Latest posts by Ruby Zajac (see all)
- Loving the lingo: the best way to learn Spanish? The bedroom? - July 31, 2017
- Can you be yourself in another language? - June 23, 2017
Among language learners, it is a well-known fact that getting yourself a boyfriend/girlfriend or a variation of, will speed up your language learning ten-fold. When I told my friends back home or (especially) on exchanges elsewhere, that I had a Mexican boyfriend, their response was tinged with both admiration and envy. It usually went along the lines of, ‘Your Spanish must be getting good then!’
In Mexico, when I met new people and love-life came up in conversation, my revelation would garner a wink and a comment like ‘Aha, the best place to learn Spanish is the bedroom!’
There are many reasons a bit of smooching can loosen your tongue. For starters, when you are infatuated, you want to spend all your time together. And all that time can be spent speaking the language you’re attempting to learn. Brilliant. Not only do you have your own personal tutor, they are also a tutor you feel increasingly comfortable with, and as you gradually get closer and develop trust, you’ll be less afraid to make mistakes, and they won’t be afraid to correct them. Ideal.
The thing about ideals though, is that they’re, well, idealistic. Relationships in a foreign language can be hindered by all sorts of things, including the language barrier itself. You might misunderstand each other on a first or second date and fall out completely. You could meet someone who speaks excellent English, so good that it becomes the dominant language of your relationship. Or, if you’re more of a talker than a mover ‘n’ shaker, you might feel too inhibited by your slow, stumbling prose and give up on the whole thing before you’ve started.
With regards to English, you must start as you mean to go on. The language you form a relationship in tends to be the one you use most. This is as true of close friends as it is of lovers. I sat in the university gardens a couple of times with one of my friends in Mexico intending to help her practice her English, but because it wasn’t that good yet, and we already had a great rapport in Spanish, it felt weird to both of us. Within five minutes, we’d fallen back into Spanish.
If the other person in your equation wants to speak English some of the time, that’s fair enough. Just bear in mind that keeping an even balance between two languages is tricky. Maybe it can be done, if you persevere, but it’s very easy for the person who speaks their foreign language better to steer the conversation in that direction, so to speak.
I was pretty stubborn and assertive when I was in Mexico; I would not speak English. English then became a bit of a contentious issue in my relationship, because it began to be the language we spoke when we had arguments. I think this was because my boyfriend wanted to make sure I was fully understanding his point of view (remember what I said about the danger of misunderstandings?)
A good compromise can be to say OK, we’ll speak the language spoken wherever we are. So, in France, French. And then in England, or in my case Scotland…But that brings me to another, possibly the biggest issue in multi-lingual romance: distance.
Unless you and your lover live in a city like London, home to people from all over the world (and even in London, and especially after Brexit), it’s quite likely that you won’t both be in the same place forever. Knowing that one day you’ll be going home can inhibit a lot of people from getting into serious relationships in other countries. It’s a fair concern. But don’t let that stop you! Because love in another lingo is a rich and wonderful experience. And believe me, you really do get fluent more quickly.