Language Barriers: How They Affect Our Communication and How to Deal with It

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One of the main challenges that international couples face is a language barrier. Even if one partner knows the language of the other partner, usually that level is not equal to native. Since communication is an essential element of any relationship, language barriers can significantly affect the relationship. Misunderstandings are a usual thing even among the couples in which partners speak one language, and you can imagine what happens in international couples. However, loving partners are said to speak the language of love which is universal. There are some couples that began their relationships without understanding each other very well. There was chemistry between them and the desire to be together. So, it’s another proof that love knows no barriers. All obstacles are surmountable for two loving hearts.

language barrier

What Is Actually a Language Barrier and How Does It Affect Our Communication?

Before we dwell upon language barriers, let’s start with a language barrier definition. It is a difficulty experienced by two interlocutors speaking different languages. You can express your thoughts in the best way in your native language, and your partner is eloquent speaking their language. But what to do if you don’t know each other’s languages? For example, if the only language that unites you is English, you’ll choose to talk in English. Even though you won’t be able to use it with a fluency of a native speaker, at least you’ll make yourself understood. Basic knowledge will be enough at first, but as you want to have longer and more meaningful conversations, you’ll feel that you run out of words or that you can’t express your thoughts clearly. Language barriers to communication exist not only between people speaking different languages but also those who use a common one. Language as a barrier to communication is not the only one to blame. There are many other barriers.

Emotional barriers. Even though partners speak the same language, they find it difficult to express how they feel. Very often, the reason for it is emotional detachment or a lack of trust.

Distractions. We can’t communicate effectively when we get distracted from the conversation. We may be deep in our thoughts so that we don’t listen to our interlocutor, or busy doing something pretending to be listening.

Different views and positions. When you have your own opinion and your partner tries to persuade you or impose his or her opinion on you, your inner world protests and you just don’t listen to the arguments. The dialog is pointless as each of the interlocutors remain of the same opinion not trying to find a compromise.

Ignoring non-verbal signs. Sometimes body language can tell more than words. But many people are inattentive to non-verbal signals. Person’s intentions or real feelings can be spotted in their gestures, moves, and behavior.

language barriers cause problems Stereotypes and prejudices. There will be no effective communication if one of the interlocutors has a psychological set and expects the other to behave according to that pattern.

Cultural differences. What a person says and the way a person behaves is largely defined by their cultural environment in which they grew up. What is appropriate to say in one culture can be insulting for a representative of another culture.

Cultural and Language Barriers

Our cultural environment forms us as personalities, influences our world outlooks, and develops certain habits. When you start a relationship with the person from another country, be ready for some cultural differences. There are a lot of them – from eating habits to religion. But what is good about intercultural couples is that they learn a new culture directly from its bearer and they learn to accept and respect the differences. At the same time, cultural differences may be the source of misunderstanding. For example, some of your gestures can mean a totally different thing in the culture of your partner, and if you are not aware of that at the beginning of your relationship, you may get in trouble.

Tolerance and respect are essential things for an international couple. Only this will help you overcome cultural and language barriers to communication.

Possible challenges caused by cultural differences include:

  • Different faiths. If you have different religions, you’ll need to have a talk about it. You and your partner should make sure you are okay with it and discuss the possibility of conversion.
  • The understanding of family, love and relationships. Some nations are family oriented, some are more career oriented. Again, you should know each other’s priorities in life.
  • Daily routines. Cultural subtleties can be spotted even in some trivial daily things, such as hygiene, eating habits, rituals, etc.
  • Methods of solving conflicts. Different nations have different temperaments. Person’s character manifests itself especially vividly during conflicts. The first fight will show how your partner deals with conflicts and whether it’s acceptable for you.
  • Lifestyle. People in Europe and America and people living in Slavic countries have different lifestyles. There is a difference between city dwellers and villagers. Very often, the conflict of lifestyles causes misunderstandings between the partners.

Language Barriers

The surveyed international couples admit they fell in love without words. A glance, a dance, a gentle touch was the trigger of love, not a word. Sometimes all you need is to look into your partner’s eyes and everything is clear. Many couples start out without knowing the language of the other partner. They make effort and learn a foreign language. However, a second language is a second language. You’ll need time to perfect it. While you’re trying hard certain issues may arise.

Humor. In the process of communication, you’ll want to joke. You can do it perfectly in your native language, but it’s a real challenge to do it in a foreign one. Sometimes your partner won’t get your jokes and you won’t get theirs. Just deal with it.

Misinterpretations. The lack of fluency affects communication building barrier. And language barriers cause problems. If you can’t clearly express what you mean, you are at risk of being not understood properly.

Despair. This is what you can experience after you see that language barriers in communication are constantly affect your understanding.

Alienation. Sooner or later you’ll meet your partner’s parents and friends and it’s a real challenge for you. If your command of their language leaves much to be desired, you may feel insecure and worry about how they will like you. The fear to say something wrong can overwhelm you. It’s so weird to be around people who speak the language you hardly know.

All these cultural and linguistic issues may result in communication barriers that need to be eliminated.

How to Deal with Language Barriers

Bilingual couples are awesome. They can make the most out of their relationship by putting just more effort than normal couples do. The first thing on their to-do list should be overcoming language barriers to communication. The process is challenging but it can be also fun if you do everything right. You remember the importance of communication in a relationship. In any case, you should learn a common language. So, here are some tips on how to deal with language barriers and overcome them easily.

language barriers to communicationLearn each other’s language

You may start from learning several words and using them occasionally. A good idea is to live in your partner’s home country for several weeks to get to know the culture and to stay among the speakers. Don’t be afraid to ask your partner about this or that word or expression. Consider attending language courses.

Facilitate but don’t be a teacher

Although your partner is always near and you can get linguistic advice anytime, you shouldn’t abuse their help. Seek help when you don’t understand some slang words or colloquialisms. You are still a couple, not a teacher and a student. If you really want to learn the language of your partner, find a private teacher or enroll on language courses. But don’t waste your quality time or date nights on studying.

Interact non-verbally

In terms of communication between partners, very often the way partners say something is more important than what they say. When you talk with your partner, maintain eye contact, listen carefully, give feedback. How to check your attentiveness? If you just wait till your partner stops speaking to start your speech, it means you’re not listening.

Choose words

This advice can help you avoid language barriers in communication. It means you should choose simple words when you want to explain something to your partner in your language. You partner has only basic vocabulary, so don’t make them feel confused. Also, if you see the confusion on your partner’s face, ask immediately what was unclear in order to avoid further misunderstanding or offense.

Be patient

What is appropriate to say in one language when translated spontaneously may mean something offensive. You shouldn’t take it personally – probably that was just a translation mistake.

Sum up

Now that you know the effects of language barriers in communication, you understand that a relationship where partners speak different languages can exist. But only at the initial stage. In order to build a more solid relationship, partners should learn to speak a common language and accept each other’s culture. Hope the tips on how to deal with language barriers will help you in building your harmonious cross-cultural relationship.

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