Language and Love: Can Dating a Native Speaker Improve Your Language Skills?
Learning to speak the local language is an essential part of moving overseas long term for work or study. Many people recommend dating a local as the perfect way to improve your language skills – and possibly fall in love along the way! Indeed, going out with a native speaker is often considered a magical formula for adapting more easily to the local culture and language, but at the end of the day how useful is it to date a local? Can like (or love) lead to better language skills?
People who have gone to study abroad usually consider the time they’ve spent with locals as the most rewarding part of the experience. It’s often too easy to get caught up in the cliques at your workplace or school which can lead to you not practicing the local language as much as you’d like. However, if you date a native speaker, they’ll tend to take you around to meet their friends or hang out in places you usually wouldn’t. You’ll be exposed to slang terms and experience the way people speak out in the real world. Your brain will also be forced to work harder to keep up, which means that you’ll learn at a much faster rate!
Whether or not dating a local can truly help you improve your language skills really comes down to how big the language barrier between the two of you is. Your partner may speak perfect English and hence finds it easier to communicate with you in a language you both speak well as opposed to in your broken French, or Spanish, or Mandarin. Likewise if he or she runs in circles with lots of English speakers you may find that your language skills hardly improve at all. This isn’t to mean that you should only date people who can’t speak your native tongue well, but it does mean you’ll have to find other innovative ways of practicing your skills such as language exchange or online games and chats.
Often after you start dating someone, you learn a lot about them. Soon, you find it easy to guess what they mean to say or to simply say it for them. This is a huge deterrent in language learning. Many couples who speak different languages confess that it can be frustrating to try to practice a language with each other because either the partner has trouble understanding, feels more comfortable communicating some other way, or becomes impatient and doesn’t take the time to offer corrections. Sure, you may make an effort at the beginning to try and practice with your local love, but after five or so months you are likely to give in to other easier, and faster, ways of communication.
As you’ve probably noted, shacking up with a local is by no means a foolproof way to bring your language level up. While in some cases it works, in others it doesn’t and it is usually a game of chance. Even if you do decide to try out dating a native speaker, you shouldn’t neglect the rest of your language education. With the right tools, you won’t need to go looking for love in order to boost your language abilities. Of course if you find it along the way, all the better!