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What language do you speak to your partner?
Thread poster: RafaLee

Local time: 11:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
Jun 18, 2004

Dear all,

Do your partner and you speak your own language to each other ?

I know a half-Serbian half-Polish guy, whose father speaks Serbian to his mother and mother speaks Polish to his father. Therefore, the children become trilingual (Serbian, English and Polish).



Gerard de Noord  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2003)
German to Dutch
+ ...
A couple I know Jun 18, 2004

I live in the Auvergne, France and have met an Italian couple in our town that moved here from Paris. They've lived in France for over 50 years.

He's from the upper north and she's from the heel of Italy. Their dialects have so little in common that their common language is French. Bad French.



Robert Kleemaier  Identity Verified
Local time: 18:56
Member (2004)
Dutch to English
+ ...
Bilingual in BC Jun 18, 2004

Hi Rafa,

Here in British Columbia, Canada, we communicate in Dutch to each other, but in our own native languages to our children, i.e. NL & EN. I don't pretend to speak Dutch as fluently as I did when we lived in the Netherlands, but for family reasons alone it's important to us to maintain a degree of fluency for ourselves and our children.

As regards raising children bi-/multilingually, an excellent resource is: A Parents' And Teachers' Guide to Bilingualism (2nd ed.), by Colin Baker. For further information, see their website:



Maria Belarra  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
French to Spanish
+ ...
The language of the woman is the language of the household? Jun 18, 2004

I spent a while in Belguim. My friends there could be from anywhere, and their partners too. Almost all of them were multilingual (two or more languages) and, mostly, both partners could speak each other's native language and used them depending on the social context.

However, when they were at home, almost always the common language was that of the woman- irrespective of the street language. A Dutch speaking boy and a French speaking girl in a French speaking environment spoke French; but a Dutch speaking man and a Italian speaking woman in a Dutch speaking environment spoke.. Italian! And so on.

Of course, this applies to a very limited group of people.icon_smile.gif I'd like to know if this is often the case. Which language is usually dominant between partners, that of the man or that of the woman? And when speaking to children?

Just curiosity..icon_smile.gif


Elizabeth Adams  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 18:56
Member (2002)
Russian to English
+ ...
to Maria Jun 18, 2004

We're the opposite! My husband is a Russian native speaker and my native langugae is English, but we always speak Russian at home. I speak English to our baby when I'm by myself with him, but on the whole we speak Russian all the time. This was true even when we lived in Los Angeles. I think it's because I'm the "language" person and it doesn't bother me to essentially live in another language. And although my husband speaks perfectly acceptable English, he's an engineer and would prefer silence to speaking (ideally) and speaking Russian to speaking English. And he refuses to mix, which also doesn't bother me at all. But I know he's right - the weird Frankenstein languages that crop up in emigre communities are pretty sad.


Yolande Haneder  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
German to French
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To Elizabeth Jun 18, 2004

I am quite in the same situation as you. I am a french native speaker and my husband is a german native speaker. We are talking to each other in German (we are forced to, my husband speak pretty little french and he says he has no time at the moment to learn it). I mostly speak German to the children and sometimes french when we are alone because I think it is important that they can communicate with my family.


Vjollca Martinson  Identity Verified
Local time: 19:56
English to Albanian
+ ...
Quite interesting discussion... Jun 18, 2004

I really enjoyed this discussion... We are an Estonian-Albanian couple living in the US. We speak English to each other and since we don't have children yet, things are not complicated. Each of us wants our children to learn our native languages. We have agreed (I hope this is going to workicon_lol.gif)that I would speak to our children in Albanian and he would speak to them in Estonian. We think that children will pick up English from playing with other children, TV programs or other sources. However, we are aware that a lot of language teaching needs to be doneicon_lol.gificon_lol.gif. And, later, we do need to choose a common family languageicon_lol.gif


Larissa Dinsley  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:56
Member (2003)
English to Russian
+ ...
To Maria Jun 18, 2004

I am a Russian speaker and my husband is and English speaker. We speak English to each other and I speak Russian to my daughter whilst he speaks English.

In my experience, the situation is quite the opposite!
I know a few multilingual families and the language of husband is the common language of the familty in 99 % of cases. In fact, I know only one couple where the common language is that of the wife, and she cannot speak English, which is her husband's native language, at all.


German to Romanian
+ ...
Quite interesting! Jun 19, 2004

When we met we did not know each other's language but both of us speak German, so in our family we talk German (and live in Germany).Then I started to learn Italian and now we can also speak Italian.He does not learn my language (Romanian).
In his country I speak Italian.
We don't have children, but we would also use the method I agree very much: each in his own language so that the child can learn both of them and he/she could also speak German at school, with friends, a.s.o. It would be a little difficult, stressing for the children, but if he /she would have my talent, he/she would have no problems.My husband knows some foreign languages, but not so well and I think he is not a talent in this field.He is also very shy. Still,he speaks German very well (he has to!).
I'm affraid I don't understand the example above about the two Italian people who can not talk together Italian, but French. Even if they speak a dialect, they must have learned the normal Italian language at school. In my husband's region they also speak a dialect (more the elder people, the younger don't), but we can understand each other (with his friends and family) very well in the normal Italian.
I think the most important problem is not the language to be used (it can be learned easy), but the diplomacy in managing fair the family life: tradition, religion, relatives,meals a.s.o, so that none of the partners would be neglected.
But I will open another thread for this.



Jeremy Smith  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 02:56
French to English
+ ...
ex-girlfriend Jun 19, 2004

I'm British, and lived with my Polish girlfriend in Paris before we split up.

Our common language was Spanish (met in Spain).


IrinaGM  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 21:56
English to Georgian
+ ...
Can be confusing sometimes :))) Jun 20, 2004

I am a Georgian native speaker and my husband is a native English(US) speaker. Since he does not speak a word of Georgian, we communicate in English but it gets complicated here: my sister lives with us so I speak Georgian to my sister but when my husband is with us, we all speak English. But.... we live in Germany (for the time being) so I speak German when I leave the house and to my German friends. So basically, I switch from one language to another on daily basis. It's not really a problem, I'm used to it but my sister who gets mixed up with languages very easily, often mixes all three languages together when she's only trying to communicate in one languageicon_smile.gif


angielin  Identity Verified
Local time: 09:56
English to Chinese
+ ...
To Maria, Jun 20, 2004

I think it also depends on what are the languages the couple speak. Languages of the same family have more in common than otherwise. It would be much easier for a French-Spanish couple to decide what language they want to use to communicate with each other, or even have one learning more about the other's native language.

For me, it probably would be a very long time, if at all, before my soon to be husband would be able to talk to me in my native language. Mine is Mandarin Chinese and his is English. I don't know how we would be able to raise our future kids bilingual this way, but I will certainly try.


Local time: 11:56
Spanish to English
+ ...
I think thats why the term "mother language" exists in the first place Jun 20, 2004

"However, when they were at home, almost always the common language was that of the woman- irrespective of the street language. A Dutch speaking boy and a French speaking girl in a French speaking environment spoke French; but a Dutch speaking man and a Italian speaking woman in a Dutch speaking environment spoke.. Italian! And so on."


Roberta Anderson  Identity Verified
Local time: 03:56
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
laguage used shifts with circumstances Jun 21, 2004

I'm Italian, my husband is German.
When we met in Milan, I had just returned froma 12-yrs stunt in the UK, and he had just arrived after a yr in the US.
I spoke no German, he spoke no Italian so English was our common language.

Then we had kids.
We agreed on a One Parent One Language approach. So for a while I spoke Italian to the babies, Gerd spoke German to them, and we still spoke English to each other.

Then as the kids grew we started to speak Italian/German to each other (each his own language) so that they would not be left out from our conversation.
Gerd's Italian had improved considerably, my German was improving slowly but enough to understand what was being said, with a few "what's that?".
As we live in Italy, Gerd's Italian has progressed much faster than my German, so now he often speaks to me in Italian
(but always in German to the kids).

English then became our "secret" language (when we don't want the kids to hear what is being said), but don't know for how long... the kids are starting to learn English at school and thanks to their German they can already make out a lot of what we say!)



Nina Snoj
Member (2004)
Spanish to Slovenian
+ ...
Spanglish Jun 27, 2004

We are a Spanish-Slovenian couple and when we met we could only communicate in English, then I learned Spanish and now he is learning what we do is mix all of them (even our dogs understand multilingual orders)although Spanish prevails until his Slovene will become more fluent.

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