The context is the top bar of a website that also has the names of other languages spelled out in their native script/letters.

Like this: English | Español | tiếng Việt | 汉语 | Filipino

Also, if you think any of the others above look wrong, please let me know. I'm looking for the standard accepted native form. I don't want to offend any volunteer translators on the open source project I'm doing design work for.

  • When it comes to the Bahasa Malaysia ~ Bahasa Indonesia ~ Bahasa Melayu title, just go with Bahasa. That's what everybody calls it anyway, whichever variety they speak.
    – jlawler
    Nov 14, 2015 at 1:38
  • Although, Bahasa infact means language, so Bahasa Indonesia is Indonesian Language, Bahasa Perancis is French Language, Bahasa Jerman is German Language. To write just "Bahasa" is not accurate. It might be what is used "on the street", but its not proper.
    – Karl
    Mar 6, 2016 at 14:56
  • @Karl, I think that is exactly John Lawler's point. If people use "Bahasa" to mean Bahasa Indonesia, then that is (by definition) what it means. "Proper" and other social judgments don't enter into the matter.
    – Colin Fine
    Aug 31, 2018 at 15:13
  • 1
    @ColinFine I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you speak Indonesian, and that that is informing your comment. For those readers who might not, however, it’s worth pointing out the distinction in Indonesian between formal and non-formal, which is quite different from the way that we think of those concepts in English. While your descriptivist comment applies completely when it comes to “on the street” informal language, the simple fact of the matter is that anything like a formal setting, “bahasa” means “language” while “Bahasa Indonesia” means “Indonesian”.
    – Karl
    Aug 31, 2018 at 16:53
  • So, while casual chat might employ the former in place of the latter, this would be out of place in an official or formal context, which I suspect this question would belong to. Therefore, I couldn’t comfortably suggest the use of just “bahasa” here, even if it is what most people use casually.
    – Karl
    Aug 31, 2018 at 16:55

2 Answers 2


Consider the following:

  • Filipino (register) is a standardized register/dialect of Tagalog (language).
    Meaning, there are other, non-standard, dialects of Tagalog.
  • Tagalog (language) is the native language of Tagalog (ethnic group)
  • Tagalog (people) are one of many ethnic groups in Philippines (country).
    There are other ethnic groups who have their own languages, and some of these languages are also official/regional in the country.

Hence, a text can be written in Filipino, while verbal services (e.g., phone support) is in Tagalog (assuming that the Web site does not support any other language of Philippines).

Here's yet another view of the problem:

In practical terms, Filipino is the official name of Tagalog, or even a synonym of it. Today's Filipino language is best described as "Tagalog-based".

Use of term Filipino in this context is a metalepsis which suggests metaphorically that that the national language is based on an amalgam of Philippine languages rather than on Tagalog alone.

The language is usually called Tagalog within the Philippines and among Filipinos to differentiate it from other Philippine languages, but it has also come to be known as Filipino to differentiate it from the languages of other countries; the former implies a regional origin, the latter a national.Wikipedia — Filipino language — Filipino v. Tagalog)

As per Chinese, 中文 [zhōng wén] may be preferred versus 汉语 [hàn yǔ].

This question seems to be relevant: 中文 vs. 汉语: What's the difference?

  • Thank you. My take-away is that any person that speaks Filipino will be fine seeing "Filipino" in the language bar. This would match the abbreviation locale file ---> fi.yml
    – pixelfairy
    Nov 14, 2015 at 17:52
  • Given the context---a website that will be used by people in Oakland, California---which do you think it most appropriate? Tagalog or Filipino?
    – pixelfairy
    Nov 14, 2015 at 20:20
  • @pixelfairy, Oakland doesn't change anything in my answer. :-) As a developer, I would stick to ISO 639. Nov 14, 2015 at 23:02
  • Thanks! I can't pull a definitive answer out of your answer. It seems like a "sometimes do this, or maybe that" kind of answer. Maybe there is no definitive answer?
    – pixelfairy
    Nov 23, 2015 at 22:45
  • 1
    @pixelfairy, I understand your point. "Do this" is usually not the best type of answer within StackExchange, because it will not serve future readers who come here with similar (but not equivalent) problems. Instead, and this is what I did, explain what factors impact the answer and let you decide. And the definitive answer: if I were you, I would stick to ISO 639 and use "Filipino" for texts and tl.yml or tgl.yml for file naming. Nov 24, 2015 at 0:12

There is no linguistic difference between the language called Tagalog or the Tagalog-based Filipino. The use of either term is merely for political reasons. Tagalogs prefer to call it Filipino to give it legitimacy since the Constitution only recognizes Filipino as one of the national language, and not Tagalog. Non-Tagalogs, especially those with strong regional loyalties, resent that Filipino has not incorporated other language features apart from a few vocabularies which is against the spirit/intent of the framers of the Constitution, so prefers calling it Tagalog.

In linguistic circle, it is called Tagalog and not Filipino.

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