5 Challenges of Dating Someone Who Doesn't Speak Your Native Language
From deciphering which of the five love languages suits you best, to finding ways to accommodate your partner’s need for words of affirmation when you're not the most verbally expressive person, it's undeniable that dating can get quite complex. But when you throw a language barrier into the mix, things can get awkward, endearing, or even mortifying real fast. If you’ve ever been in an inter-linguistic relationship, or have considered dating someone who doesn't speak your native language fluently (and vice versa!), these are five things that you have or will become accustomed to.
1) Dealing with minor miscommunications
If you and your partner don’t share the same native language, it’s only a matter of time that misunderstandings will arise due to miscommunication. If you’re a native English speaker, for instance, idioms like “hit the sack” or “under the weather” that seem common and natural to you can be difficult for your partner to interpret. Sometimes, things can get awkward when you’re unsure of whether your partner wasn’t able to understand your point because of pronunciation, or because of phrasing and vocabulary. Of course, communication gets better with time… but that doesn’t mean the process won’t be frustrating!
2) Choosing simpler words to convey your message
Sometimes when you become very comfortable with another person, you forget to be conscious of how you communicate with them. This can lead to using diction that comes across as overly complex, which elicits looks of confusion from your partner and ruins the vibe of the moment. Being conscious of the words that you choose, even during moments of comfort and ease, can be a challenge that you find yourself trying to overcome in order to better communicate with your partner. If you’ve ever struggled to speak more simply in order to convey your message, you’re definitely in good company.
3) Finishing their sentences
We’ve all received the advice of letting someone finish their sentence before responding with your own point… but this rule doesn’t apply to inter-linguistic dating! In fact, dating someone who doesn’t speak your language as fluently often means trying to anticipate the point that they are hinting towards, even as they are midway through their sentence. This may lead to some hilarious moments — your partner struggles to finish their sentence and looks to you for some guidance, which results in a guessing game of sorts. When you finally land on the word that they were looking for, it’s as if both of you have hit the jackpot. Paradoxically, struggling together even in this small way could in fact bring you closer to each other.
4) Feeling guilty for not speaking their native language
Sharing your life with someone necessitates being able to understand and connect with them. But if one’s native language is the window to their soul, then not being able to speak the language can feel like you only understood half of them. If you’re in their home country, it’s even more likely to encounter cultural pressures to assimilate and speak the language of the land. But someone once offered me a piece of good advice: your guilt over being unable to speak your partner’s native language semi-fluently is more often than not unfounded, in that it is more a self-imposed guilt than anything else. After all, your partner probably doesn’t mind that you’re unable to speak their language since they already knew this before getting serious with you!
5) Trying to pick up a new language
At some point, you’ll probably tell yourself that your inter-linguistic dating experience is presenting a valuable opportunity for you to delve into a new language — if not to master it, then to at least pick up a few useful phrases that could help you get by. The desire to pick up your partner’s native language usually increases when you visit their family or hang out with their friends, especially when you feel like you're the sole reason everyone in the group has to switch to a different, common language. You may even find yourself mixing phrases from your partner’s native language into your sentences, which can lead to embarrassing (even if retrospectively amusing) moments! But ultimately, effort is what counts, at least in most people’s books!