Is a Language Barrier in a Relationship a Problem?


Hey readers,

Another interesting question brought up. Is a language barrier in a relationship a problem. Now, this particular question was directed at intercultural couples who have two different languages (let’s say English and Spanish).
Here’s my take on it.

Hey readers,

Another interesting question brought up. Is a language barrier in a relationship a problem. Now, this particular question was directed at intercultural couples who have two different languages (let’s say English and Spanish).
Here’s my take on it.

Language barrier in a relationship is a problem. What makes it a problem is that emotional development is part of what makes a relationship work. Conversation is key in getting to know someone, how they feel, what they want in life, what their dreams are, what they find appropriate or not, what they think and feel about big issue topics (like relationships, for example) and so on.

Physical connectivity can only take you so far, then things just fall apart. That’s great for flings, but not if you’re talking about a legit ‘relationship’ which in my book doesn’t count flings or expiration dating (dating someone knowing that there will be an end to it).

Learning your SO’s language or your SO learning yours can work but it’s going to be a pain in the butt, because you can’t learn languages over night. You’ll have to deal with a lot of misunderstandings and frustrations for not being able to express yourself the way you want or need to.

It’s a really romantic and lovely idea to think that love transcends all obstacles. I think this is true, once love has established its place in the relationship. However, because I believe that romantic love to be something that develops and grows and not something that simply “is”, I can’t agree with people who think “If it’s true love, the language barrier won’t matter!” because how can you develop a loving relationship if you know very little about your partner?

So many people these days speak more than one language. But if you can speak the same language as your partner then it shouldn’t be considered a language barrier. To me a language barrier is when there is significant issue with communication because of language differences.

Later an example of a deaf woman and her partner were brought up. The argument was that these two people made their relationship work (and are still together) even though the woman’s partner wasn’t able to sign. They used text messaging and writing to communicate.

I’d like to point out that technically there wasn’t a language barrier in this situation. The two were still able to communicate using written text. They were able to express themselves and have conversations using the same language, which is different than an issue between two people who don’t speak the same language at all, because there’s no ‘we’ll communicate like this until…’ option. Your only form of communication when there is no language is physical and, as I said before, I believe that physical communication falls painfully short of verbal.

Of course you still need both! Some people respond better to physical expressions of love (getting flowers, having their hand held and so on), so that is certainly important to have. And okay, you’re fine with not being able to have a deep conversation with your partner, maybe you’re not a talker.

But when a problem arises how are you supposed to work it out if you can’t explain yourself or talk about it?

You can only show so much before your life becomes a hilariously irritating game of charades. And what you’re talking about is entirely physical. ‘Language of the body’ suggests a lot of touching, or smiling, or laughing. Remove language and communication from all of those things and you’ve got sex or a really awkward rendition of the ‘Quite Game”. Showing your partner you care for them via physical touch, or expression, or body language can only go so far. And really, if there’s been no real communication previously why are you two even together? Mostly because there’s a physical connection, and that’s totally fine! Being attracted to your partner is super important, but you can’t rely on just that.

“If you tried the other person would understand…” Have any of you ever been in a non-communicable relationship before? I have a feeling that the majority haven’t, which is why there’s so much optimism about this situation going around. I’m not saying that it could NEVER work. Obviously there are examples of people who have worked it out. I would lead a guess, though, and say that they certainly aren’t the majority.

Aside from personal experience I know numerous other women (who I met while abroad) who were dating men who didn’t share their language. There were a lot of issues. They weren’t able to go out on regular dates together because neither of them could communicate well and it got frustrating. So dinner, coffee, and sitting out in the park (as was popular to do) was out of the question. Dates which didn’t require much conversation were mostly on the agenda (movies and so on). Other activities which didn’t require much conversation also took over which began to make their relationships entirely physical. Again, imo, a purely physical relationship is more likely to fall to pieces very quickly.

There are people out there who have made it work, sure, I know a couple (white woman, Korean man. They met while she was teaching English in Korea) who are married now. She learned Korean for him, but it took years and they certainly struggled. So sure, it’s possible.

I think, though, that most of the people meeting someone who didn’t speak their language would be going into the ‘relationship’ solely based on looks, because you really have NOTHING else to go on. If you’re up for a challenge and don’t mind struggling to see if maybe you could actually grow fond of this person later on (based on something less superficial) then go for it. If that’s what you want then there’s no reason not to try. I’m just saying that the idea of “If we really care about each other then language won’t be a problem” is slightly ridiculous because developing feelings for someone is a little more complicated than recognizing each others attractiveness.

Well, that’s my opinion on this topic. At least as it stands. I’d love to have a bigger discussion on this topic. If anyone has any opinions or just flat out doesn’t agree with me, please feel free to share.

Until next blog,


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