Bisaya Phrases

Are you looking to travel to an area of the Philippines where some form of Bisaya is spoken? Jumping into an unfamiliar culture can be overwhelming if you’re going in without knowing the language, but that doesn’t mean that you have to be an expert in the Bisaya language to have a successful trip.

Know the Background
Bisaya refers to the group of languages spoken by the Visayan people, the largest Filipino ethnic group in the country. This means that Bisaya is an umbrella term for a variety of languages/dialects, the most popular being Cebuano, Hiligaynon, and Waray-Waray, with many others included. It is therefore important to understand which right language is for you. This will depend on where you will be spending your time and who you will spend your time with.

As Cebuano is the most commonly used of these languages, this article will focus primarily on Cebuano words, phrases, and resources.

For Starters
Here are some basic words and phrases that you may find helpful to start off with.

Hello   >>>   Uy

Yes   >>>   Oo

No   >>>   Dili

Please   >>>   Palihug

Thank you   >>>   Salamat

You’re welcome   >>>   Walay sapayan

What’s your name   >>>   Unsay imong pangalan?

My name is   >>>   Ang akong ngalan kay…

Nice to meet you   >>>   Maayo nga nagka-ila ta.

Excuse me   >>>   Kadiyot lang

I’m sorry   >>>   Pasaylo-a ko

How are you   >>>   Kumusta ka?

Fine   >>>   Maayo

I don’t speak Cebuano   >>>   Dili ko makasulti'g "Cebuano"

Could you write that down?   >>>   Palihug isulat daw

Where’s the bathroom   >>>  Asa dapit ang kasilyas?

Thanks to Wikitravel for these useful translations. Check out the rest of their phrase list if you’re looking for more.

Other Resources
Free Language Videos offers a ton of valuable YouTube videos from English to Cebuano that help you accumulate words and phrases to build your vocabulary. The videos are all featured on a playlist so they’re easy to locate and use.

The site Binisaya offers some useful tools such as written lessons, videos, a Cebuano-English dictionary, a spell checker, and forums so that you can stretch your Bisaya skills.

Bohol offers a great extensive phrasebook if you’re looking for more go-to vocabulary to work with.

Keep in mind that if you are only planning on needing the language for a short period of time that no expertise is needed. Focus on the basics so that you can easily communicate with others and navigate the area, but don’t stress about not knowing everything. Carry a translation dictionary and be open to working with others to bridge the language gap and you’ll be sure to make the most of your stay.

Photo Credit: Stefan Krasowski

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