Group Blog: Communicating as a 1 way street

This week’s group blog is being run by Fned and I say kudos to her for such a great topic. Unlike most of the people who posted, S and I are not a bilingual couple.  We were not when we met and we are not now almost 13 years later.

S and I met when I was an exchange student in high school.  I came to Rancagua Chile with 2 years of high school Spanish under my belt as well as basic lessons when I was a kid.  I didn’t meet S right away, in fact, I didn’t meet him until I changed schools 4 months in.  Once I did, I spoke Spanish pretty well (although not perfectly).  He was a great teacher as we was patient and speaks a more poetic Spanish than any Chilean I have ever met.  He loves words and making sure that he chooses the one that has the exact nuance of meaning that he is going for.  He doesn’t use slang; he shutters when I say “cachai” or “huevon”.  He never ever ever swears– nor does he think that I should.  He. Reads. Anything. And. Everything. He. Can.

After 12.5 years of going back and forth between the US and Chile, I don’t struggle to understand people. I think in Spanish. I dream in Spanish. In fact, the time that I passed out at art fair at Santa Lucia I was speaking in Spanish when I regained consciousness. I rarely have to ask people what they mean or to repeat.  That is, everyone except S.  He is constantly using new words (this may be on purpose) and he has the bad habit of mumbling. Still, I learn a lot.

He speaks no English. Or, rather, he spoke no English up until recently.  He loves to read (I mentioned this above) and he does read in other languages simply because he can’t get his hands on translation. I am in awe of his patience as he will read articles–and books–on evolutionary theory, physics, or philosophy with a dictionary in hand looking up every third word.

To be fair, I knew the English teacher in high school. It is no surprise that he or any of my classmates never learned anything in her class.  There was no way they could have in my mind.

Now, he is considering traveling with me and wants to learn English.  He jokes that he wants to do so to be able to read– not so that he can talk to my parents or help raise bilingual children. No. Just so he can read. In the states, however, he really did pick up quite a bit.  Now that he is back in Chile (and I am still in the states) we have been working on ways for him to study.  We are reading Curious George together. He studies on his own and comes to me with questions.  I have no doubt that he will learn English– but until then, we are a multi-lingual couple (I speak Romanian & Japanese as well) that is completely monolingual.

Check out some other cool takes on Bilingualism in Expat couples:

Fned’s Blog: Bilingualism in Expat Couples (English/ Spanish/ French)

Bee Ean : A Malaysian in France (English / French / Chinese)

Andromeda : The adventures of an American Blonde in France (French / English)

Jennifer: Italian Trivia (English / Italian / and a little Veneto)…. and a practical case

Minshap : Both sides of the coin (English / Spanish)

Leilani : Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose (English / French / Spanish / German / and four more languages!!!)

Francine : Callaloo soup (English / French)

Poppy Fields : Poppy in Provence (English / French)

Chris : A Pretty How Town (English / French)

Cancuck Canuck : A Canuck in Cancun (English / Spanish (and a little Mayan? lol))

Emily : Don’t call me Gringa (Spanish / English)

Natasha : The Ex Monologues (English / Spanish)

Arlet Grace : Little something about me (Filipino / Korean / English)

Lydia : Just smile and nod (English / Spanish)

Cherise : Adventures with Angelina (English / French / Thai and soon German!!)

Sarah : Misplaced Texan (English / French)

Ale : Letters from Wonderland (English / Spanish)

Karina : Milk Jam (French / English)

Rebecca : Trente-trois-mille (English / Spanish / French)

Kumichan83 : Tales of a Japanese Gringa in Quito (English / Spanish / French / Japanese)

Beth : Planting the Mexican Seed (English / French)

Jonnifer : I have no title donc je suis (English / French)

nyGRINGAinCHILE : Just one more gringa’s thoughts about living in Santiago, Chile (English / Spanish / French)

Tyffanie: La Chilinguita (English/ Spanish)


  1. I really liked your post. I think that you and S will become a bilingual couple in no time (if you’re not one already!!!). From the way you describe S, I’m sure it will be no time before he’s reading Atlas Shrugged or some other insanely complicated book in English and speaking to your parents in their language and talking about raising bilingual children to ya *lol*. It sounds like he is such a driven guy! 😀


  2. P.S. I wish I could speak Japanese too. I simply ACHE to live in Japan one day. (Hubby is half Romanian and can understand the language but doesn’t speak it that well, I wish he did though… I would have loved to learn it. You are SO lucky!!!!)

  3. Fned… like you wish Japanese… I wish I could speak French. It would absolutely help my job search and job prospects. S is hoping to learn German and Russian as well. I think we will be a bilingual family yet…. but for the last 13 years it has been a Spanish only friendship to relationship.

  4. Hi Sara!

    Thanks for noticing. I think I like it but I need to play with the side bars…. As for S and I. We have only been together as a couple for a year +; however, we have known each other since we were 16. He sat next to me in high school when I was an exchange student and has been my best friend since. So, not really “been together” but definitely know each other.

  5. So he enjoyed his trip to the US? That’s good news for me. What are your plans for the future? Sounds like marriage and maybe family… I wish you two the best!

  6. Our plans are wait and see where I find work, marry (although neither of us are real fans of marry– he is anti government getting involved in people’s lives in that way and sees it just as a contract, I am anti becoming a part of any institution which is not open to all people and I HATE the homophobic nature people in the US are taking to define marriage). Definitely family at some point. Thanks for the well wishing… I can only do the same for you and “E”.

  7. Hi Clare, my post is up…I just wanted to let you know since I saw that you had an on-going list of everyone who posted this round. And I totally understand not being an actual “bilingual couple” because my husband didn’t speak English when I met him either! Oh and P.S. I like the new look of your blog!

  8. hi claire im claude from rancagua and i will very excited if you can write abour your adventures here like a “gringa” would be nice also i can post it on our blog callled “la oficina de panico” (a mock on radiohead)

    saludos 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s