I´ve been in two bilingual relationships for some time now: one with the love of my life, and one with my work. Both comes with great learning and its time to put some of this into words (lol yes I just went there).
- It’s easier to be honest
I talk English at home, and in my job there’s usually three languages present at any given time: Norwegian, English and Swedish, sometimes with a hint of Finnish. Being forced to think twice about the words that comes out of your mouth is great as you start being very selective of the words you use, and for some reason I find it easier to take the tough conversations in English. Being honest in another language is easier because it feels less threatening, less personal and you choose your words more wisely as you pretty much have less words to choose from. In my experience, getting to the point and being real about what’s going on is much easier in another language.
2. You get a lot of laughter in your life
I crack up on a daily basis of pure linguistic funniness. Misspelled words and lack of the right words in brain fart scenarios provides a lot of laughter and fun into a relationship, and I can’t tell you how many times conversations have ended up being purely about language. It’s fun to learn new languages and it forces you to think differently about how you communicate with others.
3. You have something to teach each other
Me being the Norwegian and him the American there is a constant learning curve in our relationship. Because besides of pure language there is a culture that comes with it, and there’s a lot to learn. Dating a foreigner forces you to truly learn about your own culture because you have to teach it away to someone who is generally clueless, and I’ll tell you right here that I would have given less fucks about Norwegian culture hadn’t it not been for the fact that my partner is obsessed with it. I’m Norwegian, it’s just present in me and my history — nothing exciting really. But when you have to represent and teach your own culture it opens your eyes to finding new things you probably never would have found otherwise. Him being American teaches me great things about his culture in way deeper ways than what I could ever learn from an outsider´s perspective.
4. You learn true patience
On top of all the laughter and word play, concepts and cultural quarks you eventually come to a point where language sometimes can be a barrier. In stressful situations it can sometimes be difficult to get the right message through, and given the fact that both of you are learning each other’s language you need to be patient and loose you’re linguistic arrogance (yes we all have that). My vocabulary in Norwegian has always been great, and I’ve always had an interest in new exciting words, new ways of explaining things. Having pride in your vocabulary in one language will definitely challenge you when you’re ‘forced’ to dumb down your language in order to make yourself understood. This is where the importance of being patience comes in. Take a breather, appreciate how far you’ve come and how exciting it is to learn new things every day.
5. Your language skills obviously improves
When I first started dating my partner my English skills were dreadful. I didn’t think so at the time as I’ve always been excellent at it — by Norwegian standards at least. Being an B+(ish) student in English all my life and having had a somewhat international family tree I’ve grown up with a large range of languages in my life, and my perception of my English skills two years ago was that “I’m pretty good”. Today I realize how much I’ve learned, but I needed people telling me — otherwise I’ll just to the same mistakes over and over again. Like stupid typos and grammatical errors that should have been cured a long time ago. I like writing, and have been writing for a long time, and for some years now I’ve pushed myself to write more English whenever I could. Like this.
6. Your personality grows
As your language skills grow you also find out new things about yourself as you become familiar with the culture that comes with the language. Something as simple as “I like that” or “ I don’t like that” gives you a stronger foundation to truly finding out things about who you are. To me, learning new languages and cultures has given me way more than I could ever expect it to. I’ve found out many things about myself I probably would have never found had it not been for these cultural experiences. That’s because when you look at things with an entirely new lens, specifically through some else’s, it’s amazing what can be found and how you can grow from it.
Thanks for reading,