Pages in topic:   [1 2] >
Off topic: Bilingual relationships
Thread poster: xxxAnna Blackab
xxxAnna Blackab  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:11
German to English
+ ...
Jul 5, 2007

Hi

I'm a journalist (as well as a translator) and am researching an article on bilingual relationships - i.e. where you speak a different mother tongue to your partner. As I'm guessing that quite a few people on proz.com might be in this situation, I thought I'd use this forum to do some research.

If you have had an experience of being in a bilingual relationship, I'd love to hear from you. In particular I'm looking for answers to these questions:

Whose language did you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?
Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?
Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?
In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?
What is it like to argue in a foreign language?

Or any other comments on anything you feel is relevant would be gratefully received.

You can email me at anna.blackaby@linkuplanguages.co.uk

Many thanks

Anna


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Angeliki Papadopoulou  Identity Verified
Greece
Local time: 22:11
Member (2006)
English to Greek
+ ...
Hi Anna Jul 5, 2007

Many years ago, I spent a couple of years or so in a bilingual relationship and I found that there was more to the differences in language that created the problems.

We did, of course, communicate in his language (yes, you guessed it: English) as fewer people spoke Greek in England at the time than they do now.

The biggest difference came from the disparity in our cultures and I imagine that would play a key role in any "bi-lingual" relationship.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Anne Diamantidis  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 21:11
Member (2007)
English to French
+ ...
Culture... Jul 5, 2007

Hi Anna,

I dated some years ago an Austrian young man (I´m French). Language was not really a problem, since he did speak a little bit of French and I speak German. Mostly we communicated in German anyway because his French wasn´t very advanced. He didn´t speak it very well, but he understood it perfectly if spoken slowly.
I can´t see a positive - or negative - side to not speaking the same language - well, apart from the fact that his French improved in the year we dated, and my German improved dramatically as well !
We sometimes but rarely felt frustrated when we couldn´t find a word. e.g., when I wanted to tell him something, couldn´t find or didn´t know the German for it, and he had no idea what I meant in French, so we ended up looking in a dictionnary, doing big gestures or even drawing...! In those situations I guess we both felt most the language barrier, but quite often that lead us to a good laugh, because he discovered funny facts about the French language, and so did I about the German - e.g, that an innocent word in one language has an "uninnocent" meaning in the other, etc.

But the language was not really an issue - as Angeliki points out, the real difference simply is the cultural one !

[Modifié le 2007-07-05 09:10]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

avsie  Identity Verified
Local time: 21:11
English to French
+ ...
Multilingual couple Jul 5, 2007

I'm married to a Dutchman, together we speak mostly English (Dutch sometimes - depending on the "depth" of the conversation). So we both speak another language than our mother tongue when we talk to each other. His French is barely existant (he started lessons last winter), my spoken Dutch is improving but I really cannot express myself in Dutch as well as I can in English, or in French of course

I cannot really recall any misunderstandings related to the fact that we are not speaking our native language to each other, so I guess we must be fluent enough or we manage to make each other understood somehow! When I arrived in the Netherlands I didn't speak a word of Dutch, so when he couldn't find a word or an idiom in English, he couldn't use a Dutch word or idiom either because I wouldn't understand it anyway! So he was paraphrasing or explaning what he meant. I do the same when I cannot find a word/idom in English or Dutch, only in French: I tell him the French word/idiom and explain what it means so he gets my point. This exercice is kinda fun, because when he would say something like "Ahhh so that's the French word, in Dutch we say xxx". This way we both learn each other's language, and at the same time, each other's culture

As for argueing in a foreign language, it can get frustrating if you cannot get your words out quick enough and you lose your momentum


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Antti Nyrhinen  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:11
English to Finnish
+ ...
three is a crowd? Jul 5, 2007

Anna,

The title of my reply doesn't actually mean that there is any sort of 'menage a trois' going on, but that there are three languages in play. So for your question "What is it like to argue in a foreign language", the funny thing is that regardless of whether we use 'my language' or 'her language', it's still not my mother tongue. That being said, I do consider myself quite bilingual though.

My mother tongue is Finnish, I speak excellent English (even if I do say so myself), and I can communicate fairly fluently in Thai on most topics that come up in everyday life and relationships. My girlfriend's mother tongue is Thai, and she speaks excellent English.

Whose language do we communicate in, then? Well, both. If I had to assign percentages, I would probably say we speak 70% English, 29% Thai and 1% Finnish. Whenever there is a something serious to talk about, we speak English. When we joke around, we often use Thai.

You also asked if there are any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue. I don't know. As I've explained, we have two very different languages that we can communicate in. Perhaps that makes life a little bit more fun... more colourful if you will.

Have I ever felt frustrated or misunderstood? There have been a few occasions, but nothing too serious. Intercultural relationships always pose certain challenges and the language bit (I hesitate to even call it a barrier) is part of the whole experience.

If you have more questions regarding your research, feel free to send me a message.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 09:41]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Lawyer-Linguist  Identity Verified
Portugal
Local time: 20:11
Dutch to English
+ ...
Answers Jul 5, 2007

Whose language did you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?

Mine mostly (English), it's the lingua franca and I have the dominant personality anyhow

Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?

Yes, variety keeps things interesting.

Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?

Me? Get serious

In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?

Never did, I met my husband in South Africa and he spoke mostly English from the outset.

What is it like to argue in a foreign language?

Satisfying, the colourful words are the easiest to learn and remember



[Edited at 2007-07-05 11:42]


Direct link Reply with quote
 
lingomania
Local time: 05:11
Italian to English
I'm bilingual Jul 5, 2007

Hi Anna. I was in this situation once. I'm bilingual, English being my mother-tongue and Italian spoken in the family. My partner at the time spoke only Italian, but very little English although she understood it. I speak and write Italian of course, I remember there were frequent misunderstandings due not to the language barrier in itself, but to the way I expressed myself in Italian to her and to colleagues and friends including intonation, etc. I think that was because I 'thought in English' (as they say) and spoke in Italian.

Rob


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Sarah Downing  Identity Verified
Local time: 15:11
German to English
+ ...
Culture, constraints and character Jul 5, 2007

Hi Anna,

A great many of my relationships have been bilingual, as I am a Brit who moved to Gemany at the age of 23 - back then it was to be with my ex, a German. Since then I have had several relationships with German guys.

Whose language did you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?
Always German. Unfortunately, my German was always superior to their English. I speak German (so I am told) pretty much without an accent, to the extent where I am sometimes mistaken for a German. My first German boyfriend spoke pretty good English, partly on account of his many travels, but frankly he mostly couldn't be bothered to speak English, and when you're the one whose foreign language ability is constantly being taken for granted, it can get rather tiring and frustrating.


Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?
Ideally, you can learn from each other. In my case, that would have meant that my exes could have made more of an effort to speak English and take advantage of having an English girlfriend in order to improve their English. But note, I use the word ideally. Laziness also plays a big part, and most of my exes simply couldn't be "arsed" to speak English with me because my German is like a German's.

Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?
In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?
What is it like to argue in a foreign language?
God yes. See above! When you're speaking a foreign language day in day out, speaking your own native language starts to become a bit of a luxury. When I am tired, I want to speak in English. When I am upset, I want to speak in English. For quite some time, I only had German-speaking friends, but once I started to meet more English-speakers I was pretty glad just to get the opportunity to speak my native language again. Furthermore, I am of the opinion that the English-speaking Sarah is a different person to the German-speaking Sarah. I'm a very jokey, open and sarcastic person at times, but sometimes only in English. I often feel constrained to be oh so serious in German, because I find the Germans much more serious than my compatriots. Bottom line: if I am to be myself, I feel much more able to be so in English. When it comes to slang words and being creative, I also find English easier, although I can meanwhile write poetry in German and probably know as many slang words as your average person here. As for arguing, you often feel at a disadvantage. You can get the words out and argue fluently, but you can be more creative and expressive in your native language.

Or any other comments on anything you feel is relevant would be gratefully received.
I could say never go out with a German, but I'm not sure that would be gratefully received! That's me being half sarcastic and actually half not. I have found the cultural difference to be a problem because a lot of Germans I personally have met in my age group have not been that self-reliant compared to certain British guys I know. This is in part due to the fact that people here often study for longer and more people seem to live at home for longer. Again, this is my own personal experience - I realise that there are exceptions and my intention isn't to provoke anyone - I am just telling it as I have experienced it. I recently got to the stage, after my last relationship, where my ex hardly spoke any English, where I felt so fed-up that I decided that if possible any future relationship would be with a guy who spoke at least reasonable English. After nearly 7 years, I am so over being obliged to speak a foreign language when it comes to something so important.

Hope this helps. I'd like to be able to paint a rosier picture of my experiences. Hey, my German has certainly improved thanks to all my relationships with Germans, but it's tough living in a foreign country when you don't really feel like you're on the same wavelength as the people around you.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 11:25]

PS: Feeling slightly guilty about my comment about German men, I should explain that it was said partly out of frustration and partly to highlight the fact that cultural differences can indeed play a role. I have met a lot of really lovely German guys here too (unfortunately mostly not the ones I went out with!), some of whom are very close friends.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 12:02]

Something else just occurred to me. I repeatedly noticed that when you share the same culture with someone, there are things which simply don't need explaining and with which the other person can identify. For example, my best friend is American and although we have an awful lot in common, there is also an awful lot I have to explain to him. My other best friend, however, is from Northern Ireland, so there is an awful lot of stuff we are both familiar with, e.g. we grew up with the same kids' TV, etc. Take that one step further and imagine someone who has had a completely different upbringing and you can see where misunderstandings might occur. It can also be kind of frustrating when one partner is familiar with the other partner's culture and has made the effort to learn the language, whilst the other partner is simply resting on his or her laurels.

[Edited at 2007-07-05 13:31]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Noni Gilbert
Spain
Local time: 21:11
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Spanish English Jul 5, 2007

I spoke fluent Spanish when I met my husband, and he has never made any serious attempt to learn English.

Very occasionally I have found it frustrating not to be able to communicate in English with him, but in general I am probably more at ease expressing myself in Spanish nowadays than in English. Annoying to have to translate so much for him (information that I find on the Internet on organic subjects for example, concerning our pig farm).

Most of our friends, and my close family, speak some Spanish, so social situations have never been too difficult.


However, now that we have kids, language has become a moot point. I forget to speak to them in English, for starters and get tired of having to say everything twice if I want my husband to follow things. (Although yes, he has become reasonably proficient in following tellings off in English). My children (3 and 5) don't like me speaking to them in English and very rarely offer to communicate in that language. I try desperately to find them situations where they feel the need to try out their passive knowledge, but our circs make this difficult. Above all, what I feel is that I want my children at least to be able to enjoy the great wealth of the language that I was brought up in, to delight in the richness of the language, to understand all the underlying cultural references etc etc, and that I would be depriving them of something if I don't manage to pass this on to them.

In short, the whole question is currently causing me great anxiety.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Jana DeMilt
Local time: 21:11
English to Czech
+ ...
Czeh and American Jul 5, 2007

I am Czech, married to an American.
Whose language did you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?
Of course, we communicate in English - simply because my man is too lazy to learn such a "difficult and useless" language as Czech is in his eyes.
Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?
Definitely, my spoken English became much more fluent and his abilities of explaining his mother tongue mysteries improved a lot as well.
Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?
I do not remember feeling frustrated or misunderstood (at least language-related).
In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?
It is not the language barrier, just difficulties in accepting and understanding cultural differences.
What is it like to argue in a foreign language? We hardly ever argue at all - life is too precious to be wasted in petty fights.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Christine Schmit  Identity Verified
Luxembourg
German to French
+ ...
2 languages at the same time Jul 5, 2007

I am from Luxembourg and bilingual in French and Luxembourgish, although at home with my parents, I always spoke Luxembourgish.
My husband is a native Spanish speaker. He hardly spoke any French when we met, and I already spoke Spanish, so at the beginning, we always spoke Spanish together. He learned French very fast and when he was going to study in a bilingual English-French program at University, we thought it would be a good idea to start speaking French together, so he would become more fluent. We tried for some time, but it somehow didn't work, it felt strange and he often automatically switched back to Spanish. So now, we have our own quite original method: he speaks Spanish and I speak French! We never planned it that way, it just evolved like that and it feels completely natural to us.
The system has it's advantages, each of us gets to keep his language, there is no searching for words and we both understand the other language perfectly, there are hardly ever misunderstandings.
We do get a lot of funny looks from people though when they notice that we speak 2 different languages and can have a conversation that way.


Direct link Reply with quote
 
nruddy  Identity Verified
Mexico
Local time: 14:11
German to English
Differences: More cultural than linguistic Jul 5, 2007

Whose language did you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?

Mainly Spanish, because we live in Mexico.
English any time people come to visit or we don't want everyone to understand and also when corresponding by email.

Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?

Yes. Both improve the "foreign" language and gain a greater insight into the other's culture.

Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?

I was discussing this with a friend when I was back in Ireland. She is Irish, her husband is French with very good English and they normally speak in French. We agreed that most of the problems that arise are due to cultural differences rather than linguistic differences. If you can't think of a word, you can always say it in another language, but you don't necessarily know the fine details of the other person's cultural background that leads him/her to think or react in a certain way.

In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?

Apart from anger/frustration, joking. I don't understand all the double meanings.

What is it like to argue in a foreign language?

Difficult. The bad words are easy; it's expressing what you really want to say that is difficult.


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Juliana Brown  Identity Verified
Israel
Local time: 15:11
Member (2007)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Always bilingual and sometimes tri... Jul 5, 2007

I met my Argentinian husband in Israel, where we were both living at the time. At first we spoke Hebrew to each other, which was the only language we had in common ( I spoke English as well, but his was minimal, as was my Spanish). We continued this way for a year or so, until we moved to Argentina for a while and I learned Spanish fairly quickly. I am a very good mimic (I have always picked up accents and rhythm before grammar), and soon enough we were speaking both languages interchangeably. It was not until we moved to Canada to study and work that English really made an appearance at home, and even then I had little patience to correct, etc. He was at law school and needed a lot of help the first year with his reading assignments, so once we had struggled through that each evening, no one wanted to speak English (though it's one of my native languages).
Long story short...after 12 years together we still speak a combination of both, but now we try to keep the English to a minimum so our daughters hear Spanish and Hebrew on a regular basis in a family setting.
We almost always fight in Hebrew, occasionally in Spanish. I love to argue in either one (they're very similar in temperament). English is not a good language for a real argument I've found...
Language barriers? Hmmm...at first I can recall being at friends' houses who only spoke Spanish and being desperate to understand everything. Perhaps because I pick up languages easily, especially slang and nuance, one I began learning Spanish I never felt a real barrier, just a sense that it was opening things up for me.
Frustration? Au contraire! The only time it has ever been an issue was once when my husband claimed I was misusing an expression, and I (irate as can be) phoned up my father in law in Buenos Aires who backed me up.
Oh...now that our girls speak all three of our languages, we have had to start arguing in French, which luckily we are both comfortable in...


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Textklick  Identity Verified
Local time: 20:11
German to English
+ ...
Pas de problème Jul 5, 2007

Anna Blackaby wrote:

Whose language did/do you communicate in - yours or your partners - and why?


When we met - and first lived together in Germany - it was mostly German. Since returning to the U.K. it is more in English. BUT, we can spend the best part of an evening with me speaking in German and her answering in English, or indeed the other way round. Or even change in mid-sentence. And sometimes drift into Black Forest dialect, for the fun of it.

Are there any positive sides to not speaking the same mother tongue?


As Lawyer-Linguist says, variety is the spice of life.

Did you ever feel frustrated or misunderstood? When?


No. We both rant about both the English and the Germans when we feel it necessary (not at each other, I should add).

In which situations did you most feel the language barrier?


Never. There never was one.

What is it like to argue in a foreign language?


"Ja Himmelherrgottnochmal! Wie oft muss ich dir das noch sagen!"

"I beg your pardon, darling?"

Auf wiedersehen, pet



[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:28]

[Edited at 2007-07-05 14:29]


Direct link Reply with quote
 

Hilde Granlund  Identity Verified
Norway
Local time: 21:11
English to Norwegian
+ ...
Very interesting thread :-) Jul 5, 2007

And useful contribution to the project, I am sure
Having been married to a fellow Norwegian these 20 yrs, I do not have much of a contribution to make, but I have had a couple of bilingual relationships in the past, so I have read this thread with great interest.
Christine's solution was very interesting, and will be great for kids if and when they come along, I should think.

And textclick had me laughing out loud:

"Ja Himmelherrgottnochmal! Wie oft muss ich dir das noch sagen!"

"I beg your pardon, darling?"


Direct link Reply with quote
 
Pages in topic:   [1 2] >


To report site rules violations or get help, contact a site moderator:

Moderator(s) of this forum
Fernanda Rocha[Call to this topic]

You can also contact site staff by submitting a support request »

Bilingual relationships

Advanced search






Across v6.3
Translation Toolkit and Sales Potential under One Roof

Apart from features that enable you to translate more efficiently, the new Across Translator Edition v6.3 comprises your crossMarket membership. The new online network for Across users assists you in exploring new sales potential and generating revenue.

More info »
TM-Town
Manage your TMs and Terms ... and boost your translation business

Are you ready for something fresh in the industry? TM-Town is a unique new site for you -- the freelance translator -- to store, manage and share translation memories (TMs) and glossaries...and potentially meet new clients on the basis of your prior work.

More info »



Forums
  • All of ProZ.com
  • Term search
  • Jobs
  • Forums
  • Multiple search