When Chiara Capony, a 32-year-old Filipino artist and entrepreneur, met her now-husband Seb Capony, a 33-year-old French kinesitherapist and tennis coach, they hardly spoke the same language.
“I didn’t know how to speak French and Seb couldn’t really speak English that well. He knew enough so we could still communicate, but it was definitely a barrier in getting to know each other as well as we would have liked,” said Chiara.
While some couples can work through things like age gaps and religious differences, language barriers may seem too immediate a hurdle for any relationship to work. But Chiara and Seb tried anyway.
“I think that we had a really good connection, so it helped us to have hope when we met some difficulties. The more we got to know each other, the more we wanted to continue despite the lack of words sometimes,” Seb said.
The couple dated for four years and have been married for three, and are now based in Brussels, Belgium. In their time together, they’ve learned a few things about how to find love despite some things getting lost in translation.
Early in their relationship, Seb said having a language barrier had the potential to cause some friction.
“When you [try] to explain something serious or important for you, it can potentially be a trigger because it’s more difficult to be understood. After everything we went through, we learned a lot about each other and about ourselves. It was really interesting and helped us to grow in our own [lives] and in our relationship. So the language barrier is not really a barrier, you just need to go around it and find the way to be understood.”
Seb and Chiara had a very natural connection with each other, despite the initial language barrier. Photo: Courtesy of Chiara Capony
Working to surmount that language barrier, however, has also turned up some humorous surprises that make the couple laugh even now.
“Some words pronounced in French actually sound very Filipino. ‘Biscuit’ in French is pronounced ‘bees-kweet’ and ‘lizard’ is pronounced ‘lezard.’ At first I thought [Seb] was mocking our accent but when I realized he wasn’t, it would just crack me up. Still does, sometimes,” explained Chiara.
But it wasn’t all laughs. Chiara said people doubted their relationship would work.
“Some people didn't think it was going to work out specifically because of the language barrier,” she said. “Some people also didn't think we would make it because we were just very different people with super different backgrounds. He was from a small town in the French alps, and I've always been a city girl.”
She continued: “There were, of course, times when I had my own doubts. But in the end, I learned that you can't really project other people's opinions onto your relationship—that's just a recipe for disaster. In the Philippines, I feel we have a lot of preconceived notions about how a relationship is supposed to evolve and look like, and I learned that that shouldn't have to look the same for everybody.”
Still, the two said they didn’t overthink it. “It just started as an adventure for the both of us and if it didn’t work out, we would have that. But our relationship was the result of mutual consent to keep working on it together and get through the tough times.”
The adventure also taught Chiara and Seb to learn to express their love for each other in ways other than words, or what they call different “love languages.”
Chiara thinks it’s important for couples to learn each other’s love languages. Photo: Courtesy of Chiara Capony
“My usual language of love is words of affirmation. Seb’s language of love is acts of service, so I’ve learned to express my love in the little things to show that I care or that I’m thinking of him, like cooking his favorite meals or making him fresh orange juice in the morning,” Chiara said.
Eventually, the two were able to bridge the verbal divide. Seb learned English and even lived in the Philippines for five months, while Chiara moved to Seb’s hometown in France and took intensive French lessons.
“I felt really proud of her and grateful because I know how difficult it is to learn a new language—French especially! I’m really glad that Chiara made this effort,” said Seb. “It was really important to me because it makes it easier to communicate with my family, and she can enjoy more during our reunions with my relatives and friends.”
The couple will never forget what it felt like to have a language barrier, however, as well as the lessons they’ve learned from working through it.
“I think having a language barrier with someone you’re in a relationship with encourages a deeper connection. You have to lower your defenses from the get-go if you want to get to know that person,” Chiara said. “You have to be able to laugh and not take yourself too seriously. Even up to now, we still laugh at ourselves whenever one of us says something that gets lost in translation.”
This article is written in partnership with Closeup. VICE and Closeup celebrate love and champion closeness of all forms. For similar articles, check out www.LoveForAll.info
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