same goes when Filipinos would try to understand Spanish words. Although Filipinos have huge advantage in learning Spanish due to familiarity with the vocabulary, the spelling part may be a bit challenging.

Also read: Why Filipinos Should Also Learn Spanish Aside From English

Why the Spelling Has Changed
The Philippine alphabet, which is more popularly known as the “abakada,” initially had missing letters from the Roman alphabet. In 1930, Filipino scholar Lope K. Santos developed an alphabet consisting of twenty letters only, with five vowels and fifteen consonants. They are the following:

a, b, k, d, e, g, h, i, l, m, n, ng, o, p, r, s, t, u, w, y

The absence of some letters was the reason why the spelling got changed, resulting to a slight evolution of the Filipino words with Spanish origin. The missing ones were then represented by other letters in the Philippine alphabet:

Replacement for letter “C”
- Instead of "c" it is usually spelled as “k" in Filipino
Examples: arco vs arko, ancla vs angkla, carne vs karne

- Instead of "ción" it is usually spelled as “syon" in Filipino
Examples: operación vs operasyon, negociación vs negosasyon, asociación vs asosasyon

- Instead of "ch" it is usually spelled as “ts" in Filipino
Examples: chocolate vs tsokolate, coche vs kotse, chofer vs tsuper

- Instead of “cc” it is usually spelled as “ks” in Filipino
Examples: accidente vs aksidente, elección vs eleksiyon, inyección vs iniksyon

Replacement for letter “F”
- Instead of "f" it is usually spelled as “p" in Filipino
Examples: favor vs pabor, frutas vs prutas, fresco vs presko

Replacement for letter “J”
- Instead of "j" it is usually spelled as “h" in Filipino
Examples: Julio vs Hulyo, tarjeta vs tarheta, viaje vs biyahe

Replacement for letter “Q”
- Instead of "que" it is usually spelled as “ke" in Filipino
Examples: queso vs keso, querida vs kerida, parque vs parke

Replacement for letter “V”
- Instead of "v" it is usually spelled as “b" in Filipino
Examples: ventana vs bintana, vaso vs baso, vaca vs baka

Replacement for letter “X”
- Instead of "x" it is usually spelled as “ks" in Filipino
Examples: experto vs eksperto, exclusivo vs eksklusibo, experiencia vs ekspiryensiya

 Replacement for letter “Z”
- Instead of "z" it is usually spelled as “s" in Filipino
Examples: taza vs tasa, mestizo vs mestiso, zapatos vs sapatos

Letters in the Spanish alphabet are also replaced by letters existing in Philippine alphabet:

Replacement for letter “Ñ”
- Instead of "ñ" it is usually spelled as “ny" in Filipino
Examples: España vs Espanya, piña vs pinya, compañía vs kompanya

Replacement for “ll”
- Instead of "ll" it is usually spelled as “ly" in Filipino
Examples: calle vs kalye, cuchillo vs kutsilyo, silla vs silya
* Exception: caballo vs kabayo

Replacement for “rr”
- Instead of "rr" it is usually spelled as “r" in Filipino
Examples: Inglaterra vs Inglatera, hierro vs yero, terrorismo vs terorismo

Other noticeable differences:

- Instead of "io" it is usually spelled as “yo" in Filipino
Examples: Dios vs Diyos, radio vs radyo, colegio vs kolehiyo

- Instead of "ie" it is usually spelled as “ye" in Filipino
Examples: Griego vs Griyego, nieve, niyebe, pieza, piyesa
Exception: hielo vs yelo

Other words do not have a standard ruling as to how they got changed. Here are some examples:
- Jabón vs sabon
- Reloj vs relo
- Soldado vs sundalo
- Entiende vs intindi
- Tacón vs takong

Do you know other evident rules on spelling out loaned Filipino words? Which is your favorite Filipino word that came from Spanish? Comment down below!
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Shelly C. Dimaculangan is a language translator in the Philippines. She finished AB Journalism at University of Santo Tomas in Manila where she took her first Spanish classes. After college, she continued learning Spanish at Instituto Cervantes de Manila. 




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