(Closed) Boyfriend's family speaks another language and I feel excluded?

posted 5 years ago in Intercultural
Post # 2
Member
928 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2017

Aww I’m sorry, this sucks. My ex’s family only ever spoke Hindi in front of me and my FI’s family is Malay. They almost always speak in English, so when they don’t you KNOW it’s cuz they don’t want you to understand. It’s annoying sometimes but because it’s so rare theres no point in saying anything. I would maybe broach the topic with your boyfriend. If he actively speaks English with his family maybe they’ll follow suit. 

Post # 3
Member
1113 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: October 2012

View original reply
Mlim:  My husband’s family is super French. His grandparents hardly speak any English so I usually end up feeling like an outsider like yourself. We’re Canadian, so I do know some French, but they’re not very understanding to the fact that I’m not fluent, and they speak over each other…

I honestly stopped paying attention and kind of keep to myself, because it gives me a bad headache to try to keep up and decipher. Also, one of his family members once said, “It doesn’t matter if she understands because these conversations usually don’t concern her anyways’ which I thought was super rude, because at a family gathering why would you have a public conversation that excludes one person (who, apparently according to my Mother-In-Law ‘doesn’t feel like family because she does it to herself… Right). 

my parents are from India. English isn’t there first language either, but maybe because they came here and had to live and work here they cared to really learn English. They both learned English in India and then took English courses upon coming to Canada. But lets be honest, they’d be much more comfortable speaking in Hindi, and they don’t in front of my husband. Even my parents friends will speak English around my husband. 

I think it’s more considerate not to purposefully alienate someone and know that even if they’re trying to learn your language, maybe you could do the same a bit also. I only see DH’s family once or twice a year so after this many years I’m not disillusioned into thinking it will ever change. But also I just need so suffer through one week here and there.

Post # 4
Member
7554 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

Perhaps if you try learning some Khmer and make a good faith effort, it will set a good example for them to try to be more conscious of including you by speaking English.

Post # 5
Member
638 posts
Busy bee

I’m Chinese, Fiance is Vietnamese. He’s actually picked up quite a lot of Chinese being around my family and going to China with me twice. He can understand some but not speak. On the other hand, I constantly go, what does that mean?! In his family, there is an aunt who is Laos, she learned Vietnamese and is completely fluent now. I also know his mom learned Chinese because Fi’s father and grandma speaks Chinese. I know how lonely it can feel but older folks probably isn’t as fluent in english as their native language. Just bug your S/O to translate and speak to them in English xD

Post # 6
Member
3212 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

View original reply
Horseradish:  It sounds like she is. But I also think this is a super huge sign of disrespect and the OP’s partner needs to step up and ask these other family members to mind their manners. 

Post # 7
Member
2738 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: County courthouse

My husband an I are both Hispanic/Mexican american. He speaks spanish and I dont. Out of respect for me and our children, neither of our families speak full spanish yes, a mix of English and Spanish…but I can usually understand it and if I don’t I ask my husband. You either need to learn the language or talk to his family and tell them how you feel. I am going to have to learn Spanish because it’s really annoying to not know what is being said and I live in an area where spanish is spoken more than english.

Post # 8
Member
1260 posts
Bumble bee

View original reply
Mlim: This reminds me of my husband’s family. They don’t speak english and I don’t speak their native language. Although we do have an overlapping language, we all learned it as adults, so aren’t as comfortable as in our native tongues.

They make an effort to speak the overlapping language around me, but frequently lapse into their native language, sometimes for a sentence, and sometimes for 10 minutes. If we’re at dinner or just with DH and his parents, he’ll translate enough that I at least understand the gist of the conversation and can contribute. When relatives from their home country visit, they ALL speak that language 100%, so I’ve also had some boring/difficult dinners. It comes with the territory.

My thoughts are that you should start picking up a bit of khmer. I’ve tried to pick up DH’s fam’s native language and frequently ask them how to say or pronounce something. It can be very, very basic (they were thrilled when I remembered the word for strawberry, for example). It wasn’t until I started picking up their language that they started trying to pick up some english, too. Now conversations are a big mix, and I know they appreciate my efforts.

How do I deal with the periods where I understand nothing? If my husband is there, he’ll translate. If it’s just me and one of his relatives, I’ll use a translating app, keep things very basic, and try to do something like sightseeing or sharing photos in order to compensate. If it’s a group setting and everyone’s having a conversation in their native language, I occassionally attempt to engage and otherwise just enjoy that I have time to let my thoughts wander.

Good luck. For me, picking up bits of their language was the key to changing the dynamic, so that’s where I recommend you begin.

Post # 9
Member
1988 posts
Buzzing bee

View original reply
Mlim:  I am Puerto Rican. My first language is Spanish and my second language is English. My husband is German. His first language is German and second English. We communicate in English because it’s the only way to understand each other lol. 

That being said, although both families speak English well enough that they can carry a conversation, usually both sides speak in their main language. It’s just natural and what comes easy. At least in our case we know it’s not an attempt to try to exclude someone. 

I personally feel that while I appreciate when they make an effort and go out of their way to carry the conversation in English so I can understand, it would be unfair to pretend the group of peopleto speak a foreign language just so I can understand all the time. So I figured I have two options. 

1. put in the effort to learn the language so I can understand them better.

2. Understand that I won’t understand most of the things and be ok with it. 

3. Bring a book, my phone or something to keep me entertained while they chat. In normal circumstances this could be considered rude. But I excuse myself and they understand and honestly, no one can expect you to sit there bored to death for hours while they speak. They want to speak in the la guage they know you don’t understand? Fine. But they can’t be offended by you doing something else while they chat. 

 

Post # 10
Member
1260 posts
Bumble bee

View original reply
babeba:  I understand your perspective, but it’s not necessarily that they’re being rude. They might understand english, but (assuming your native language is english) have you ever spoken with fellow english speakers in a second, third, or fourth language? It can be difficult and unnatural, and this is probably why the boyfriend’s family doesn’t switch exclusively to english around the OP.

The BF can and should help her translate when they participate in activities with his family, but she should understand that simultaneous translation is extremely difficult work, and keep her expectations realistic. She will have to accept that large gatherings and ceremonies will take place in the native language of this group. If she makes an effort to learn some khmer, she will have a better time.

Post # 11
Member
1294 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: June 2016

Rosetta Stone has shown proven results and has become more affordable. This sounds a lot like “We’re in America, speak English” (a common phrase here) when it really goes both ways. I think it’s super rude to demand someone speak your language (especially if you’re in their home) because you aren’t comfortable with theirs. If you try to learn it and show a vast improvement, I bet they’ll be more apt to speak in English because it shows you’re putting in the effort.

Honestly, I would have started learning the language when we started dating, out of an attempt to understand their culture.

Post # 13
Member
3212 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: September 2016

View original reply
mangosandcats:  Yes, I’m an English speaker from an English speaking country. But I also have first hand experience with this, from back when I was in a serious relationship with a man who didn’t speak English very well living in a non-English speaking country. Whenever I spent time with them, his family and friends were very kind in trying to use English around me and including me in group conversations. I spoke as much Spanish as I could, they spoke as much English as they could, and we included each other that way. Does every side conversation have to be in English? Of course not.  But the main conversation should either be in English or someone should be helping OP out.

At best, it’s rude to invite OP to something then not include her. At worst, it’s downright aggressive almost as though they are trying to ‘prove’ she doesn’t belong.

Post # 14
Member
1260 posts
Bumble bee

View original reply
babeba:  I can’t speak for the OP, but I didn’t pick up on any sort of rude or aggressive vibe. It sounds to me like they are welcoming her by including her in family events, but that there are certain larger gatherings (like the wedding she mentioned) that have always taken place in khmer, and that it would be unnatural and difficult for the entire family to switch to english now.

As far as in-law relationships go, I recommend assuming goodwill whenever possible, especially when many cultures and languages are involved! My husband and I, and both of our families, try our hardest to include everyone, and yet there are still times when someone (usually me!) sits through a dinner that’s mostly in a language they don’t understand. At least the food is good!

Post # 15
Member
670 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

I’ve always wondered about people with SO’s who speak a foreign language.  I wouldn’t want that situation.  At least you say that you feel excluded, and not that you think that they are talking about you – I speak a certain foreign language and I cannot stand when someone suspects that we must be talking about them just bc they don’t understand what we are saying.  I can’t tell you how many people say this, seriously.

The topic ‘Boyfriend's family speaks another language and I feel excluded?’ is closed to new replies.

Find Amazing Vendors