Dear Pastor Lily,
My husband wants to learn how to speak my native language (German) because he wants to be able to talk to my family when we travel home to visit. I love this and think it is so sweet! The problem is he wants to practice with me, but he gets frustrated when I correct him on the pronunciation and stuff. I wish he would just go take a real class. How do I help him learn the language without it having a negative effect on our relationship?
The fact that your husband wants to learn your native language for you is adorable and admirable.
It says a lot about the kind of man you married. Languages are hard to learn and I believe it’s always easier to do in a group context where you’re practicing with other people regularly. I am currently trying to learn the basics of Shona, my husband’s native language which is used in Zimbabwe. I know the names of your typical jungle animals; lion (shumba) Tiger (ingwe) and monkey (tsoko). I can tell you my name, ask for directions to the bathroom and thank someone for a delicious meal. I can also follow along and understand the gist of a conversation, but that has more to do with body language than being able to translate the words.
However, I learn the majority of this on my own, through apps, websites, basic children’s readers and listening to some YouTube videos. I really like the Memrise app for learning new things. It’s fun and effective.
There are some things that can be very difficult for a husband to teach a wife and a wife her husband. For example; driving. If you’re able to have fun doing it and it’s coming naturally to you that’s great, keep teaching and learning with one another. In your case, it’s not fun anymore.
In a relationship, it can be hard to take a lot of instruction and correction from your partner. For that reason, my husband and I keep language learning fun by keeping it very light-hearted.
He helped me by writing out the Shona words in our kids’ books like this one.
You could also make it ultra sexy by practicing in bed. Point to and kiss his body parts and tell him what they are in German.
Try listening to German music or watching a German movie with subtitles on.
My husband appreciates my efforts so much, but he mostly helps by making sure I don’t mispronounce something that’s going to end up sounding very vulgar.
When it comes to correcting your partner my basic rule of thumb is
- First, Does he NEED to hear this- is it actually helpful information
- Second, Does he need to hear it NOW- would there be a better time to tell him
- Third, Does he need to hear it FROM ME – if there’s someone else that would be better suited for the job, let them do it.
Christmas is coming up so you can enroll him in a German evening class as a gift.
Tell him that you are so impressed with his efforts to learn German that you want to give him an opportunity to learn from a pro. It’s something you could even do together. Or set up a German dinner party and invite any German-speaking friends over for a short immersion experience. If he speaks a second language, spend an evening only talking in your own second languages and see who can last the longest.
Be creative and have fun with it.
Your husband needs your support, appreciation, and love more than he needs your technical language skills. So give those to him in abundance and let him figure out the rest.
God Bless You!
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