While you may be love struck for a while after meeting your partner, speaking the same language is key if your relationship is to blossom.
Love at first sight is a wonderful thing. It can spring from a single look, and be enough to leave you speechless. As is the case with many expressions, the French arguably capture the sentiment the best. A coup de foudre is literally a thunderbolt, but it is also used to express the inexplicable shock of love at first sight. The problem is that after the initial frisson of excitement has subsided, intercultural relationships often have to overcome a significant language barrier.
If a relationship is to last beyond the honeymoon period, communication is key. And that’s where learning a language is essential.
Imagine that an American guy falls in love with a Mexican girl. At first, they communicate in signs and with physical affection. However there inevitably comes a point when language is needed.
From childhood we learn to interact using language, expressing our needs and desires with words. Taking this away from an adult relationship is a recipe for disaster.
Not only will you struggle to express yourself, not being able to talk to each other will wear thin after a while and result in frustration. Making even the most mundane decisions can become a real chore.
At the most basic level, an American man that learns rudimentary Spanish will be able to talk about where to go, what to eat and other subjects. As language skills develop, so will the ability to express emotions, including those all-important declarations of love! Over time you should be able to get to the point of expressing yourself in your second language the same as you do in your first, with humour, confidence and authority.
The decision on who learns which language is often influenced by where you live. If you live in the home country of one partner, the other will most likely learn the local language to help them in daily life.
However in an ideal world, both partners would learn the other’s language. It’s often said that language provides a window into the culture of a country, so learning the language will help you to understand some of the complexities of your partner.
Everyone knows how nerve-racking it can be meeting your parents-in-law for the first time. From choosing what to wear to taking the right bottle of wine to dinner, the occasion is fraught with potential tripwires. At times a quick joke can save the situation, but for that you need to have a good command of the language. Learning a few good jokes can help to break the ice, but being able to take part in conversation fluently should be your ultimate aim if you want to fit into the family. After all, a charming conversationalist is a more attractive prospect than a bumbling
This could also be important further down the line if you have children. No one likes feeling left out, and a feeling of exclusivity could arise if one parent shares a language with the children that the other doesn’t understand.
In any relationship, communication is key. Even when both partners speak the same language, many arguments are caused by misunderstandings. If you can’t communicate well, the chances of misunderstanding and arguing with each other increase exponentially.
Different cultures use verbal and non-verbal communication to a different extent. Sometimes we can read body language the wrong way, and asking for clarification can help to prevent an argument.
Learning the same language is also important in terms of setting boundaries for the relationship. As we have explored previously, people from different cultures have different expectations about various factors, whether that be the male role in a relationship, the role of the in-laws or other issues. By learning the language, you can better communicate your expectations and those of your partner.
At the same time , the way that you learn a language is important. Get outside help rather than being tutored by your partner. Impress them with the language you’ve picked up under your own steam, rather than using them as a translator.
If you are in an intercultural relationship, there is no better time than now to start learning the language of your partner. You’ll see immediate benefits, and with continued study and practise those benefits will keep on coming for the rest of your lives together.