Year One: Learning How to Talk

It feels a bit strange writing about our first anniversary, because in August we celebrated two years on paper. Part of me feels “sooo married” and the other part still feels like a newlywed.

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We are not quite as adventurous as Mrs. Socks. We only visited five countries this year, three of which were new to me, but we still face intermittent long distance with Mr. FC’s work travel and military service. In fact…Mr. FC is traveling for work today, so he’s not even here to celebrate our first anniversary!! But somehow, long distance does seem easier now that we are married.

In January there was a big change in the Funnel Cake household when we made a New Year’s resolution that we would only communicate in German during the week and English on the weekends.

I have been learning German since I officially moved to Switzerland, and I know enough to speak to FC’s parents and to get by in public. Still…there is a lot more I need to learn and for one reason or another I haven’t been able to sign up for another German course in the past year.

Mr. Funnel Cake and I used to talk about having German speaking days, but we would inevitably wake up on the designated day, I would wait for Mr. Funnel Cake to start speaking English, and then I would purposefully fail to remind him about speaking German. Even at his parents’ house when I was speaking German to him, he would reply to me in English. It was so easy to just let him keep talking to me in English.

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(Anniversary dinner!)

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To get out of our language rut, we decided to set up rules with the resolution. We also decided to allot much more than one day per week to German in order to really get into it. The idea was that from Monday morning to Friday evening we would only communicate in German, whether it was speaking, texting, emailing, or calling. Everything from Friday evening to Sunday evening would be in English.

The first few weeks were hard for both of us. Mr. Funnel Cake rarely speaks High German, so he felt very foolish with his thick Swiss accent, but he refused to speak Swiss German with me because at this time he wants my High German to improve. (Although I still sneak lots of Swiss words in!)

Mr. Funnel Cake also noticed a big dip in his English at first. It was a big change for him to go from speaking English every day to only on weekends.

We also both had a bit of trouble sticking to German. During the first couple months, Mr. Funnel Cake was usually the one reverting to English. He would watch English TV or read an English book in the evening and then forget that we were speaking German. I had to stand fast and reply in German to remind him that we are not giving up. If I would slip, Mr. Funnel Cake would remember to do the same for me.

Simply put, it is weird getting to know someone in one language, and then switching. It felt very unnatural for both of us and we really had to work at it.

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Obviously, because it’s my mother tongue, I know how to express myself in English perfectly. In German, I am constantly struggling for words and my grammar is a mess. I was frustrated by my inability to communicate at the same level in English, but Mr. Funnel Cake was almost more irritated than me.

Mr. FC is very, very good at English now, and it was frustrating that he knew he could tell me something plainly in English, but that we would struggle to have a conversation about some things in German. He also found it very aggravating that he could tell me a word or sentence three or more times and I would repeat it wrong every time. He had to be extremely patient with my slow ears and tongue.

Now it has been 10 months since we started our resolution. I am not fluent, but we have come a long way!

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It is still difficult to hold a phone conversation in German because this is one of the hardest forms of listening and understanding for me in German, and the highlight of the year was probably when Mr. Funnel Cake called my work phone (which I mainly answer in English) and I literally didn’t recognize that this German-speaking person was my husband! Oops.

Nevertheless, each new step we make in German makes me feel more at home in Switzerland. We’ve realized that we can do all the normal things we did in English in German as well. We can talk about politics, daily banter, make love…(very strange in a different language!). Hell…we can even manage to fight and make up in German! Everything is possible.

It has even gotten to the point where on Friday evenings, Mr. Funnel Cake will accidentally keep talking to me in German and I automatically respond in German. It’s beginning to be difficult to switch back to English. This is very exciting for me!

I feel closer to Mr. Funnel Cake now that we are getting used to speaking in his native tongue, even if it is High German and not full-on Swiss German. We have some more years to work on that anyway. ;)

Plus, we are now experienced enough speaking together that we can hold “secret” German conversations in foreign countries where we need to haggle! Very helpful because German is way less common than English in many countries.

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After five years of knowing Mr. Funnel Cake, I am really looking forward to more amazing wedding, civil union, and engagement anniversary dinners. We have so much fun walking and hiking around Switzerland and traveling around the world…it is hard to tell what the next year will bring us. I’m just glad knowing I’ve got my best friend there to enjoy this sweet life with. :)

Does anyone else have experience learning to speak to their significant other in a new way? And who else had to spend their first anniversary alone? Tell me I’m not all by myself!

BLOGGER

Mrs. Funnel Cake

Location:
Zürich, Switzerland/Columbus, Ohio
Wedding Date:
October 2011
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comments

  1. Member
    mslyre 512 posts, Busy bee @ 3:45 pm

    Happy anniversary, FC!!! It’s so cool how you have embraced each other’s languages. Can’t wait to see where your adventures take you!

  2. Member
    sunhat 1453 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:53 pm

    Happy Anniversary! I will likely be spending our 1st Anniversary alone due to Ball Cap’s work schedule. Boo!

  3. Member
    mstoadstool 2485 posts, Buzzing bee @ 3:58 pm

    Happy anniversary FC!
    You just gave me a great idea, when I move in with Mr. Toadstool I’ll speak with him in english until he has no other option than giving up and play along. He’s been very lazy about improving his english, and I really want him to do it.

  4. Member
    hyena 2537 posts, Sugar bee @ 4:14 pm

    Happy anniversary! That’s so wonderful that he’s helping you to improve in German!

  5. Member
    bracelet 1419 posts, Bumble bee @ 4:39 pm

    How very interesting! Mr. B would like to learn more German, but it’s difficult to just switch (aside from the fact that we live in the US) because it seems so unnatural to me. Maybe we should copy you and include it in our New Years resolutions!

  6. Guest Icon Guest
    Ali, Guest @ 4:54 pm

    My husband and I have tried to do this several times (switching from English to Spanish) and it usually turned out like you said. He (the native spanish speaker) would switch to English and I wouldnt correct him. Next year we will be moving to the US and I am worried that my spanish will go down hill fast. Its really cool to know that you guys actually did (mainly because you stayed strong). Maybe we will do the same thing for our new years resolution this year. I speak Spanish pretty well but its just so WEIRD changing the language of a relationship. You have inspired me though!

  7. Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 5:05 pm

    Happy Anniversary Funnel Cake! Communication is so important to every relationship, I love how you have embraced this notion in a such a fun way!

  8. Member
    sword 1029 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:13 pm

    Wow, I’m so impressed! Congrats FC!

  9. Member
    notbridey 720 posts, Busy bee @ 7:49 pm

    Happy Anniversary!! I am impressed with your resolution and sticking to it! So cool!

  10. Member
    panda 1359 posts, Bumble bee @ 7:55 pm

    Happy anniversary! I can’t believe you guys have stuck to your resolution! I am so impressed! I’d love to do something like this as well, but I’m sure there is no way we would be able to keep it up like you have!

  11. Member
    funnelcake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:18 am

    @Mrs. Sunhat: aww boo! Well… the upside is that you will probably be celebrating NYE with friends and family?? :)

    @Miss Toadstool: Yeaaah you could try it out. But don’t let him be lazy and respond in Spanish. We know some couples that are both lazy: one talks English and the other talks Swiss German. Their understanding improves a lot, but neither of them get any practice speaking the foreign language, which is the hardest part. You can refuse to answer things or acknowledge unless he says it in English. (But obviously he has to agree to doing the whole language thing…)

    @Mrs. Bracelet: Yeah that would definitely be hard for Mr. B. I took language courses and had daily life to practice all the time. I definitely needed to get comfortable enough speaking German before we could really try it out at home. Good luck to him!

    @Ali: I’ve always worried that if we move to the US or abroad I will lose my German. We’ve said we would try to speak exclusively German at home if that would happen, but if it’s still hard to get everything communicated in Spanish, you could try the during the week thing. It’s a really nice system. And if Mr. FC would say something in English I would usually reply in German “What did you say?” and make him repeat it in German. No shortcuts! :)

  12. Member
    WoodenShoes 389 posts, Helper bee @ 7:10 am

    I have this same problem (with Dutch). I just get so chicken speaking it in front of my fiancé!! I’ll speak to his grandmother, or some of my friends, and more often complete strangers with relative ease, but my fi?! NO WAY. I send you a bilingual fistbump Mrs. FC.

  13. Member
    ChicagoDreamer 509 posts, Busy bee @ 9:10 am

    What an amazing way for you two to grow as a couple this first year!

    Happy anniversary too! It’s been lovely reading about your story from the start.

  14. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 10:51 am

    Mrs. FC, your posts are always among my favorites. You offer such a unique introspective into marriage and relationships, I just freaking love it. Thank you so much for sharing.

    Number one: “make love…(very strange in a different language!)” made me LOL.
    Number two: This is super impressive. Definite high-five to you and Mr. FC. You’re such adventurous go-getters. I seriously admire it.

  15. Member
    funnelcake 1171 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:20 pm

    @WoodenShoes: ohh I know that feeling! Sometimes I really feel stupid or like I sound dumb. Mr. FC is really good about reminding me that I’m smart and doing really well and not to call myself dumb. I’m sure your FI would be patient and supportive with your Dutch! It for sure gets better with time. :)

    @ChicagoDreamer: Thanks!

    @StephK527: Aww thanks! I’m glad you’ve liked the story! :) I’ve always appreciated your comments!

  16. Member
    stephk527 987 posts, Busy bee @ 11:58 am

    @Mrs. Funnel Cake: Bee BFFs! <3 haha

  17. Member
    Schneewittli 55 posts, Worker bee @ 12:21 pm

    Oh Mrs. FCC, this post is so great! I can totally relate to the ‘relationship language’.
    When we first met we only spoke English and switching to German definitely felt weird! I should add though that he’s also fluent in German because his parents are from Germany, so he’s currently ‘only’ learning Swiss German but he’s getting really good at it!
    We have this weird concept of speaking German/Swiss German when we’re in Switzerland or Germany and English the rest of the time, so our ratio is about 30%:70% (we live in the US). But I refuse to text or make phone calls in German regardless of our location because he just doesn’t sound like himself!
    …And the ‘making love’ part definitely doesn’t work for us in German ;-)
    I’m very impressed by your determination, keep up the good work!

  18. Member
    mak418 355 posts, Helper bee @ 2:22 pm

    What a great post! German is definitely on my list of languages I’d love to learn – a dear family friend is German (well, she was born here, but her parents were born in Germany.) And on our first anniversary? My husband was in the ER… yikes! (They let him out the next day, though. They thought he had symptoms of a mini-stroke, but turned out to be a pinched nerve, thank goodness.)

  19. Member
    jacofblues 1468 posts, Bumble bee @ 3:58 am

    Aww your story is so touching! I love that you two are making sacrifices for each other to learn to speak the others language!

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