Around 27 million people speak Tagalog as a first language. When the second language skills are added in, around 45 million people around the world are capable of speaking Tagalog at a decent level.
While the majority of people live in the Philippines, it is also a language spoken in some parts of Canada and the United States. The spread of the language is due to the number of people immigrating over the years. It is also a language commonly learned around Australia and New Zealand, due to frequent travelling to the Philippines.
Tagalog isn’t actually an official language, which adds to the confusion between Tagalog and Filipino. Filipino is the official language of the Philippines and is basically a standardised form of Tagalog. Despite being an official language, only around a quarter of the people in the Philippines speak Filipino. There are also some languages closely related to Tagalog, including Bikol, Visayan and Ilocano. They are official languages around Taiwan, Hawaii, Maori, and Malay.
Tagalog is a member of the Austronesian language family and broken down further belongs to the Central Philippines family of languages.
Austronesian languages are on islands in the Pacific Ocean and in Maritime Southeast Asia. More than 350 million people speak one of the many Austronesian languages when all different languages in this family are considered.
The number of dialects is actually unknown. Tagalog can actually include a variety of versions, with Filipino as the standard language.
There are four common dialects: The Bulacan dialect is popular in Northern parts of the country, while Manila is heard in Central Philippines and Batangas in the Southern part of the country. Marinduque is the fourth dialect, which is the dialect that differs the most from the others. This is a dialect that is only really spoken in the Marinduque region.
Tagalog differs from many other Asian languages in that it is fairly easy to learn for English speakers. The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) considers Tagalog as a Category II language. While it has some major differences to English, the language isn’t as difficult as many others in the region. According to FSI it takes an average of roughly 1,100 hours of lessons to learn Tagalog properly, which takes around 44 weeks of full-time study to complete.