I have often been asked what it’s like dating someone whose first language is not English. Min sambo (Swedish for common law partner/live in significant other) has also been asked the same thing. I will add that min sambo is perfectly fluent, and sometimes has been mistaken as a native speaker. For him, he is dating a foreigner who can’t speak fluent Swedish.
On a side note, that’s the interesting turn of events; I now identify myself as being a foreigner. A new experience that I appreciate and hope will make me grow.
Anyways, this post will be my personal guidelines of dating a non-native speaker, I’ve also used these guidelines with friends where English is not their first language (English, Swedish, Spanish, French, Arabic and what have you.) Perhaps you have, are, or just open to dating someone, where sometimes, there will be a language barrier. This can be an obstacle you face especially if you met your foreign lover while abroad, or simply in just a different city, and you are doing the long distance thing. Communication is one of the most important foundations for any relationship, but if you are in a long distance relationship, communications becomes the life buoy thrown to you in sea. Falter with communication and it becomes the anchor that will sink any relationship.
Patience and Biting Your Tongue
This is a common phrase that I have encountered “How do you say…” or simply long pauses as your partner, friend, etc. is searching for the right word. Sometimes it only happens once in a conversation, sometimes it happens on a frequent basis. It depends on their level of speech. Be patient, you might find it annoying but it can be demeaning and condescending if you finish every sentence for them or cut in and repeatedly correct them. It might seem like you are simply helping them, but it can seriously embarrass the them and discourage them.
Ask them if they don’t mind being corrected, I’ve had friends and my S.O ask me to correct them because they are always looking to improve. If they are describing something but can’t remember the exact word they are trying to say, venture out a variety of words. They might not know all of them, so let them chose which one they understand and can keep their side of the conversation going.
If You’re A Sesquipedalian, Maybe Tone It Down A Notch
Some of you may have had to look up that word, for those who don’t know this word it means one whom has an extended vocabulary. Which is great, I love expanding my horizons from reading and conversing. However, if I spoke with someone whom I constantly didn’t understand half of their mile long words, sentences gorged on synonyms, and complex metaphors they were spewing at me, by the end of the conversation I’ll feel pretty sh*tty. Pardon my plain and simple language.
This can happen between two native speakers, but if you’re dating/befriending someone who doesn’t quite have as much of an iron grasp of the English language, you don’t have to constantly flaunt it. Learn to pick your battles.
When They Ask You What A Word Means, Explain It Well
Congratulations. You are now an ambassador for the English language. If someone asks you what a word means, or what tense they should use etc. You better make damn sure you are giving the right answer. If they ask you a word you are not totally certain how to explain, don’t feel bad about having to look up a clean and crisp definition. I’ve done this on numerous occasions because while I know I understand what the word means, and I am using it correctly, sometimes it is hard to explain a word or tense in a simple manner. That’s why I have the Webster Dictionary app. Get it.
Sometimes you will find weird little things about the English language when you’re explaining it. Like how when you say flour and flower they sound so damn similar, with the word phone you make an “f “sound and not a “p” sound etc. Language is a funny thing, we’re basically just barking out a jumble of sounds and somehow it works, in roughly 6,500* ways.
*I had to look that number up, learn something new everyday.
Welcome To The English Language, I Will Be You’re Guide
See the mistake I put there? People make mistakes sometimes, even in their native language, and in no way am I a perfect grammar nazi, in speech or via text/e-mail/IM/…or blog post for that matter. But if you are dating or even just simply conversing with a non-native speaker, be conscious of what you’re saying but also how you’re saying it. A lot of times they are going to be learning new things about the language from you, just make sure you aren’t on the giving end of bad habits.
Turn the Tables
Now on a final note I will say that I am not, in any way, expecting non-native speakers to be perfectly fluent, for even I mess up in my native language. Also after trying my hand at Swedish, I only have the upmost respect for others who try to learn English, or any other language for that matter. But one great tip for any relationship, romantic or platonic, is trying to learn a bit of their language. Accept the challenge, from personal experience, it is only strengthens the relationship, and your S.O or friends will really appreciate it. Learning new languages broadens your opportunities for new friends and/or lovers, as well as just helping out for travelling.
No matter which way or how you say it, I think we can all say yes to that.