Tagalog is not my first language. I speak a different dialect, at which I'm still fairly fluent. However, like most Filipinos, I learned to speak Tagalog at a young age. It's the National Language in the Philippines, and it is the default spoken tongue in music, movies and TV there.
After a few years of living in America, I was definitely out of practice. All the Filipinos we knew here spoke our own dialect, and the ones at school spoke English. Of course, when we were at a Filipino store or restaurant, we would sometimes speak Tagalog with the clerks and servers, but those occasions never resulted in any deep, meaningful or lengthy conversations. Even though I still understood, it had gotten awkward for me to properly convey my thoughts and sometimes to even pronounce the words properly.
Then when I was a teenager, I ended up living with my brother and his wife. The two of them regularly watched Filipino movies, and once in a while I would sit and watch with them. Cinematically, the films were lame and had terrible production value, but I did find Judy Ann Santos very cute and the movies made me miss speaking Tagalog.
One time after watching one of those movies, my brother and I drove over to the Filipino video store to return the tape. My brother double-parked and asked me to drop it off. He told me something about payment - I don't remember the details but it was some kind of arrangement with the guy who owned the store. I don't remember the details because now I can only recall what happened when I got inside.
The attendant that day was the owner's wife. She was a nice young Filipina lady, and she was pregnant. She put the tape into their system and told me that it was late. I relayed what my brother told me, and she said something else, that my brother was right but this and that. As we spoke, I had been backing up towards the door because we were double-parked. But when she told me that thing - which again I apologize that I don't remember - I wanted to be able to explain it clearly. So I walked back toward her and said, "Ano'ng ibig mong sabihin?" In English, it literally translates as "What do you mean to say?"
I had only wished for her to further explain, but when she drew back and I saw terror in her eyes, I realized that I probably did this wrong. She said never mind, don't worry about it. When I saw some of the patrons - nay, all of them - staring at me, I just turned around and left.
It seems that with me coming at her like that, plus the harshness in my accent, it may have come off as, "What are you alleging?" or, "Are you accusing me of something?" Even though the words don't translate as such literally. And I had nothing to gain or lose either way, as it was my brother's account and it would have been his problem, if you could even call it that. So yeah, it may have looked like I threatened a pregnant lady for a couple of dollars in late fees.
I never went back there again. I speak Tagalog way better now. And when the right words don't come to me, I just say it in English.