(Closed) MIL question. Not meant to be culturally insensitive. Input or enlightenment?

posted 7 years ago in Family
Post # 3
3683 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: December 2011

My mom moved here from another country and learned to speak English fluently.  I don’t think you should bend over backwards to please a woman who has made no effort to learn the language of the country she lives in.

Post # 4
10452 posts
Sugar Beekeeper
  • Wedding: February 2014

Well, so she understands English? If you keep talking to her in English she can either respond or not I guess. I’m with you that if she lives in the country she really should know the language, I can’t imagine it’s easy for her to get by without that! 

Post # 5
4350 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: August 2013

The United States doesn’t have an official language. However, I do think it is a little rediculous (and kind of impressive) that she has lived here for 40 years and doesn’t speak English. I’m also super curious what state they live in since some have a lot more spanish speaking residents than others.

Post # 6
6015 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: March 2012

Yeah you’re not crazy.  I could understand if she JUST moved here but it’s been 40 years.  Maybe you could point that out to people, the more we speak English around her it will actually help the woman get a better handle on the language.

Post # 8
64 posts
Worker bee
  • Wedding: September 2012

No, you’re definitely not a jerk but I would suggest that you learn the basics for yourself and your future kids if you decide to have any. 

I grew up in a Mexican American family and my parents always made an effort but many of their friends didn’t. I understand your frustration.


Post # 9
619 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: January 2015

Forty years is enough time to learn not just English, but several languages.

Post # 10
7899 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: March 2012 - Pelican Grand Beach Resort

Personally, I think whether she should have learned English better by now is irrelevent to handling your situation. The fact is that she hasn’t, and that’s the reality you have to deal with. Since she is now, I’m assuming, just past middle-aged, it’ll be much easier for you to acquire a second language to fluency than for her to and much more useful as well. Plus, I’d imagine her culture emphasizes due deference to one’s elders, so in that respect, you are appreciating her culture by taking on the challenge yourself instead of asking her to. It’s all fine and dandy for us to sit here and claim that your Mother-In-Law should know English, but that doesn’t solve your problem.

Post # 12
1796 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: August 2011

@Leemarie:  There are a few relevant questions here. Do you want to/have time to learn Spanish? What does your Fiance say about all this? How important is MIL’s approval to you and DH?

If you don’t really want to learn the language and you don’t care too much about her approval, then don’t worry about it and just do your best to communicate with Mother-In-Law and have other family members translate for you.

Post # 14
628 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: July 2013

@Leemarie:  I don’t think you’re being insensitive. I do however agree that whether she has learned english or not isn’t the point right now. I think the point is that people want you to have a relationship with your Mother-In-Law and they are assuming that means you must learn fluent Spanish…

But…what if the two of you spent time teaching each other your respective languages? Let her show you spanish and you show her english? This has worked for me a lot when building relationships with people who speak a different language 🙂

Post # 15
1306 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: August 2012

I wouldn’t be too upset that she doesn’t know English. I also wouldn’t be too concerned about learning it yourself. If you visit, just have your SO translate for you. Or maybe you and Mother-In-Law can try to teach eachother some words etc.

Post # 16
7899 posts
Bumble Beekeeper
  • Wedding: March 2012 - Pelican Grand Beach Resort

@Leemarie:  Sure, but to add some perspective, as she ages, even if she had learned or does now learn English, it will fade since she didn’t get that knowledge in as a child or young adult. My great-grandparents came from Spain in their 20s and learned English (actually, my great-grandmother learned Arabic first from the ladies at the factory she worked at and thought it was English until my great-grandfather asked her what the heck she was speaking… but she learned English right after that). By the time I was born and they were in their late 80s, they were struggling with English even though they had spoken it for probably 50 or 55 years. By the time I was in elementary school, their English was completely lost except for the most basic conversational units (hellos, good-byes, I love yous, etc.). My great-grandmother especially could really only keep command of her Spanish. So my point is that as your Mother-In-Law ages, she’ll fall back more and more on Spanish and you will probably want to be able to communicate with her and want your children to be able to as well… and that will mean learning Spanish.

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