When people talk about how to learn a foreign language, they always say that you just need to have a relationship with someone who speaks that language. Does it work ? Sure. And nothing is sexier than a cute accent at the start of a relationship, but after a few years you discover that there are some challenges that you just didn’t anticipate.
1. Despite the fact that you could speak two languages, you ONLY speak 1 with your partner.
Much like the first few weeks of marriage are dedicated to assigning certain tasks to each partner for life, for example who takes out the trash, the first few weeks of a bilingual relationship are dedicated to deciding which language you will use… FOREVER…
Even if you eventually learn your partner’s language. Perhaps by living in the country or speaking with friends or family, you will ALWAYS speak to your partner in the original language.
Speaking to your partner in any other language becomes weird…. like putting on a cold wet t-shirt….
2. You and your partner speak a combined 2 or more languages, yet neither of you can remember how to say “[Insert expression/object]” in any of them.
3. Each conversation includes some aspect of taboo, pictionary, or charades. And you are always the loser.
You would think this is an advantage for game night with friends (fantastic movie, go see it), but in reality no; you are constantly spending your time gesturing, explaining, and getting frustrated that your partner doesn’t understand you or that you can’t understand them.
Partner : Can you hand me the laces pasta?
You : Sorry, the ‘laces’ pasta?
Partner : Yeah, you know.. *gestures like tying a shoe*
You : *thinking over the options, tying shoe and laces… must be long and string like*… Ok, *hands over spaghetti*
Partner : No! Not that one! *comes over and takes farfalle/bow tie pasta*
You : OH! Tying a shoe… like bowtie… Well…FML.
4. Your partner continues to make small mistakes in your language, but they’re so cute that you refuse to correct them even after many years.
This one is actually fantastic. It’s cute, it’s a reminder of when you first met and everything was just so damn COOL! It makes even the most mundane daily task like grocery shopping a little bit more exciting.
Partner : Can you go get a chariot?
You : Yeah, sure *grinning like an idiot*
When you see on the shopping list “napkings“
5. The only things you can say in your partner’s language are : “I’m fine”, “This is delicious”, “I love you” and about 25 different curse words and swears.
The first three you learned at the start of the relationship. When you had visions of both of you becoming completely bilingual. You were eating dinner and felt like adding “this is delicious” in their language just to remind yourself that yes, your partner is foreign and thus 10 times cooler than any of your friend’s partners.
But your learning stopped there. The only other things you will learn in their language over the next 6 months to forever are the 25 different curse words that your partner will use when :
– Their computer doesn’t work
– They’re in traffic with you
– Your cat intentionally knocks the glass off the table
– You forget to put the top on the toothpaste tube the ‘correct’ way
6. Every visit to your partner’s family includes the same conversation.
Their family member (in their language) : Hello
You (in their language) : Hello
Their family member (in their language) : How are you?
You (in their language) : Fine, and you?
Their family member (in their language) : Fine… How is the food?
You (in their language) : Delicious…
Their family member (in their language) : How is your [their language]?
You : *Fuming because you want to explain that you’re not an idiot, that you just don’t have time, that your partner refuses to speak their language with you because it’s like putting on a cold wet t-shirt, and that you HAVE learned something, but that it’s only swear words so you can’t repeat that to them*….
You (in their language) : Meh… *gestures with hand so-so*
7. Your partner can never appreciate your super cool cultural references and/or sense of humor and you can never appreciate theirs.
Yes finally the bilingual relationship is not as easy as we thought, but despite all the difficulties your partner is still your better half and you wouldn’t have it any other way. Happy Valentine’s Day!
This is a guest post by Bryan Le Grand, the founder and head teacher of American Way Formation, an English training center on Réunion Island. Bryan has been an ESL Teacher for more than 10 years and has taught both children and adults of all ages in Asia and Europe. Teaching is his passion and enjoys his job the most when his students reach their English learning goals.