One of the most common quips you hear about language learning when talking with someone on the street…
“The best way to learn a language? Well, try dating someone who speaks another language. They can teach you!”
And they certainly can!
The number of times over the years that I’ve seen people master a new language in incredibly short order, after (coincidentally) hooking up with a significant other…
There’s no doubt that dating someone who speaks a different language can be one of the best ways to learn a new language.
It’s also one of those language learning “secrets” that many of my polyglot friends have relied on heavily in the past… whether or not they admit it publicly!
I may also not be entirely innocent in this regard either…
But that is most definitely a story for another day.
By the way, if you want to keep your language learning outside of the home, using the right method is key.
My courses teach you through StoryLearning®, a fun and effective method that gets you fluent thanks to stories, not rules. Find out more and claim your free 7-day trial of the course of your choice.
Dating Someone Who Speaks a Different Language
Anyway, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why falling in love with someone who doesn't speak your language can help you fast-track your language learning so much.
The reasons are many…
But perhaps most obviously: You suddenly have someone who will talk to you all day long!
There’s no longer any need to go out and twist the arm of random strangers, waiters, unsuspecting members of the public to talk to you for 60 seconds…
You now have language practice on tap!
- Practice speaking
- You most definitely need to practice listening
- You’re also suddenly much more invested in your conversations
…and it’s that emotional involvement and real desire to communicate that helps you push your level northward.
(This is a great example of the “Principle of Directness” that I discussed in my recent conversation with Scott Young.)
Anyway, getting a boyfriend or girlfriend that speaks another language is helpful.
I think we all knew that.
Hardly breaking news. But… there is a…
70% Failure Rate When Your Partner Speaks Another Language
Here is where it gets interesting.
Because, although we know that this can be insanely successful, there’s also a bit of a case of “survivorship bias” going on here.
Survivorship bias is when you look at the most successful cases, and then reason that this must be true for everybody.
So let me ask you this:
Do you know anyone who has ever been dating someone who doesn't speak the same language, but they actually find it really hard to get them to speak that language with them…
And they end up speaking English all the time!
Maybe you’ve even experienced that yourself? I know I have.
In fact in a recent poll in my Facebook community, 70% of people said they’ve had this direct experience themselves!
And I don’t know about you, but for me, being with someone, really wanting to learn the language, going to go out of your way to learn the language, and putting your heart and soul on the line…
Only to have them insist on speaking English all the time…
I can’t think of many things more frustrating and frankly infuriating than this.
This – ladies and gentlemen – is a very tricky situation.
It almost pits your passion to learn the language against your love for your partner.
And what happens when you are deeply committed to both?
Now, having talked to so many people over the years who have found themselves in this conundrum, I’ve come to quite a clear position on what to do about this.
It’s a position that has helped me work through this psychologically in my own life quite a few times.
And the position is this: Keep your language learning outside the home!
Learn the Language as if You'd Never Met
Look, language learning is hard enough.
- You already have tonnes to learn.
- You already know you have to work at it consistently (in spite of the inconsistency villain putting you off)
- And you know you have to keep it up for a long period of time.
In my view, you can’t afford to let difficult emotions get in the way, or the emotional turmoil will derail you.
If you really want to learn the language, then you’ve got to be in control of the journey. You can’t let your will to study, to speak, to work at the language, be beholden to the ups and downs of a linguistic power struggle within a relationship.
It’s already hard enough.
Think of it like this…
You really want to do the right thing by your partner, by learning their language. That’s great, good on you, I say.
But the right way to go about that is to go out and approach the task independently, just as you would have to if you had never met your partner in the first place and you were doing it all by yourself.
I know how badly you want to be able to speak your partner’s language with them…
But the best way to go about that, is to go out by yourself and learn the language like everybody else does by studying independently and seeking out your own speaking practice opportunities…
And then come back when your skills are so good that it’s easier for your and your partner to speak in their language than in English.
At that point, it’ll be the most natural thing to do.
And guess what? He or she will respect you so much more for having done that for them.
That, I think, is not only the best way to approach this situation, but also the quickest and least painful.
What’s more, above all, I think it is the most respectful way to do it.
Don't Expect Your Partner to Be Your Language Teacher
Think of it from your partner’s perspective.
While you may be equally fascinated by them and their language, chances are they are only interested in you, and couldn’t care less about the language side of things.
It’s really not fair for you to make your partner into your language teacher!
How do you think they feel when they get home from work in the evening, they’re looking forward to seeing you, to spending time together and chatting. And then you proceed to force them to sit there and smile while you get your speaking practice. And then ask them to repeat 5 times when you don’t understand their reply…
It’s not a very happy existence. And I dare say it’s not particularly healthy for the relationship either.
Not good at all.
But I think people have a bit of a blind spot over this. They think: “Why can’t they just help me with the language… I’m trying really hard!”
And I’ve been there.
I understand those feelings.
But at the end of the day, the solution is not to keep up the pressure on your partner.
It’s not fair.
The solution is to take a deep breath, recognise that you shouldn’t be seeing your partner as a “shortcut”, and instead, go out there and fulfil your language ambitions under your own steam.
Far be it from me to give relationship advice, but I dare say that you’ll feel happier and have an easier time of things at home when you stop making language learning the elephant in the room.
Tips For Couples Who Speak Different Languages
Although you shouldn’t rely on your partner to be your language teacher, you should still try to see the fact you both have different native tongues as an opportunity.
Just because they shouldn’t teach you vocabulary and grammar, doesn’t mean you can’t practice together.
Here are some tips to make that happen:
Set times for practice
Be intentional about when you practice your new language with your partner. Perhaps dedicate one meal time a day to only speaking their native tongue.
Avoid grammar topics
Remember, your partner isn’t your teacher. Save your grammar questions for your tutor or for Google! Often native speakers can’t even explain why grammar is the way it is. So avoid touching on grammar subjects with your partner.
Set rules for corrections
If your partner constantly corrects you, it may start to annoy you. Before you start practicing their language with them, establish rules for how they will correct you. Maybe it’s at the end of a conversation or after you finish your sentence. Whatever works for you! Just ensure you’re both happy with the way you will communicate.
Make the most of family time
If your partner moved abroad, their family may not be as familiar with the language you both communicate in. If you spend time with your partner’s family, make the most of being immersed in their native language! It’s an invaluable learning experience and can really help you improve your communication.
They won’t mind if you make mistakes, they’ll be more impressed that you’re attempting to speak their language.
Understand your cultural differences
Different cultures have different ways of communicating. For example, people who speak Germanic languages tend to be more direct than those who speak Latin languages.
Try to understand how your partner communicates so you don’t end up getting offended! Something you may take offence to may seem like a normal way to communicate for them. Falling in love with someone who speaks a different language is all about great communication and acceptance of your differences!
How to Date Someone Who Speaks a Different Language
Now you have some advice on dating someone who speaks a different language, you can put it into practice.
Patience and understanding are the best ways to practice another language with your partner.
And don’t forget, they aren’t your teacher! There are professionals out there who can help you with learning the basics.