Have you ever been in a relationship that you cannot simply be mad with your partner because explanation is quite a challenge for the two of you already?
I am Filipino and he is British. My first language is Tagalog, his is English. Though Philippines is known as an English speaking country, expressing oneself in a language that you don’t normally speak is REALLY HARD, trust me.
In the Philippines, we learn English together with our vernacular. We are taught our ABC’s with ABaKaDa and as early as nursery, we already know that A is for apple and mansanas is what you call it in Tagalog. In other parts of the Philippines, they speak different dialects.* In our household, my mum speaks another dialect which is Kapampangan** and Tagalog, and my dad speaks Tagalog. I understand Kapampangan but never learned to speak it as we were never taught how to. During first grade, one of our major subjects is English and we are taught with the same language with Science and Maths. In high school, I joined Creative Writing and Journalism as an English writer. But this continued until university for I took Bachelor of Arts major in English.
You have to learn the grammar by heart especially that Filipinos are known as grammar-Nazis.
But knowing the grammar rules on paper is different when you’re trying to converse using the language. I found this difficult especially that Tagalog and English are different with sentence constructions.
Gusto kong kumain ng ice cream. (I want to eat ice cream.)
Like/want me eat of ice cream
In English, we usually use the Subject-Verb pattern but in Tagalog, we normally use Verb then Subject.
With the example above, you might notice that I use ice cream instead of sorbetes. This is because Filipinos tend to mix Filipino and English together. We usually use English nouns and verbs. You can read further here.
Yes, we learn and use English most of the time when necessary but we are not trained to use the language all the time. We still use Tagalog when it comes to explaining our ideas as this is how we are trained.
I think if you speak another language than English, you will understand what I am trying to say.
So how does this language barrier affect our relationship?
It affects us a lot. I think it affects every relationship whenever there is a barrier of any sort. But language barrier I think is one of the most difficult thing in a relationship because there are a lot of miscommunications and misunderstandings along the way.
You wanted to tell him that you are upset because he did something that you didn’t like, but sometimes I even find it difficult to explain in a way that he will understand it the way I see it, to the point that I will drop it instead but inside your head you know that it is not the end.
And that is where the frustration comes in.
This is what we usually do after years of being together. Well of course, it did not happen in a snap. There were even times that I am really frustrated, and mad at him that I simply cannot express myself properly and he will correct me which makes things worse to me. Sometimes we’ll laugh at it but most of the time, it won’t.
You just have to calm down. Try to think things clearly before you start bombarding him with words that you know may not make sense to him. If you can ask your partner to give you time for you to be able to express yourself, go ahead and ask him. (Remember: Whether you speak the same language or not, it is still better to talk when you’re in a good or calm state.) Explain him why are you mad about in a very simple way, you don’t have to complicate the explanation just go straight to the point. Give him the time to explain and wait until he is done. (Good communication leads to good relationship.) Take turns in explaining and if there’s something you cannot fully explain, don’t worry about it as long as you tried your best.
Interracial relationship is hard but keep in mind that it is one of the richest as well. There will be numerous of barriers along the way but it is also a way of learning and enriching yourself. Not everyone can do what we do, nor understand us. Use this to make you stronger.
To my reader and to myself,
To be in a relationship is a brave thing, but to be able to hold on to it is being bold. Not everyone can do it, but here you are. I know that sometimes it could be frustrating, that you are almost in the verge of giving up, but remember this, you know that he/she is worth it. He/She is worth the fight. Remember that every relationship is a work in progress and you just got to be strong. But never forget that self love is the key for a wonderful relationship.
* – Philippines is a home of 175 different dialects. Tagalog is only one of the many.
** – Kapampangan is a dialect in the province of Pampanga which is close to my home province.