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Day 103: I Live in a Bilingual Household

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Day 103:  Coooooookies!

Day 103: Coooooookies!

I’ve always wondered how people that speak two different languages make a relationship work. I always wonder more how they communicate at home since communication, to me, is like the essential part of making a relationship work, no?

I know it’s not to the same extent as, let’s say, someone who speaks Spanish and someone who speaks Japanese getting married, but in a way I do live in a bilingual household.

At least it feels like it sometimes. Oh. Boy.

Did you read my post about how Americans don’t speak English? It mentions the language barrier that exists between my partner and I because of his Australian vocabulary and my American. At this point, obviously, I can understand him without issue (on most accounts… unless R’s are involved) and know the Australian language quite well, but the difficulty comes from the fact that I try really hard not to give up the way I say things.

It’s my identity. I am American, and I like our language.

So, when Pat asks me if the biscuits are done, I respond that the cookies are perfectly baked.

When tomato sauce is needed with dinner, I grab the ketchup.

I find that we constantly refer to little things in the way we are familiar, and we each thoroughly understand what the other is talking about. I imagine this is what a bilingual relationship is like.

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13 Responses to Day 103: I Live in a Bilingual Household

  1. Annie April 15, 2011 at 1:21 am #

    Sometimes I almost think it’s harder to communicate between two “English” speaking people than someone who just speaks a whole other language. That or two non-English speakers that use English as their common language.

    With Lorenzo it’s easier because a lot of his English he has learned from me so he tends to use the same words. Pronunciation is a different story and that’s why people usually can’t understand him when they first meet him.

    There are times when I am with my English/Australian friends that I have no clue what they are talking about. They might as well be speaking Italian in these instances.

    • Brooke April 15, 2011 at 7:11 pm #

      How was your Italian when you guys first met, out of curiosity?

      • Annie April 18, 2011 at 7:16 am #

        I literally knew nothing when I moved here. In Australia (just after we met) he taught me a couple of basic things like the most important verbs and the days, numbers and months but I couldn’t even form a sentence when I arrived in Italy.

  2. Katherina April 15, 2011 at 2:57 am #

    I’ve been in that really complicated relationship: me, spanish vs. him, french; being the only language in common – english. There were times I just wanted to shout, times I just wanted to cry and others I just laughed out loud. But one thing is for sure – it taken an extra level of commitment to do this. Specially at the time you want to introduce him to your family and friends… well, that was, in my case, where the relationship ended :S

    But I think I could totally deal with native english speakers from any region. I dated a New Zealander for a while – at the beginning it was hard to understand him, but after a while, it started to be really funny and entertaining 🙂

    • Brooke April 15, 2011 at 7:08 pm #

      Regarding your first point — that would have been impossible for me if I couldn’t feel like I could express myself to my partner. Scream and cry out of frustration all the way!

  3. Rebecca April 15, 2011 at 3:29 am #

    I love “translating” different versions of English as I don’t speak any other language. And with the exception of nouns (yes, I say “zed” when saying brand names like ANZ) I reply like you, in my native language (ie: someone asked me for “twink” one time and I replied with, “here is the white-out”)

    • Brooke April 15, 2011 at 7:07 pm #

      I will ONLY say ZED if it is the name of the bank or the stadium… never for the letter. It’s just bizarre! 😉

  4. bethany April 15, 2011 at 2:51 pm #

    I always wanted to be in one too. Sometimes randy’s PA accent is truly bizarre and I take every chance to point it out. Maybe this is why… I always thought it was just because I was mean.

    • Brooke April 15, 2011 at 7:06 pm #

      I think it’s just one of those things where — since it’s such a huge part of our lives — it is strange when you hear your language spoken funky-like 🙂

  5. Christine April 15, 2011 at 8:50 pm #

    I once met a married couple–she was American, he was Italian–who only spoke in Spanish and lived in Switzerland. Can you even imagine?! She said it really helped them be more direct with each other: it’s harder to be sarcastic, nuanced in a second language.

  6. Tony April 15, 2011 at 10:07 pm #

    British mates of mine are keen to use ‘duvet’ instead of ‘doona’. No negotiating on that one they assert!

  7. Amanda Kendle April 18, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    My other half is German and sometimes I think it’s easier to communicate well – we actually take the time to understand properly (we both speak the other language well, but not perfectly) – although there are definitely moments of miscommunication! It also gets very muddled because although I live in Australia and need to speak English everywhere other than at home, I often find that a German phrase comes to mind instead of the English one, and people do think I’m a bit odd …

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