Top 5 Confusing Filipino-English phrases

Confusing Filipino-English phrasesYou’ve moved to Aus­tralia and you’re thank­ful that Eng­lish is your sec­ond lan­guage or your oth­er first lan­guage. You, how­ev­er, have noticed that there are some words that, even if they’re in Eng­lish, aren’t under­stood by native Eng­lish speak­ers. (I used to say ‘open line’ until I found out that it’s not a term used in Aus­tralia. Ha!) Read the list of con­fus­ing Fil­ipino-Eng­lish phras­es that Aussies may not under­stand, so you’ll know what I’m talk­ing about.

Confusing Filipino-English phrasesTop 1 Confusing Filipino-English phrase: Comfort room, more specifically C.R.

In oth­er coun­tries, a com­fort room or C.R. is called pub­lic toi­let, restroom, bath­room, or wash­room. If you say ‘C.R.’, there’s a 1% chance Aussies will under­stand you. You have a bet­ter chance of get­ting direc­tions to the near­est toi­lets if you say ‘com­fort room’.

Top 2 Confusing Filipino-English phrase: Open the light or open the computer

Instead of ‘open’, say ‘turn on’ or ‘switch on’ the light or the com­put­er. I under­stand that the con­fu­sion stems from the trans­la­tion into Taga­log or Fil­ipino of ‘turn on’, ‘switch on’ and ‘open’ which is ‘bukas’. Because ‘open’ is a more com­mon word, it’s so easy for us Fil­ipinos to make the mis­take of say­ing ‘open’ even if we mean ‘turn on’ or ‘switch on’. If you say ‘open the light or com­put­er’, you’ll be under­stood any­where in the world, but it’s best to use the cor­rect verb phrase to be a bet­ter communicator.

Confusing Filipino-English phrasesTop 3 Confusing Filipino-English phrase: Open line

I remem­ber going to a mobile phone and acces­sories shop telling a sales assis­tant I’d like to get an ‘open line’ phone, so I can change telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions ser­vice providers and not wor­ry. I’ll nev­er for­get the look of con­fu­sion on the poor guy’s face. Thank­ful­ly, my friend man­aged to deci­pher the code and feed me the cor­rect ter­mi­nol­o­gy — unlocked phone. Haha! She said the guy prob­a­bly thought I want­ed help set­ting up a phone dat­ing account.

Top 4 Confusing Filipino-English phrase: Copy furnish

Copy fur­nish sounds so pro­fes­sion­al but archa­ic. Aussies will under­stand you, but you’ll be noticed in a way that peo­ple who come in with a portable CD play­er get noticed. Instead of say­ing ‘copy fur­nish me’, say ‘car­bon copy or CC me’ or ‘copy me in’.

Confusing Filipino-English phrasesTop 5 Confusing Filipino-English phrase: State of calamity

Accord­ing to The Lawyers Post, a State of Calami­ty is defined under Sec­tion 3 of RA 10121, known as the “Philip­pine Dis­as­ter Risk Reduc­tion and Man­age­ment Act of 2010,” as “a con­di­tion involv­ing mass casu­al­ty and/or major dam­ages to prop­er­ty, dis­rup­tion of means of liveli­hoods, roads and nor­mal way of life of peo­ple in the affect­ed areas as a result of the occur­rence of nat­ur­al or human-induced haz­ard.” Only Fil­ipinos use this term, so don’t be sur­prised if Aussies give you a ques­tion­ing look if this term slips out. The rest of the world refers to a state of a coun­try after being struck by a nat­ur­al or human-trig­gered dis­as­ter as a state of emer­gency, no mat­ter how extreme­ly calami­tous it is.

The longer you live in Aus­tralia or any coun­try with Eng­lish as its native lan­guage, the bet­ter you’ll be at pick­ing up real world Eng­lish, and this will help you avoid using Eng­lish terms that are only under­stood by Fil­ipinos. I hope this list of con­fus­ing Fil­ipino-Eng­lish phras­es will help you adapt quick­er in the Land Down Under. Oi! Oi!


If you know a con­fus­ing Fil­ipino-Eng­lish term sim­i­lar to the words above, please share it here. Thanks! 🙂