The five love languages; How to speak love so people understand

When we speak love, we do so in five different languages. And hearing someone speak love to me from a different language, is like if someone would walk up to me and ask for directions in Chinese. (I don’t know Chinese.) It would be a complete, utter waste of time and energy. But at the same time, it’s something we do, over and over again, day after day, simply because we were never taught how to speak love. Our verbal language is something we intuitively pick up from a young age, then learn the nuances and differences when we get to school. Picking up on non-verbal language is something intuitive too. But what we really need, and to a large extent lacks education in, is the languages of love. Instead, we go around trying to compliment our partner in Chinese, or give a handwritten note to our mothers in Latin.

When I was younger, I was lucky. My father, to a large extent, spoke love in the same way as me, so I could naturally comprehend his way of talking. He showed me how to me a bow and arrow, took me out in the forest right by our house to build a primitive but magnificent tree house. He wrestled with me, we played soccer together. My mother on the other hand, even though I never doubted she loved me, didn’t speak the same language as me. She would naturally, with all the intent of speaking love to me, do things, help out. But this was Chinese to me, her attempts to help me out was latin. I appreciated it, that’s for sure. But I didn’t feel as if she spoke love to me.

But we are not predestined to only speak one language, just as we can learn another, or several other verbal languages, with some time and effort. I have definitely learned to appreciate how my mother speaks love, and she has learned to speak in a language I can easier understand. But to learn how to speak love, just as when we learn how to speak a second (or third) language, we need to know how the language works, what it’s about. Otherwise we would just be mumbling incomprehensible sounds in an attempt to make ourselves understood. Love, fortunately, differs from vernal language in that we can, largely, divide them into 5. 5 languages of love, that are easily understood and applied.

Acts of service

This is the language my mother tried to use when she spoke to me, and inevitably sounded like pure Latin to my ears. This is the act of helping someone. But, and this is a reoccurring theme throughout the languages, it is not just the act of helping that matters, even though that is surely appreciated. No, what actually matters here, is the reason behind it. That someone took valuable time out of their busy schedule to help them with something. And when someone that naturally speaks this language does you a favor, it isn’t because they think they’d do it better, or get something back from it. No, it’s from a genuine care, and act of love where they take time to help you with something that you find particularly hard of heavy. This language is easy to imitate and start learning, even though it might take time to learn fluently. Get groceries for them, help them clean their car. Sit down with them and give your advice on how to plan out an event. Surprise them by finishing something that is taking up space on their to-do list.

Quality time

This is the language of my father, that I naturally understood. It might at first glance sound similar to acts of service, since what I brought up included helping me to build things. It’s true, he did. And as a 10 year old kid, not much is more valuable than the knowledge of how to make your own bow and arrow. But the common factor between all of the examples is time. Quality time, just spent with each other. Alone. One on one, with no phones, no TV, no external distractions. If this is latin for you, there is one thing, and one thing only, that you have to keep in mind.  Quality time. To, first of all, spend time with the person. But to do that without any distraction, to clearly show that your full focus lies on the other person. Only then will they feel like the time spent together really matters. 


Gifts is hard. It’s possibly one of the most misunderstood ways of speaking love, which I can understand. We’re far too familiar with the absent, always working parent that give their children gifts to compensate for the time they can’t spend together. This type of gift would be resented by its native speaker, this isn’t someone that speaks love. No, as a language of love, gifts is very different. One story, that helped me understand it and that I use every time I talk about it, is that of a father and son. They are hiking together, spending time (time that, for a person that speaks quality time as their preferred language, would be highly valuable). But while they’re walking, the young son bends down and picks up a rock. It’s a nice rock, round, soft to the touch, but there is nothing remarkable about it. It’s one of those gestures from small children, that might not mean much. But for this father, who years later still kept the normal, small rock safe, it’s more than that. It’s a tangible symbol of the love that his son felt for him, a symbol that represents the event, and more importantly that his son thought of him, and wanted to show love to him in a tangible way. To be valuable, a gift doesn’t have to cost money. It doesn’t have to be useful, nor pretty. What matters is the thought behind it. And it’s easy to speak, but also easily ruined. Getting your friend something when you’re out on a trip, showing them “I was out having all this fun, and I thought of you.” Running into the store on the way home and getting some flowers, to show that “I wanted to take some extra time and effort, to give you something that symbolizes how much I love you.” But it’s important, essential, to do this thoughtfully. Or we have the case of the parent that works too much, giving his children empty tokens to make up for their absence.

Words of appreciation

This is the language, where the image of Chinese and Latin finally gets real. It’s the language of showing someone, saying to someone that you love them, through affirming their actions, thoughts, or person. It’s a language that almost everyone understands, but a few people value beyond measure. A well times, genuine, affirming compliment is among the best things that could happen in a day. To speak this language, there are no excuses, except possibly I’d you’re mute, but even then it can be done in writing. A specific, affirming compliment about them. Their looks, thoughts, personality, ideas, achievements, it’s all depending on the person. It can through a post-it, or of course, in person. But it’s also the language that is easiest to speak over a distance. A quick phone call, a text, or a letter, filled with affirming words, is a perfect way to make up for the lack of closeness. (Be authentic, specific and personal. A general, fake compliment can come from anyone.)

Physical touch

This covers both more and less than people tends to think. It is less, because when it terms if relationships, we tend to connect touch to sex. Which this language is not about. But it’s also more, as it can be about as simple things as a pat in the back, lightly touching their shoulder while passing by, or sitting close to each other while watching a movie. It is however, even if it’s both more or less than we tend to think when we hear the name, a fairly straightforward language, and something we often grow up with as an essential part of a close relationships. I’ve already given some examples of how to apply this, but it can be done through touching their shoulder, lean against them as you’re doing something, hug them, anything where you touch them (in a loving way, of course).

While the five languages are straight forward and simple, this isn’t reality. We all have different dialects of each language, having it express itself in slightly different ways. But knowing these five ones, we have tools to better understand the language of people around us, and how to speak love to them.

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