How to speak the same language when you literally don’t speak the same language

My husband and I didn’t speak the same language when we first met.  I’m American and he’s Czech.  We worked together, so I taught him basic phrases.  I remember using a phrase book to argue.  We were both head strong and determined to be right. 

I remember using that phrase book to tell him he was being a jerk.  And when he looked up the word ‘jerk,’ it was something like ‘to make sudden movements.’  I was trying to insult him and it just didn’t work.  In that instance, Jerry’s lack of English prevented an argument.  I was still angry at him, so I wanted him to feel bad.  That’s the ugly side of human nature.  But by the time I looked up all the words to really let him have it, I was bored, frustrated, and all the fire was gone. 

So I showed him the word, ‘patience.’  That settled it.  Now after many years, I know that even that meaning was still misunderstood.  I meant it for him to understand that I was trying to keep my patience with him.  And he understood that I was asking HIM to have patience with ME.  So, when he grinned, nodded his head once, and said, “Okay,” I took it as an apology.  Complete misunderstanding that ended in a really awesome way. 

I think we both remember most of that situation today because we didn’t use the phrase book after that.  We both FELT understood.  We FELT connected.  In that instance, we gave each other what we really needed…acceptance. 

Jerry was in a foreign country, trying to understand a foreign language, completely new working environment, completely strange-to-him food.  He was already out of his comfort-zone.  So when my feelings were hurt of some silly comment (don’t even remember what it was) that he didn’t even intend to make, he didn’t realize it.

We had to be completely honest because sarcasm and leaving hints didn’t work either.  We were forced to say what we meant in simple terms.  That meant we couldn’t play with each other’s emotions or say one thing and mean another.  We had to be real. 

And even now, when I talk for too long, I see Jerry’s eyes glaze over.  I think lots of men have short attention spans.  So when you need to get something off your chest, I encourage you to say it straight.  And Ladies, use that phrase book to honor, encourage, and show respect to your gentlemen.  And Gentlemen, use that phrase book to compliment, show compassion, and commitment to your ladies.

For couples who speak the same language, I challenge you to get a phrase book in a different language and attempt a conversation.  Then you’ll see what’s really important.       



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