People differ from animals primarily in their ability to speak. We use language to express our thoughts and communicate with others. But since language is such an important thing in communication, is it possible to date in different languages or even build a serious relationship with a person who doesn’t speak the same language? Undoubtedly it is. In this article, we’ll find the Top 3 dating problems in different languages and the way of coping with them.
There are many stories of happy couples who didn’t or hardly speak each other’s language when they first met. I know a woman from Colombia who came to the Czech Republic to study. There she met a local guy who, like her, spoke only his native language and only some English. They tied the knot a year later, despite their parents being, to put it mildly, not excited about this marriage. However, the couple has been together for almost ten years. Now he speaks Spanish fluently, and she sounds like a native Czech.
It has been a long journey they have traveled together, but to make it, they needed to learn to understand each other without words.
I asked Gabriela—that’s my friend’s name—how she and her husband managed to build a relationship with little understanding of the language of each other. She replied laughing that gestures and a dictionary were the key in the beginning. “Gradually, he introduced me to his culture, and I introduced him to mine. It was easier for me to some extent, because I was surrounded by Czech speakers, and I studied in Czech. Jan didn’t lag behind though. I remember how excited I was when he understood almost everything said during a phone call with my mother. I wasn’t even annoyed that he overheard that talk!”
There are main dating problems in different languages people face:
1. It’s Hard to Fight
Some of you might think that’s good. However, happy couples fight from time to time. There are two main reasons why partners don’t quarrel: they are afraid to express their resentment and anger, or they don’t see a future in the relationship because they are no longer in love. It may seem ridiculous, but expressing anger is just as important as expressing affection because anger always means some unfulfilled need. If this need is ignored, the relationship breaks down sooner or later.
How to Deal with It
What to do if your partner and you literally speak different languages, so you can’t even argue for real?
Multilingual couples suggest using an online translator. This is not the same as articulating your thoughts in your own language with all the power of expression, but still managing to convey the main cause of your dissatisfaction.
Another friend of mine, Mary, says that not being able to immediately release anger saves her relationship with a foreign husband in a way.
“It was the key dating problem in different languages I faced when my husband and I started seeing each other, and, honestly, is still the main issue”, Mary says. “When I’m disappointed, I can raise a storm but only in my own language. Since I’m married to a man who doesn’t speak the same language, I have no choice but to sit down, think, and pick up the right words. Some time later, I inevitably calm down.”
2. It’s Difficult to Understand Cultural Differences
Each society has its own values and traits. Born and raised in a certain society, we carry its culture. People from distinct cultures may think differently, and it may become a cause of conflict. For example, in one culture it is customary for men to give gifts to women, while in another it is not. Therefore, a woman accustomed to receiving gifts from men may be offended by her partner who soaked up another set of gift-giving etiquette rules for not expressing love in the way she is used to.
How to Deal with It
I think we all know that even those people who speak the same language and share traditions are often not on the same page. So, the common cultural features, although important, are not pivotal things to building a happy relationship.
If you and your foreign partner don’t want to stumble over cultural contradictions, you should try to study the traits of the society each of you belongs to. Dive into traditions, history, and art. Not to mention the language. Penetration into a different culture leads to getting rid of stereotypes and biases and helps to deeply respect a person you want to be with. It’s another good way to solve dating problems in different languages.
For example, my atheist friend Mikkel started dating a religious woman from another country. At first, he had a go at convincing her to stop going out with her head covered because he considered such behavior a relic of the past. However, his girlfriend calmly explained to him why this routine was important to her, and my friend finally accepted it. “I realized that her faith and traditions are important to Aisha, so I stopped trying to change her mind”, says Mikkel.
3. It’s Difficult to Understand (and Make) Jokes
This is another dating problem in different languages. I call joke misunderstanding a problem because happy relationships are mainly based on a sense of humor. There are few things in the world—short of flirting or self-acceptance—that would be more wonderful and significant for building and sustaining relationships than laughing heartily at something together with a person you like.
However, humor is a complex concept and largely depends on the context. By context, I mean not only the shared daily experience but also a common cultural and linguistic code. When you and your partner belong to different cultures and speak different languages, it is much more difficult to understand each other’s jokes.
How to Deal with It
Again, learn about your partner’s culture and study their language. Also, enrich your mutual experience. Watch movies together, read books, go to the theater, etc. Take some interest in the social networks of people your partner follows. The more quality time you spend together, the easier it will be for you to understand each other’s jokes. If you’re worried that your date may have misunderstood you, say you were joking and explain what your joke was about. It may sound weird because we are used to thinking that the joke doesn’t need an explanation. Remember though, that you are getting to know each other, including from this humorous side.
However, all couples do face such a joke misinterpretation at times, not only those who speak different languages.
The world is a global village. The Internet connects people who never had a chance to meet before. Therefore, a date or even marriage with a person from a different culture now barely surprises anyone. However, in any relationship, not only multicultural, partners should learn to respect and appreciate each other. It helps them to understand each other, no matter what language they speak. Understanding always comes by recognizing the other as who they are.