How to overcome the language barrier in your relationship

How to overcome the language barrier in your relationship

When you live in a foreign country for a long time, the chance of you starting a relationship is high. One of the little hiccups a multicultural relationship can have is the language barrier. This language barrier does not only concern the couples themselves but also their families as they might not be able to communicate with each other. 

The topic of speaking different languages came up in my relationship too and, after reading up on a lot of different articles and not following any of them, I thought sharing an experience that might not be the perfect one can be a heads up for everyone who struggles with this.  

When two partners in a relationship don’t speak the same first language it can be difficult to communicate. Once the obstacle of not being able to communicate easily with each other is overcome, there is still the issue that parents might not be able to communicate with their child’s partner. 

Although we are all adults, we want our partner to get on with our parents. There are family occasions where they will meet and it would be nice if they could have a chat. 

When it comes to the point of your relationship where you want to change, that it is a big topic. How is your partner going to learn your language? Do they even want to learn it? And should you help them? 

The want to overcome the language barrier

First off, if it has never come up in conversations before, talk with your partner about it. If it is important to you, let your partner know what you want. Tell them how you feel and that you would like it if they could speak at least the basics of your first language. 

If you are the one who is asked to learn your partner’s language, be open-minded and respect their wish. 

Together you can find a way around it.

Learning a language together

Teaching your partner your language is more difficult than you think. Many things are going to happen that you didn’t see coming. 

1. Time

It takes a long time for your partner to learn your language. Probably a lot longer than you would have thought. You can try and allocate specific times to learn something and, if that works for you, that’s great. Stick to these times and make them your “language lesson”. However, not everyone has the same daily schedule and it can be difficult to allocate a specific time to learn something. 

2. Patience

Be patient with each other. You are not a teacher and your partner has to remember that (unless you are actually a teacher). Things that naturally make sense to you can be difficult to explain. 

On the other hand, you also have to be patient with your partner. Just because it makes sense to you doesn’t mean it makes sense to them. They might ask you the same thing several times or forget the word you just told them ten minutes ago. Give each other time to figure things out. 

3. Everyone learns differently

Everybody learns differently. And maybe learning from each other doesn’t work for you. Your relationship doesn’t have to be the place to learn a language. 

There are a lot of apps and videos out there for people to learn a language, so maybe that’s the way to go. Your partner can still check in with you and you can still tell them random words in given situations, but don’t put each other under pressure. You want to overcome this language barrier to make your life as a couple easier. It is not there to make things more difficult.


These are a few things to keep in mind. What I often came across in articles before could be a bit demanding from both people. So, I changed things for myself and found things that worked for me personally. 

Find things you and your partner enjoy and use them to learn the new language. If your partner loves music, listen to music in the language you are learning. If he likes watching movies, watch movies with subtitles. 

One thing that works and is fun, is to take things in their language and change them around. Say there is this song for kids where they count to ten. Sing the song in the language you guys are learning. It’s so funny and will make you laugh because you are singing a children’s song, but it is straightforward and can get you there.

To finish, all I can say is that the most important thing is not to pressure yourselves. It takes a long time to learn a new language. It is something very different from what couples normally do and, if it doesn’t work out as you thought it would, that’s okay too. 


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About the author

Christine Brungard

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