If you have been following this blog or read our about page than you know that Iliyan’s mother tongue is different than mine, this happens quite a lot in long distance relationships, some people finally choose to learn their partner’s language and some do not. But, should we?
Since I was young I have always had an interest and talent with languages, I learned English just because I watched movies in their original version. When I was a baby my mom used to translate to me the key points in the films I was watching, so little by little I learned what words meant and started to talk in English when I was only 2-3 years old.
Iliyan on the other hand told me he also learned on his own, but when he was around 9. It was thanks to one of his passions: games. Most games out there are in English, nothing is really in Bulgarian, so his interest to play games is what made him make extra efforts to translate manuals and games so he could play.
With all this said, I did not know Bulgarian, nor did Iliyan know Spanish or Romanian, so obviously we have always communicated in English. But once we confessed to each other and started dating my interest for his mother tongue grew everyday, to the point that almost less than two months in our relationship I learned on my own how to read in Bulgarian (they have the cyrillic script) and surprised him.
It makes one feel happy when your beloved shows interest in your native language and even starts to learn little things, putting effort into understanding you and your family.
Iliyan has spent this past summer with me, and has learned many small phrases and words in Romanian because he was in the country and heard the language around him all the time, and each time that he made the effort to say things in Romanian it made me happy and proud. When I had visited him in Bulgaria I tried my best to learn as well, hearing him and his parents talking around helped me identify certain words that were repeated many times. Since his parents speak only Bulgarian, for me the motivation to learn is bigger, not being able to communicate with most of his family pumps me up to get to speak the language faster.
Currently I am helping Iliyan to learn Japanese since I speak it, and we wanted to share this language as a special way to communicate between ourselves. However, Iliyan plans to tackle both Romanian and Spanish seriously as soon as he gets better at Japanese, and I am continuing my journey to learn Bulgarian.
So, should we learn our partner’s native language? Personally I think it only has advantages, you access to their culture —regardless if it is very different or not—, you connect to them on another level by communicating in the language they talked as babies and also you are able to talk with the rest of their family and friends. Plus, if you have children you will be able to understand what they talk with them, and hey, for me that is a major bonus, I want to be able to speak Bulgarian to our children, understand them and ultimately talk with my beloved in his language.
Обичам те, Илиян.