Learning the Language
Being bilingual (or being a show-off who is fluent in more than two languages) is both useful and impressive. Children can pick languages up subconsciously – their brains are like sponges, hearing and retaining with no effort. However, it is no easy task as an adolescent or adult. You have to practice pronunciation, recite tenses, and memorize just the right inflections. It can take years of dedicated study to truly master a new language – and even then, you will still have to sometimes fight the urge to revert to your native tongue.
Learning the language of a relationship can be an equally daunting challenge. At times, it may come very easily, like when a grammatical worksheet clicks in your mind and makes sense. But often, it takes practice to learn your partner’s cues, body language, and tone of voice, and what it all means.
The best way to learn any new language is to simply shut up and listen. Many studies have proven that being immersed in a native-speaking environment will dramatically speed up the language-learning process; being in a relationship gives you that advantage by default. There is a reason that “listening” is a verb – you must actively engage with your partner, even if you aren’t saying anything.
People are complex, and it can be difficult to say exactly what you mean; whether it’s because you are nervous, shy, or don’t even know what that is yet. You can try to pry information out of someone, but that often leads to them shutting down. Listening, however, is non-threatening and therapeutic. When your significant other starts talking about something that seems inconsequential – maybe she brings up a small comment a coworker made – you need to listen to see what she’s really saying. That comment could have deeper meaning, and it could have been rattling around in her mind all day. She may want you to talk through it with her, but so often the mere act of listening is all that’s needed.
Listening also has the benefit of preventing premature reactions. If you jump to conclusions without the full story, you may lose interest, get angry, or give bad advice. Your partner is picking up on your cues just as much as you are on hers – and she will be able to tell if you “check out” of the conversation early.
There is a second side to language – speaking. It is not as large a part as listening, but it can be just as important. Learning the right thing to say, and most importantly, learning the right time to say it, can profoundly affect your relationship. Luckily, this part is easy – if you have been listening to her, and learning what she is saying and feeling, you are much closer to providing reassurance, comfort, confidence, or agreement. You will be able to tell when she wants you to back her up and confirm what she is saying, or when she wants you to ask more questions to find the answer with her. There are times that all is needed is a single word – and other times, you may need to give an inspiring speech.
Learning a new language can feel impossible in the early stages – thousands of new words, new sentence structure, and you aren’t sure if you’re making progress. However, if you stick with it and work at it, it will always prove helpful and rewarding.