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

posted 7 years ago in Family
Post # 47
1251 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: March 2009

My uncle moved to the US from Guatemala, and became a citizen, and learned the language. He speaks english at all family gatherings, because he lives here now and English is more commonly spoken in most places.

I don’t think you should have to learn that language just to speak to her, because she didn’t learn English. (However, learning fluent Spanish is a good thing for personal/professional use!). If you want to learn Spanish on your own time, to help you become bilingual, that’s fine, but I wouldn’t do it for ‘pressure’ to speak the language your Mother-In-Law speaks…since she’s been here 40 years.

Post # 48
119 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: July 2014

It is very odd and I would think it would be super inconvenient to live in a country for 40 years and never have learned the language. If I were in that situation I’d be sorta annoyed too but would learn the language than encourage her to lean English, maybe help teach her. She will need to learn to communicate with your future children and it would be cool to raise your kids to be bilingual. Plus if all else fails you’d be super marketable itht our career for beig bilingual. 


Post # 49
120 posts
Blushing bee
  • Wedding: September 2011

@Leemarie:  I totally understand where you are coming from. My DH’s mothertongue is Arabic and his whole family naturally tends to lapse into it when together. MIL’s English is excellent for someone who learned it when she was in her late thirties. 

I felt pressured by his family to learn Arabic even when we were dating. There were periods when it caused tremendous stress for me and on our relationship. Both Darling Husband and I had to learn that language is an intrinsic part of culture and presents a barrier that cannot be scaled easily. I started to almost resent the language, because for me it represented conflict, an unhealthy way to leverage control (by MIL), and isolation. Darling Husband and I both wish now that we had taken a different approach early on, because I was defensive and he was frustrated and it pretty much killed all motivation to learn it. Darling Husband and I worked it out, obviously. 

When we got pregnant, Mother-In-Law was constantly yammering about how they would only speak Arabic to the baby, that the baby HAD to learn it as its first language, and how she would teach the baby to say swear words to me, and I wouldn’t know what it was saying, etc, etc. By the, I’d learned a few things about her and their family culture in general, so I smiled and ignored it. I did have some stress pangs about it, though! Turns out, she had cut us out by the time the baby  was born (another story!) so it came to nothing. Darling Husband sings to our baby in Arabic, but he admits it would be VERY difficult to raise our baby bilingual since we only speak English in our home. Before the baby came, I think he thought he would try, but he actually rarely speaks to her in Arabic and doesn’t care anymore. 

Wow, this is long! All this to say is that a lot of our issues with two languages stems from personality and culture issues. Hopefully your Mother-In-Law is less controlling than mine, but I think a lot of it stems from fear and helplessness. There are also generational factors to consider; its easier for our DH’s generation to embrace a new language than for their parent’s. You cannot separate language and culture. 

All that being said, I think its a little ridiculous that your Mother-In-Law or anyone thinks its perfectly normal for you to commit to learning Spanish. Um, you don’t just “learn a language.” It is a LOT of hard work and dedication to become fluent in a new language. Its not like asking someone to visit more, help out the ILs, or whatever. I think you are perfectly within courtesy and reasonable expectations to stay with limited Spanish. As a PP said, in some relationships, its healthier to have LESS communication. 

Apologies for the novel!

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