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How My Dog Taught My Family to Speak My Native Language

How My Dog Taught My Family to Speak My Native Language

My partner is Welsh, and I am Serbian. We speak English because he doesn’t speak Serbian. Sometimes being unable to speak in my native language with my spouse upsets me.
I’ve realized that being in a relationship with someone from a different culture is difficult and brave. We have much more obstacles that we have to face due to being in multicultural relationships. Often we misunderstand each other.

I wish my partner could speak Serbian — then perhaps things would be easier.


You see, I come from Eastern Europe, and somehow the majority of Eastern Europeans learn to speak English and one or two additional languages. Not because these languages are alike and it’s easy to learn them, but culturally, people are more motivated to learn foreign languages in the East than in Western countries.

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I was shocked to see that the majority of people, especially in the northern parts of England, only speak English, and some struggle with English, even though they are considered British citizens. Doesn’t make sense.

I speak five foreign languages, and please don’t ask me if Russian and Czech languages are similar — they are not.

At the start of our relationship, I wasn’t bothered that my partner didn’t speak Serbian — I was madly in love, and all that mattered was our “body language.” Soon we got serious, and I introduced him to my father and my wider family, who are not fluent in English (but speak more English than my partner does Serbian), and somehow I became the interpreter.

At times my partner did try to learn Serbian: we had two sessions that somehow ended up in bed, he downloaded an app that promised to help him translate Serbian phrases, and he googled Serbian classes. He nearly booked one.

I became resentful towards him.

One day I’ve announced to my partner that I would get us a dog, a Hovawart. A very special breed from Germany. A faithful, intelligent, resilient, strong-willed dog with whom I will speak in my native language.

And so I did, first out of spite and later because it was natural to me.

I spent three months with our puppy in Europe and spoke Serbian to him; naturally, he learned Serbian. When we came back to the UK, my partner was surprised to see that our dog ignored his instructions in English.

“You didn’t teach him much, did you?”

“I taught him Serbian.”

The following week my partner signed up for Serbian classes. My stepdaughter started writing down phrases in Serbian. It took a German dog to make our household speak Serbian.

My dog and I marveled.

Soon my partner realized that our dog is bilingual when he wants to be. Somehow, he just chooses not to listen to my partner when he speaks in English. When my stepdaughter and I speak English to him, he obeys.

I am certain that my dog wanted to motivate my partner to learn Serbian by telling him:
If a Dog can Learn, so Can you. Woof.


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