- 9 years ago
- Wedding: August 2013
Really long post!
(This is kind of a spinoff on the language tangent in @JaneDomani’s Mother-In-Law discussion here: http://boards.weddingbee.com/topic/does-is-get-better-with-mil-after-marriage-or-kids 🙂
I think it’s important that if you’re marrying someone with a different mother tongue, or whose family primarily speaks another language, you learn their language, even if they’re fluent in yours. Besides being good manners, I think it’s important for children to be able to fully participate with their extended family.
I’m first generation American on my dad’s side. He was first generation in a different country. His parents, my grandparents, spoke the language of their homeland at home and my father grew up speaking that language. When my father married my mother, she never learned his language and neither did us kids–for my father to use it with us he would have had to exclude my mother. The result is we were never able to have a close relationship with my paternal grandmother because communication was so difficult–it was okay when we visited and could include body language and gestures, but her accent was very thick and nearly unintelligible to us as children.
I don’t want to come across like I’m attacking Jane’s decision not to learn Dutch–I understand it’s got a big, ugly emotional component because Mr. Jane’s mom uses it as a weapon to exclude her from the family, I just wanted to point out that by leaving it to her husband to teach the kids Dutch and speak it with them regularly, she’s effectively creating a situation where he will have to choose between speaking Dutch with his children and excluding her from their conversations, the same thing that his mother does to her. Fluency requires regular use and ideally he should speak it with his kids all the time, especially after they start school, as they’ll have plenty of practice in the local language outside the home. (Poor Jane, I’m sorry to use you as an example. Just that your discussion made me think of this.) And really, all this is relevant to Part II.
Part the Second!!! Excluding people by not talking their language!!!
I’m fortunate in that the future Mr. Elvis’s family all speak English. Some are more fluent than others, but we can all get by socially. That doesn’t mean they only speak English to me or in front of me; his mom and sister mostly speak their language to me and around me, not to deliberately exclude me, but to help me practice. My vocabulary is still poor and I have a hard time understanding if people talk fast and I have a thick accent. I know I say things wrong all the time. (They never laugh at me, but Mr. Elvis does.) The most important phrases in my repertoire are “Can you repeat that?” “What does ______ mean?” and “How do you say ____?”
There is this thing that happens, Jane has commented on it, where people that are fluent in more than one language can switch at the drop of a hat–just a couple words or a phrase can trigger a language change. I’ve seen it happen a lot at our parties, and it’s kind of fun to watch, but I also try to be conscious of steering the language back to one that everyone present can use if we have guests that speak only one or the other. (Or dividing time if we have guests that have no common language, which sometimes happens at our house–immigrants married to immigrants. 🙂
So here’s the question!
How do you manage to make sure everyone is included in the conversation in your multilingual family? Do you have people in your family that deliberately exclude your foreign partner using language? Does your partner’s family do it to you?
I’m just curious how other people manage this situation. 🙂