Post # 1
I have a difficult situation. All my in-laws are Filipino, and have been in the US for about 30+ years. All speak excellent English, but (understandably) tend to revert to their native language at Filipino social events. This usually results in me being seated among a group of women who mostly ignore me and converse in a language I cannot understand, which is awkward but reasonable. I usually just sit there and smile quietly. Recently though I had a very uncomfortable experience.
I attended a cousin’s baby shower and was seated at a table of Filipino aunts and my MIL. All were speaking Tagalog, but they were pointing at me right in front of me and I KNEW they were talking about me. I was uncomfortable but tried to put it out of my mind. But then my MIL leaned over and said to me, loudly, “They are all aksing why you don’t call me ‘Mom’ because they say you are being rude.” I turned beet red and was completely mortified. Not only were they talking about me, they were saying bad things about me to my MIL!
I want to avoid a recurence of this in the future, where they are all saying bad things about me in another language right in front of me. I would much prefer if they spoke English so that I could understand. They are generally nice people (they are just really blunt sometimes) and I don’t want to cause any trouble with them. I am thinking that next time I might say something like, “I would love to be part of your conversation but I can’t understand what you’re saying in Tagalog.” Do you think this is rude or offensive if I say something like this? Is there something else I can do? Should I just pretend everything is ok?
EDIT: Just wanted to add that my husband doesn’t speak Tagalog either. His parents never taught him one word. They do this same thing to him as well (talk about him in front of him) but he doesn’t seem to mind much.
Post # 3
And I don’t think it’s rude at all, particularly not the way you phrased it. Have you spoken about this with your husband? It may be that the request would have more impact coming from him than from you.
Post # 4
I don’t think it’s out of line at all for you to ask them to speak in English around you. It seems like they are doing it knowingly since they are talking ABOUT you and your MIL made a point of telling you that. However, I also think they would take it as a really nice gesture if you made an effort to learn some of the basics of their language so you can begin to particpate. I bet your husband would love to help teach you and then you are making an effort to be more involved instead of only asking them to accommodate you.
Post # 5
I don’t think it is rude at all to ask them to speak English…I think that them not speaking in English around you when they know it, is rude.
I think I would do a combo of asking them to speak English and trying to learn Tagalog that way when they do say something bad about you in that language you can have a come back and be like “BAM!” and catch them out of left field.
Post # 6
@FreeRangeMom: being asian, i can see your hesistance in saying anything to your in-laws/extended family. they take any sort of “feedback” no matter how polite as rude. especially from anyone younger. instead of directly saying something, id approach them and try to spark conversation first. and also relay the message via your DH to his family.
good luck and i promise, they dont mean anything by it — even when they make their judgmental comments such as the one you mentioned above — asian women just tend to blunt with their words without thinking of what their words imply! they usually dont think twice about it afterwards.
Post # 7
i don’t think it’s rude at all to request that they speak english, especially in the very polite way that you phrased it above. clearly they’re the rude ones here. since you have been married for a couple years already, i think you should be able to make the request and not your husband…it seems more premeditated if you have your husband speak to his family, while if you say it at a time when they are all speaking tagalog, it comes off more as “i’d really love to join your conversation right now” rather then “you always do this and make me uncomfortable”
Post # 8
It may come off as snobby if you say it to them. Usually I am all for telling people yourself, but maybe it will have less of a “sting” if he says something like “Wife gets a little bummed when she can’t participate in conversations with you all when you revert back to Tagalog. Can you try and remember to speak English around her.” Or something like that. It might also be cool if she could teach you some Tagalog!
Post # 9
When I got married in India last year (hubby is Indian), his family spoke in English about half the time around me. So half the time I had no clue what was going on. (Can’t blame them since they don’t use English much at all in their daily lives and I hadn’t spent time learning Hindi to make an effort to speak their language). Anyway, I was uncomfortable because there were times when they would talk about me in Hindi while looking at me. Now, they were saying nice things (I think!!?!!!!) because they were smiling and such, but it still made me feel strange, not knowing what they were saying about me!
I need to really get going on this learning Hindi, so as to avoid this in the future. I think you should try to learn some Tagalog, but I also don’t think that’s right that they were speaking negatively in front of you, KNOWING you don’t know the language. I would definately tell your husband and see if HE can say something. I agree that it will have more impact coming from him. Or, next time (hopefully there isn’t a next time!), you can say on the spot, “I’d appreciate you speaking in English, as I can’t understand you” or something like that…just out of curiousity, do you have a good relationship with your MIL? I think that’s rude that she said that to you.
Sorry about all this! I totally get the cultural and language differences thing. 🙂
Post # 10
Or maybe you could try to learn Tagalog?
I agree with Missfireslayer – it’d probably be better coming from your husband.
Post # 11
I agree that it might be best for you to learn Tagalog. Even though they speak English, they are probably most comfortable speaking their native language. I’m guessing that they probably enjoy having the freedom to do that in family situations. Why should they change that because of you? Perhaps you could be the one to make the effort to speak their language.
Post # 12
I’m Asian and FI doesnt speak my family native language either. We’ve had this conversation so many times. He would really like it if i spoke English to my family (those that understand it at least), but its VERY difficult to change your behavior. The automatic instinct is to speak the native language, and its almost weird to speak english to people you never speak English to. Learning a new language is by no means easy either, and could take years to become converstaional. Also, Asians are just plain blunt… english your otherwise, they will say what’s on their mind, so don’t take it too personally. It may have been rude to talk about you with you sitting right there, but what they said would have been said no matter what. Another thing is that they may not even think to include you in the conversation if they are just talking about stuff that they think doesnt really have to do with you (even if its about you) cause it just their chatty gossip time. Sorry I dont have much advice on what to do, but just other ways of looking at the situation since I’m on the reverse end of it.
Post # 13
My FI is american and I’m asian, so I kind of understand what you’re going through. Fortunately I am fluent so I help translate (I sometimes forget that I’m not speaking English – it’s 2nd nature!) I would ask his parents to speak in English when they’re around you. If they continue to speak in Tagalog, ask questions to join in. Tell them that you’re interested in the conversation when they switch to Tagalog. (Be nice, obv! 🙂 ) They’re going to forget and go back, but remind them that you want to be a part of the family too.
My FI and I have been together for over 5yrs, and he’s already picking up on the language just by knowing our gestures, etc. 🙂 It may be helpful to learn a few phrases (there are a few free websites online that can help w/ pronunciation) to show that you are interested in their culture. PLUS! If you know they’re talking (bad) about you, then you can always respond with some phrase that you learned (then they’ll shut up quick!) Ha! 🙂 Good luck!!
Post # 14
I know exactly what you mean! My FI is first generation Chinese. His parents are fluent in English and speak it around me, but frequently revert back to Cantonese when it is a “family discussion”. They also revert to Cantonese around other Cantonese speakers. I’ve made if very well known to my FI that the expectation is that he either talk to me (I once spent a 4 hour lunch not talking to anyone because FI was being monopolized by another family member about work and everyone else was speaking cantonese, I can see 1-2 hours, but FOUR!!! Unacceptable) or translate. I don’t request the parents change because as @missjyc: said, it is rude to “suggest” behavior changes (in talking about the rehearsal dinner and how many people to invite, I advised the number of out of town guests my family would invite and my head was bitten off at the assumption I could invite anyone).
Post # 15
I have to preface this by saying I am not Filipino, however my best friend for years is. From my experience with her family, and from watching how her family interacts with her, I think you are being a bit overly sensitive re: the baby shower event. I don’t think they were trying to be mean, or rude, but were just, as you said, very blunt. I have been asked several times, why I’m not married yet, and don’t I think I’m getting pretty old. I have been told that it was really a bad idea to be living with my boyfriend, because clearly he will never marry me now. My BF has been at family events with me there when people pat her stomach and say, you should have babies soon, because you are already pretty old (she is 30) and it might be too late. And so on. No one has ever considered that they were being rude, just honest.
You can ask the parents to speak English to you and around you, but it’s unfair to think that they will speak to the rest of their family in English when you are there, and to expect them to change how they interact. This is their time to speak Tagalog and talk to each other comfortably.
I DO think you could mention to FMIL that you want to be a part of the family more, and it’s hard for you at family gatherings when no one speaks English. Ask her to help translate or include you more in the conversation. If she is trying to include you more, that will steer the conversation to English, or a least a better mix so you can jump in some.
Post # 16
I think you can request they speak in english so you can join them by asking what they’re talking about, etc, but i think if you try to learn a few phrases in tagalog–hello, goodbye, thank you–it’ll go a long way.
In a large family function, though, asking everyone to speak english probably isn’t going to happen. That’s just not how it works. But I think if you try a little, they’ll try a little more.