Language! One word which could strike fear into the heart and soul of an expat. That is unless you are one of those supremely gifted in the art of language learning. Unfortunately, I fall into the category of not gifted, and Hungarian is certainly a language which presents its challenges.
Thrown in the Deep End
When our youngest daughter was approaching her final exams, she had a mock exam in Hungarian, not Hungarian as a foreign language mind you! It was the same Hungarian exam that the native speakers faced. Learning this language didn’t come easy to her either. All three of our children arrived on Hungarian soil without a single word of Hungarian. If we lived in Budapest we would have had options to send the kids to an English speaking school but that’s not a luxury we have here. Thrown in the deep end and often feeling like they were drowning the kids (as teenagers not infants) had to learn how to swim, and fast!
In marriage, we will always be ‘the non-native speaker’ simply because we don’t speak the same language as our spouse. It isn’t solely because of their gender but also because of their unique cultural approach to life. Our love for our spouse should compel us to learn their way of communicating.
Which type of ‘language learner’ are you when it comes to speaking your spouse’s language?
Give up before you start.
When you listen you hear that foreign tongue, and it just flows over your head like gobbledygook, and you immediately decide that there is no point in even trying. You can’t even separate out the words never mind reconnect them into a meaningful sentence. You may acquire a few words which help you navigate. You know the easier words like yes, no or food.
Keep speaking your own language … just a little bit louder.
When you speak, you continue to use your language sometimes slowing it down to such a degree that your spouse thinks you view them as mentally disabled. You may even try raising your voice in the hope that the volume will somehow flick a switch of understanding in your spouse’s head. It usually flicks a switch alright, but it isn’t one of understanding!
Nod your head and pretend to understand more than you do.
When you listen, you can identify a number of key words in the sentence, so you get the gist of what the other person is talking about, but it doesn’t always work. Sometimes you badly misunderstand and get the totally wrong point of the communication. Your spouse is even more frustrated because you nodded your head indicating that you understood. The result is they think you do the opposite of what they ask you to do on purpose.
Half way there.
When you speak, use a mix between your own and your spouse’s language. Sometimes they can guess the point of your communication especially if you wave your hands around while explaining. At other times they look at you as though you have lost it.
When you listen you understand everything that is said and get it in the correct context. Warning! Even ‘the fluent’ can make mistakes, misunderstand, use the wrong word or just not make sense of something but life is much more manageable when it makes more sense.When you speak your spouse understands what you are saying because you can articulate your feelings. Not just what they are but why you feel that way. Even better they even give you feedback so you get to understand them more!
Regardless of your past approach determine today to take some ‘language lessons’ and learn how to communicate well with your spouse!
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