How Languages Affect Relationships
Words are the main means to convey our thoughts and communication is the basis of any relationship.
Although people speak the same language in a relationship, it is not uncommon for problems of interpretation and misunderstandings to arise.
More often, this happens when a relationship takes place in a foreign language.
In this case, two types of people can be distinguished: those who do their best with great motivation to improve their knowledge of the language and fluency in speaking it, and those who get stuck and speak as little as possible for fear of making mistakes.
What can you do in this case? I have come up with eight ways to overcome the fear of speaking in a foreign language and make linguistic difference an asset and not an obstacle in relationships.
Step 1: Identify your fear and ask yourself "what exactly am I afraid of?".
Very often people are afraid of making a lot of grammatical mistakes, of not remembering words and being clumsy or being misjudged by listeners.
The main fear then can be panicking, making a bad impression on others and feeling like a failure. Speaking a foreign language becomes a source of anxiety and agitation.
My advice is to try to relax, speak as fluently as possible and remember that nobody expects you to speak a language that is not your own!
Step 2: Identify your problems with the language.
It is important to realise what your weaknesses are so that you can work on them.
There are people who understand everything but struggle to express themselves, while others who are good at speaking but find it difficult to understand what the other person is saying, usually because of a particular accent.
Obviously when one is not used to speaking in a foreign language, the brain needs time to process the incoming words, translate them, think of an answer and translate it in turn.
The trick is to avoid trying to formulate an answer in your head while the other person is still talking, but it is better to listen well and then take a moment to gather your thoughts and respond.
Step 3: Practice with every means at your disposal.
If you are not very familiar with the language being studied, you will find it difficult to understand every single word, but it is not a problem if you can grasp the general meaning of the speech.
Nowadays there are many ways to practice a language. You can do listening exercises by watching movies and TV series in the language you are studying or want to learn, listening to the radio, to interviews and to music in a foreign language and to as many real conversations as possible.
It is also useful to read books and magazines in the original language, use language learning apps, study online on specialized websites like studenz.com where you can put practice and make new friends at the same time, attend courses, participate in a tandem exchange, etc...
Step 4: Renounce the idea of perfection.
You will never speak a foreign language perfectly even after years and years of practice, so it is useless to want to achieve perfection at all costs, but with commitment you can get a good level of conversation. Obviously, it takes time, patience and perseverance.
Step 5: Smile.
You will get a much more positive response if you approach a conversation with a smile. After all, most native speakers are happy to hear someone who is committed to speaking the local language, especially if they realise how difficult it is!
So, starting a conversation with a friendly greeting and a nice smile is the first step to gaining the sympathy of the conversation partner and starting the conversation positively.
Step 6: Speak slowly.
Speaking slowly and clearly not only gives you more time to think about how to formulate your thoughts and make fewer mistakes but can also encourage your conversation partner to adapt to your rhythm. If it doesn't happen, there would be no harm in asking politely to slow down. In fact, native speakers often do not realize they are speaking fast because it comes natural for them.
Step 7: Hold on and have courage.
Don't be discouraged if you encounter many difficulties at first. Practice and perseverance are the key to mastering a foreign language and gaining confidence. To chat with strangers, the solution is not to think too much, take courage and simply talk.
Step 8: Get into the perspective that native speakers appreciate your efforts.
When native speakers find out that you are learning their language, they will probably ask you where you come from and why you are learning it and will compliment you by saying that you speak very well, in any case. In addition, we all know how difficult it is to learn another language and the effort always pays off.
I also advise foreign language students to visit as many places as they can to learn another language. It is clear that living and studying abroad and having a full immersion in the local language and culture is the best way to increase your confidence and minimize the fear of speaking in a foreign language. Whether it's a language study stay, a volunteer experience or a simple holiday, whenever you can, find an excuse to go to the place where the language is spoken! In addition, conversations with strangers often mark the beginning of unforgettable memories.
Love and friendship are definitely the best motivation to learn a language, as well as bringing many other benefits.
For example, there are more topics to talk about. If two people belong to two different cultures, and probably come from two distant countries, they will have many cultural curiosities and experiences to discover. From the moment you fall in love or make friends with a foreigner, you are more inclined to embrace any aspect related to that person and the feeling you feel for this person will encourage interest in his or her language and culture.
Also, speaking a different language allows you to solve potential conflicts more quickly because in another language you have the opportunity to think about what you are going to say and maybe keep it to yourself. In any case negative emotions such as anger will be expressed in a much softer way because when you speak a foreign language you tend to be less vehement and rude.
Another advantage is that you can talk to people in a more direct and pleasant way and create more empathy with them.
If the difficulties of language understanding in a relationship persist, English can come to the rescue. Indeed, English plays a key role in the international language context and in multicultural environments. It is no coincidence that it is considered the "passport to the world" and allows you to interact with people from any country without knowing their mother tongue. What is more, when the language of the interlocutor is not known, English can become a real lifeline.
Speaking different languages is not, therefore, a barrier, but rather the starting point for the discovery of cultures and traditions even far from one's own and means to broaden one's open-mindedness. Diversity, also in the linguistic field, is a source of richness and, I would venture, also of many laughs if you take the funniest mistakes on laughter.
- 27 Apr, 2020
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