One thing that may not be overtly obvious to many people is that when living in the Philippines, communications is a real key to life, whether your experience is positive or negative. If you go out of your way to carefully communicate with the local people you are likely to have a lot happier and more successful life. Remember, although most people in the Philippines can speak some English, it is their second language. A lot of people do not speak real fluent English, but just enough to be able to get by. In no way do I mean this as a criticism of the local people. Actually, it is my goal to make foreigners like myself think carefully about the kind of language they use.
It is important to speak slow enough that a non-native English speaker can understand what you are saying. Just like you, when the people here hear a foreign tongue, they cannot process it as quickly as if they were speaking English as their primary language. Here in Davao where I live, the most commonly used language is Bisaya. I can speak and understand a fair amount of the language, but it is very important that it be spoken a bit slower for me so that I can process it. It is the same for somebody is doing their best to understand my English.
Another very important thing to remember is that English will mostly be understood in it’s literal meaning, not in slang ways that are open to interpretation. A good example of this happened a few days ago. A friend and I went out for lunch at a fairly nice restaurant that we go to frequently. The waiter brought our drinks, and my friend asked for some extra ice. The waiter was very responsive and brought some ice right away. He started putting extra ice cubes into my friend’s glass. About halfway up the glass, my friend said “that’s good, thank you.” The waiter kept filling the glass until it was full of ice. My friend and I looked at each other, kind of wondering why he kept filling the glass. As we thought about it, we realized what it must be. We believe that when he said “that’s good, thank you,” the waiter interpreted it to mean that my friend was telling him that he was doing a good job by filling up the ice and thanking him. Think about it… literally, saying “that’s good” means that he is doing good, it does not mean that he should stop putting ice!
There have been other times when I have said things jokingly and they have been taken by locals literally, and even offended some people. It really drives home the point that words should be spoken slowly and in their literal sense.
I really believe that keeping communications simple is a true key to making your life simpler, and enjoying yourself more. Save the slang terms for times when you get to talk with somebody from back home!