I’m American. My boyfriend is Spanish. The first question nearly anyone asks, given that information, is “What language do you speak?”
The short answer- Spanish.
When we started dating I had been in Spain for a year, meaning my Spanish was leagues ahead of his English, which he had only studied in high school. So naturally, we spoke in Spanish. The beginning wasn’t exactly a river of communication. Although I had some experience under my belt, I had a long way to go, and he has always been a saint with my imperfect language skills.
During our first months together there was definitely a lot of repeating, rephrasing, and creativity involved in our conversations. And a whole lot of patience from both sides. He jokes that he always had a “second opportunity,” as he called it, to correct something stupid he had said, because most likely I didn’t understand the first time. But now he most definitely does not have that luxury.
I remember that spending entire weekends in Granada with him and his family and friends, speaking nothing but Spanish for three days straight, was mentally tiring! Now I go days at a time without speaking English without even realizing it.
All right, so we speak Spanish. The next question we always hear. “But he wants to learn English, right?”
Of course he does, and he is, just not as fast as I did with Spanish. He is working and studying full-time right now, so he definitely doesn’t have much free time to dedicate to studying English. But merely being around me he’s learning. He remembers more grammar and vocabulary from school than he gives himself credit for. Combine that with time spent with my English-speaking friends here and listening to my Skype conversations with friends and family, and he is acquiring the language little by little.
I can hear the next question coming: Why don’t you speak in English together?
We try. Sometimes. We really should work harder at this. My problem is that I’ve gotten so comfortable speaking Spanish with him that it doesn’t feel natural to do so in English. When there is something I want to say to him, the words come out of my mouth in Spanish faster than I can think of how I would phrase them in English. I never thought it would take a conscious effort to use my native tongue, but I’ve found this to be true with him and many other situations here.
I’m confident that with time more and more English will slip into our conversations. He’s incredibly diligent and when he has the time to dedicate to it, he will learn quickly.
The next stepping stone in the process comes in ten very short days- spending two weeks in California with my family for Christmas, who speaks very little Spanish! That will no doubt be the biggest learning experience he’ll have had to date!