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Love As A Second Language

entrepreneur 593358

by Claudia Civinini

Culturally mixed couples often have stacks of funny anecdotes involving cross-language misunderstandings. But do emotions also get lost in translation? A study investigated how multilinguals feel when expressing emotions in a foreign language. The 429 participants, who had all used a second language in a romantic relationship at least once, took an online questionnaire, and a sample was also interviewed. About 60 per cent of comments were negative, highlighting communication mishaps, general constraining effects of the foreign language and lack of genuineness in the communication.

However, most participants reported that negative effects tended to pass in a matter of months. A quarter of responses instead were positive, reporting excitement and happiness in the use of another language in a romantic relationship. Some participants said that using a foreign language makes them feel freer to express themselves.

And how do couples choose their language? 60 per cent of participants reported choosing their partner’s L1 because of its status in the country of residence. The study also highlighted that women are more likely to experience a loss of emotional intensity in the foreign language at the beginning of the relationship. However, the sample is not representative – female participants in the sample were ‘significantly more multilingual’ than their male counterparts.

Dewaele,J-M & Salomidou, L. (2017) Loving a partner in a Foreign Language