My short answer is no. I’ve found out that the fact that I learned how to speak Tagalog has helped me very little as far as being an effective communicator with my Filipino spouse is concerned.
First of all because my wife, like most Filipino women who move abroad (and therefore have a measure of higher education), speaks good English and because English is a language that has a much broader vocabulary than Tagalog, it gives you, in my experience at least, more choices to express your deepest emotion than Tagalog does.
But the language is not the real key in communicating effectively with a Filipina. My experience has taught me that what really matters in this kind of relationship, is the ability to use whatever language you choose to effectively deal with high emotionally charged situations.
Filipinos are by and large very emotional people and tend to easily lose their cool and the extended family tends to quickly take sides with your spouse when the atmosphere gets intense.
So, based on my 20-year experience with a Filipina, I would say that, in order to communicate effectively with a Filipina you need two skills that have very little to do with the language:
- the ability to choose your words or even your body-language very carefully in order to avoid eliciting emotionally charged situations. One word or one involuntary gesture may trigger unexpected reactions when you deal with emotional people. Of course you need to know the language she is familiar with to carefully select your words but don’t we all often fail to use words that heal and don’t we all sometimes speak words that hurt others even when we talk to our fellow countrymen in our own language?
- the ability to keep your cool when she lashes out and her family gets involved and understand what’s behind and what’s beyond those intense emotions.
Being an understanding, compassionate and sensitive communicator and listener goes a much longer way than putting much effort in learning Tagalog, Iloko or whatever your wife’s native language maybe.