They say that good communication is the key to any long-lasting and successful relationship. It is absolutely essential for two people to share their feelings with each other, express their thoughts, and, perhaps most importantly, listen attentively to one another. Unfortunately, in today’s fast-paced and hectic world, many couples don’t find the time to sit down and have a meaningful conversation with one another. Phone calls and texts have replaced personal chats between two people.A lack of proper communication is one of the main reasons why many relationships don’t last for as long as they should. Keeping all this in mind, is it really a good idea for you to date a person who does not speak the same language as you?
The world has become a much smaller place thanks to technology and globalization. Cross-cultural relationships have always existed, but it is now more possible than ever before for you to virtually “meet” people who live on different continents. You are also more likely to get the opportunity to move to another nation as an expat, or to meet a foreigner at school or your workplace, as more countries are opening up educational and employment avenues for outsiders. In such instances, there is a good chance that you will have to interact with people who are from a completely different culture and don’t even speak the same language as you do, on a regular basis. Should you think about dating one of them, considering that a language barrier exists between the two of you?
There is no right or wrong way to answer this question. Some individuals strongly believe that it is possible to make a relationship a huge success even if the partners don’t speak the same language. They claim that two people don’t really require words to understand one another and be understood. Moreover, a majority of expats around the world today have easy access to an online translator, making it possible for them to “speak” with people whose words they can’t understand. However, there are others who feel the complete opposite, and are of the opinion that they won’t be able to make a relationship last unless they can actually talk verbally to the other person without relying on a translator. While these conflicting opinions don’t tell you what you should do in such a situation, they do show that every relationship is unique, and that what works for one couple may not necessarily yield similar results with a different set of people.
Ultimately, there are both pros and cons to dating a person who does not speak the same language as you do. Read on to find out more about the advantages and drawbacks of such a relationship.
You can find something positive in almost every challenging situation, including going out with someone whose first language is different from yours. Below are a few reasons why this relationship could actually be beneficial for you in several ways.
Learning a new language
The first thing the two of you need to do is find some common ground in terms of communication, and this means that one or both of you will have to learn the other person’s native tongue. Being able to understand and speak a foreign language is beneficial in numerous ways. Even if the two of you decide to end the relationship in the future, your knowledge of another language will always help you in your personal and professional life.
With the exception of a few nationalities, who doesn’t find a person speaking another language highly intriguing? Many romance books and movies involve a protagonist from a foreign location for a good reason. Many individuals actually enjoy the thrill of conversing with someone successfully in spite of not sharing a common tongue. The internet is full of stories of couples who have managed to hook up and stay together even though they come from different cultural backgrounds and face a language barrier.
Higher levels of understanding
Very often, couples who don’t speak the same language go the extra mile in order to avoid any misunderstanding. They tend to be more vocal, open and honest about how they feel. At the same time, they pay more attention to the verbal and non-verbal clues given out by their partners.
Appreciation of a new culture
As you familiarize yourself with your partner’s communication style, take the opportunity to know more about their background too. This will help you learn about a new culture; at the same time, it will also allow you to gain a deeper insight into your partner’s values and beliefs.
Get ready to answer the question “What were you thinking?” as soon as your family and friends find out that you are dating someone who doesn’t even understand your mother tongue. Most people can’t fathom how the language barrier can be overcome and will expect you to give up on such a relationship without even trying. Unfortunately, their fears are not completely unfounded. Here are some of the problems faced by people who have been in such situations.
Dealing with misunderstandings
Breakdowns in communication occur even among people who are from similar backgrounds and share a common language. The risk of any miscommunication is therefore bound to be much higher when the two of you don’t speak the same language. Many of us are embarrassed to seek clarification when we aren’t sure of something. We also have the tendency to assume the worst when we hear our partner speak in a foreign language and laugh. This problem has been known to cause fights among couples. Even if you learn each other’s languages, often nuances and subtleties are lost on non-native speakers, which can lead to miscommunication and misunderstanding.
Overcoming the extended frustration
Relationships in general aren’t easy, and things can get even more complicated if your languages continue to be a barrier between the two of you. Sooner or later, you will want your family and friends to meet your partner; at the same time, you will also want to interact with their family and friends. Not being able to converse with them without a translator can get awkward and very frustrating.
Adjusting to a different culture
As you get to know more about your partner’s background, don’t be surprised if you experience a bit of culture shock. There may be various aspects of their behavior and beliefs that you not only disagree with but find quite uncomfortable or disturbing.
How to overcome the language barrier?
Interacting with someone who does not speak the same language as you is always tricky, and things only get more challenging when two such people start dating. It takes a little bit of creativity and a lot of patience to communicate with someone in such a situation. First of all, you need to admit that not being able to speak the same language is a challenge, and only then can you work towards fixing it. Given below are a few tips that should help you improve things.
It would be great if both you and your partner decided to up-skill yourselves and learn a new language each. However, this is a bit impractical – it will take you longer to find common ground and communicate with ease. It is therefore best for the two of you to decide beforehand which language you want to converse in and then work towards gaining higher levels of fluency in it. Avoid switching between the two languages.
List down common and basic words
Take the time to run some quick research on the words that are common to both your languages and try to incorporate these into your everyday speech. Since both of you will be well-versed with these terms, communicating should become a bit easier.
Learning a new language in this day and age isn’t difficult. Apart from signing up for a beginner’s class and investing in a few books, you could also try one of the numerous apps and websites available. Make a list of the words that you will need to use on a regular basis and memorize them. Try to build your everyday conversations to fit these words in.
Keep it simple
All languages have their own quirks as well as nuances, even the ones that are relatively easy to learn and understand. For example, a non-native speaker may find some English terms and phrases confusing or even contradictory. It is therefore important for you to keep the language you use as simple and basic as possible, at least until your partner gains a higher level of understanding and fluency. Avoid any phrases, sentences and colloquialisms that are too complicated and liable to be interpreted in more than one way.
Sarcasm is known to cause breakdowns in communication even for listeners who are fairly fluent in a language. It should therefore be strictly avoided or it could lead to serious misunderstandings between the two of you.
Enhance your non-verbal cues
Almost any expert will tell you that when it comes to communication, only a small percentage of it comes from words. About 93% of your communication is actually non-verbal and is made up of your body language (expressions and gestures, 55%) as well as your intonation and pace (38%). The proper use of these aspects will help you and your partner understand each other more than words will. Speaking slowly with people who are learning your language definitely helps them to grasp and process your words faster. Use your expressions and intonation to add the right emotion to your words, minimizing the need for clarification.
However, it is important to know that certain gestures could also mean completely different things in two cultures. For example, touching the tip of your thumb and forefinger is commonly regarded as the sign for “perfect” in most countries. However, the same gesture is considered offensive in Turkey and Greece. So do be careful and familiarize yourself with your partner’s culture a bit before you use any gestures.
When conversing with your partner, be on the lookout for signals that show lack of comprehension, like a frown or a blank expression. If you aren’t sure that your partner has understood, ask checking questions or repeat yourself a bit more slowly.
Contrary to what most people believe, speaking is not the most important aspect when it comes to conversation; listening attentively is what makes you more effective as a communicator. This involves focusing on every word your partner is saying without interruption and letting them know what you have understood. Simply put, active listening is the art of focusing on and responding to the other person for better mutual understanding.
Use a translator
Technology has made it possible for us to communicate with people of all nationalities without knowing a single word of their local language. It is common for individuals to use the services of Google Translate or other similar websites and apps when chatting with foreigners online.
However, things can get a lot more challenging when you are talking to someone in person, as your pronunciation matters to a great extent. In the initial stages of your relationship, try to go out with a group of bilingual or multilingual people, where there are others who understand both of you and can act as interpreters. Unfortunately, this does not give the two of you any privacy. Alternately, you can download a translation app with a voice element on to your smartphone to overcome this problem.
To summarize, dating a person who does not speak your language fluently can have its own benefits and flaws. The language factor may not matter to some people too much, as they find alternate means of communicating with their partners. However, it may become a complete deal-breaker for others, who believe that it is not possible for them to overcome the language barrier. It is therefore important that you and your potential partner find a way to put forth the various challenges you are likely to face because you speak different languages as well as the ways in which you will deal with them.