Learning German is a challenge – it can be a damn hard challenge. Even though I’m German, I know. I have been through the learning phase with other people. As kids it was easy and automatic to learn the language, it was playful and fun. But the older you get, the more effort has to be put into it. Being in an intercultural relationship myself, I have heard countless times all sorts of reproaches like “you should be speaking German together” or “how is he supposed to learn if you don’t speak German with him”. So not only foreigners get criticized for not speaking German, also Germans are reproached and pressured for supposedly not supporting the “right” communication with their spouse, partner, boyfriend, girlfriend or simply a friend.
And YES, people are right! Perfectly right… Every couple misses a big chance if they choose not to communicate in German even though they live here and one partner is a native speaker.
However, let’s be realistic!
Co-Founder and Managing Director of Accedera GmbH
First, communicating in a relationship can be difficult. Even people who speak the same mother tongue often don’t manage to understand each other. So how is this supposed to work if one doesn’t speak the language properly?
Second, often people have just arrived in Germany and are still in the process of adapting to the culture. Taking away the only safe harbor where they feel understood and at home – meaning their partner or their friends – might just be one challenge too many during this period of time.
Third, it is a strange thing, but switching languages in a relationship feels really weird. It is as if you were talking to a stranger.
So switching completely to German from one day to the other is not an option for most intercultural couples. It is too big of a goal which makes achieving it unrealistic, which in turn robs all motivation to put energy into it.
But why not try breaking it down into smaller steps? How to switch to German in your intercultural relationship?
Suggestion 1: Choose a time of the day (or of the week) when you want to speak German together. My advice: look for a moment when you are not tired or stressed. Evenings, for instance, are mostly not a good option. How about breakfast?
Suggestion 2: Accept it when one of the partners does not want to talk about certain topics in German at this point. It is very frustrating if you try to express yourself in a foreign language unsuccessfully or if you have the feeling of not being understood because you “have” to speak your mother tongue. It often leads to stupid arguments and to a defeated feeling when you have to switch back to your lingua franca.
Suggestion 3: Listen to German music, watch German TV, read German books together (hint to the German: don’t fall asleep while listening…), etc.
Suggestion 4: Find a circle of friends where German is the common language; for example, through an international “Stammtisch”.
Suggestion 5: Most importantly, do not get stressed out about speaking German because other people expect you to speak German together! This stress factor will not make speaking German a pleasant experience for neither of you. And you want to create good memories so that it will be increasingly easier to speak German together. You will find your way sooner or later and you are the only ones that can judge what is possible in your relationship and what not.
Accedera recruits amiable and qualified European personal for German nursery schools and remedial care centers. Accedera follows an integral approach in order to work towards a good start for both employer and employee. Through its talent pool Accedera accompanies all international applicants from the first steps of thinking about migration to finding and keeping a job in Germany.
Find out more about Accedera and their current job offers for foreign specialists on their website.