If You Love Someone, Learn To Speak Their Language

Published on 6/3/2024

I was with my ex for four years, and in that time, we never really learned to speak each other’s languages. He was French, I was Dutch, and we communicated in English. But we were never really communicating how the other needed us to.

When we love someone, we want to speak their language. Don’t worry, I’m not about to tell you to go download Duolingo. That owl has scarred me and will not be regaining a place on my limited phone storage. You see, I'm not talking about French, Dutch, or English. I'm also not talking about just romantic love. I mean the love of family, friends, and all those people that make up a life. When we love someone, we want to find connection through their own language.

We never managed that. I appreciate acts of service and gift-giving, and they rely on physical touch. They didn’t read my work as they’re not much of a reader, and I didn’t take enough of an interest in things that excited them. We couldn’t manage to speak the same language.

What is their language?

My stepdad is really sick, and one of the few joys left for him is food. He still has a strong appetite and looks forward to meals. So I dedicate my time to finding new recipes for him and cooking meals for him. It’s a way for me to lighten the load even slightly for my mum, and to communicate with my stepdad. I bake treats, I sneak protein and veg into his food, and I find connection through meal times. He can’t say much at the moment, but it's a shared moment, and I cherish it. He’ll give me a smile or finish his plate, and I know that I’ve contributed to his day in some way.

This shared language doesn't have to be food. It could be a shared interest. One of my best friends and I can spend hours discussing smutty fantasy books. We send voice notes, we buddy read, and we even call to dissect these books. That is one of the languages of our friendship.

Their language doesn’t have to be your own

I have friends with interests that don't correlate to mine, and so I venture into their worlds to show my affection. I don't even do this intentionally, or with any aim, but rather I want to give them the space to discuss what they're passionate about.

One of my friends watches the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy every New Year’s Day. I’m talking extended version, director’s cut, the whole shabang. We’re looking at over eleven hours of elves in New Zealand. Last year, we planned to visit London together over this period, so I agreed to watch the films with her, so she could hold onto this tradition even though she wasn’t with her family. I had never seen the films before, and it was quite the undertaking, but I also loved that I could see this part of her, this geeky fangirl part of her. I loved getting to embrace her interest, and having her point out when the actor actually broke his toe — if you know, you know!

As a journalist, I’ve become a bit of a self-appointed Swift-pert. When Taylor Swift's album came out, I had a busy day. Not only did I have to write articles dissecting it and discussing the influences, but I had half a dozen friends asking my opinions on it. My WhatsApp was full of friends wanting to know what I thought or sharing their favourite songs so far.

I realised that some of them weren't even Swifties, and might not have listened if it weren't for me. But they were seeking that connection, they were demonstrating their love through partaking in my interest. They partake in Taylor Swift’s music for me, as they know it’s important for my work and a love of mine. I’m going to the Era’s Tour with friends who have admitted they usually wouldn’t have gone, but they like that they can go with me. I guess one of my languages is Swift, and I love that my friends are learning it for me — can Duolingo come up with that??

This isn’t about faking an interest, but rather creating an authentic one for them. It doesn’t need to become your favourite thing in the world. My friends would rather listen to Lana del Rey or classical music (don’t ask), but they’ll still ask me about the newest album and read my articles about Taylor Swift.

I urge you to take a moment to think of the people who matter most to you, and consider what their languages are. What are their interests? What topic gets them all worked up? What subject can they yap about for hours? Work out the languages of the people that matter to you and use them, as it's the best way to know and support someone. There is nothing better than connecting through passion. Give the people you love the space to revel in their passion, and meet them in that space.



Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.

Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.

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