Lingo Balance

Honey, let’s…

  • speak English all the time, and speak Chinese sometimes.
  • speak Chinese all the time, and speak English sometimes.
  • speak Chinglish. Ah, well.

0 voters

Just curious how couples work out the language thing. This is for people who are interested in learning their partner’s native language and vice-versa.

Is it ever frustrating like:
“You’re using me!”
or “How come you never speak Chinese/English to me?”
or “Why did you say that to me in Chinese/English when you say it to other people in English/Chinese, you b1tch/assh0le!”

And are there any couples who managed to keep a respectful and understanding relationship without slipping into some bastardized form of Taiwan Chinglish?

I try to speak Chinese sometimes, but my Chinese is still so poor that when we try that (instead of English) it usually becomes a bastardised form of Chinglish. Sad really, but I’ll get there eventually.

Oh, with my ex wife, we started out speaking English, but as my studies at the MTC progressed, we slowly switched into Mandarin, and spent the better part of a decade speaking that. Only exception was early mid 2000, where we spoke Danish.

Since then, mainly a non issue in relationships. We always speak Chinese. But then, I have an advanced degree in the language, and I am completely fluent.

I voted English all the time, because I the only other language I speak is gibberish and she can’t understand that.

We mostly speak English. I don’t speak my wife’s dialect (Cantonese) well and we started in English. Her English is strong and she’s more comfortable with it than with Putonghua, although she can function in the latter when she needs to. Whenever we end up talking about certain things that are more easily discussed in Chinese, then we’ll switch over to Putonghua. When we’re around certain people, we may switch into Putonghua since it’s the easiest language for everyone to communicate in. I mostly speak Putonghua to her sisters because at least their listening skills in Putonghua are better than for English. I imagine that I’ll improve a lot in Cantonese once we have kids. The motivational factor will be strong and I think I’ll be exposed to more Cantonese at home.

I’ts been half Chinese, half English for 5 years now. We’re both happy with it. By half and half. I mean even single sentences may swap back and forth betwen languages one or more times. Doesn’t help at all with our language learning, but really, that’s not what our relationship is about.


I speak mostly English and she speaks Chinese about half the time. It was more balanced when we lived in Taiwan, but English has been gaining ground since we moved back to the US.

We speak English most of the time, mainly because a) her English is better than my Chinese and b) I’m a lot more patient than she is. It’s the path of least resistance. Still, we do communicate in Chinese, sometimes, and often use it as a “secret language” when in a non-Chinese environment.

[quote=“Bu Lai En”]I’ts been half Chinese, half English for 5 years now. We’re both happy with it. By half and half. I mean even single sentences may swap back and forth betwen languages one or more times. Doesn’t help at all with our language learning, but really, that’s not what our relationship is about.


I’d have to second that.

A more interesting question might be: What language does your kid speak to you? Your wife?

Our son will switch, English to me and Chinese to Mom. And if he sees someone new, say a new FT, he will someone KNOW they speak English even if they haven’t said anything. Now dats cool. :slight_smile:

I wish my Chinese was good enough to have a relevant conversation with my wife in Chinese, but I’ll never come close to her language ability so it’s English for us at home.

Daughter is also native in both, and speaks English to both Mom (80%) and Dad.

My Chinese isn’t bad actually, but my spouse’s English is exceptional. No contest.

Interesting - my wife and I agreed that we’d talk in English until her level was up to my level of Mandarin. (When we first me, her conversational English was almost non-existent). She’s pretty much caught up, I’d say. :astonished:

We also agreed that if we ever decided to have kids, English would be spoken at home if we were in Taiwan, but if we were outside of Taiwan, we would stick to Mandarin.

We had planned to do that, but have been pretty bad with follow-through. Our oldest son still understands much of what we say to him in Mandarin, but won’t speak it.

It was really strange. We have video of him at 3 years old when we first moved (back) to the US. He spoke only Chinese. In another video 3 months later, he was just speaking English. It’s been downhill since. Our younger son doesn’t even understand Mandarin too well, but we’ve been more diligent in using Chinese since our baby girl was born just over a year ago. Partly because the in-laws stayed with us for the first 6 months.

You would probably have a much better chance of success than me, since my Chinese has never been up to the level of my wife’s.

But back to the OP…

I’ve never resented it, but… My wife knows the level of Chinese I understand and will definitely use English for any complicated conversation. She doesn’t push me, so I find my Mandarin improves if I’m hanging out with Chinese-speaking people who aren’t my wife.

Chinese for anything detailed and English when I’m lazy . . . oh, but now I have to learn Thai.


My boyfriend and I speak Chinese 98% of the time. Occasionally he’ll say something in English, usually just playing around, but has never really cared about trying to improve. Once in a great while he’ll tell me that “from now on, let’s only speak English” … but that lasts for about 5 minutes. His English is actually quite good (all of his text books in university are in English – he studies biological sciences), but he just doesn’t seem to think it’s that important. And considering I do his Chinese homework for him, I think we’ll prolly stick with Chinese.

Interestingly, one of my best friends/classmates from university back in the States is Taiwanese (we took Japanese together, go figure). Anyway, when we were living in the States, we always spoke English even though my Chinese was already pretty good back then. She moved back to Taiwan a little under a year ago, I got her a job at the company where I work, and our conversations went from all English in the first week or so, to half-and-half, and now is Chinglish or Chinese. It’s been an odd transition for my brain …

We speak Chinese only because he doesn’t speak my mother tongue and English is a foreign language for both of us. It doesn’t really make a difference if I speak English or Chinese, but he is far more patient with my Chinese than I am with his English :blush: So I guess, we’ll stick to that for the time being.

Same here… he keeps complaining that his English got worse since he knows me :blush:

You should teach her Gibberish. That way, she’ll understand you when you say things like “fluffy puffies and whammies and yummy bubbles for you and you and YOU!” (oops - I hope I don’t get flamed for stupidity! Golly Gee!)

Oh, it looks like the language juggle makes things a little rockier in “cross-cultural relationships”. I guess that’s why you have to be open minded and all that. Well, we only have one tongue. But it always helps smooth things out if you
“Pure Talk Under Sheets”

And remember, boys and girls, you’re not lowering your standards, you’re “expanding” your standards.