She doesn’t speak my language 

The communication in a mixed nationality couple


Nowadays one of the most famous pieces of relationship advice is: communication is key.

Unsaid words are poison and a true deep conversation will probably ease you and your partner. But, how does it work in a binational couple? Communication belongs to a certain culture, to your language, so is it an issue at some point?

Well, we can’t speak for all, but here is our own experience of it.

First a little rewind. I worked two years as an au-pair in Berlin. Everybody said my German was great but I didn’t consider myself as good enough. I had to talk French at work, and I almost only had French friends in the city. Not the best to learn a foreign language, is it?

But I was determined to always improve my skills. And my wish came true as I met her. The love of my life. This wonderful, amazing, beautiful german girl. And what a better way to learn than through the language of love?

She couldn’t speak a word of french and my english sucked. So the decision was all taken! We started to talk to each other in german. She was patient, and it was never a problem at the beginning of our relationship. It was actually cute. It brought lightness. We always laughed at my mistakes, my accent or the differences of both our cultures.

First fights

Time passed and we had our first disputes. We discovered how difficult the communication sometimes is in every relationship but even more so in our case. Words became barriers. For me, not for her. I was the only one talking a language that was not my native one, the whole time. She was so used to hear me speak german that she almost forgot it wasn’t my mother tongue.

Running in circle

She didn’t understand that my brain was still impeded, missing important vocabulary. Especially in pressing situations like arguments. And with stress, the emotions popping up from all over my body, I struggled more and more to find my words. So I tried to change my words again and again, hoping that my argument would be understood.
She hated that. But every time I explained to her why I was running in a circle like that : she got it. She remembered the fact that I speak in a foreign language every single minute of the day. It may sound easy, I probably look like a fluent speaker, but it is sometimes so freaking exhausting.

The real deal

I often feel like I would go deeper if I could speak in my native language, especially in a fight situation. But what’s most important is not the dispute itself. The big deal is how we react to it, how we handle it. And it always fascinates me, the way we solve our problems, with love and compassion. I think it is an universal solution. It doesn’t matter if you and your partner speak the same language. The heart doesn’t need any translator.

Give her what you need

Be kind and let your heart speak, not your anger. Ask yourself „what do I need right now? What should my partner do to help me, to stop my struggle?“. Do you need this person to hold your hand and say „I’m sorry“? Do you need her to listen? Do you need a cuddle? A kiss? Then just stop to wait and give.

Most of the time both want and need exactly the same : tenderness, calmness, love. And suddenly all the temper is gone. You may even ask yourself why you were fighting to begin with. How did it escalate so fast? You’re not really sure, but it doesn’t matter anymore, you’re just glad to hold her tight. To let the anger go. And you can now communicate more calmly and with empathy. You can share your thoughts and try to avoid the next fight. Or at least to make it easier. I give her advice to understand me better and faster the next time and she does the same.

That’s how we slowly learnt how to deal with the binational aspect of our relationship : with a double amount of communication, patience and respect

I learnt her language, she learnt mine.

December 20, 2017


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