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Dh and MIl speaking language in front of me in my own home

post #1 of 56
Thread Starter 
Sorry I just have to vent. But first of all I want to say I really love my MIL. She came to help us out while Im in nursing school this summer, to avoid the kids being put in full time day care. She cooks, cleans, and stays out of discipline and other issues. She is really a wonderful person.

However . .. she and my husband speak Tamil (their language) 90% of the time. My husband chose not to teach Tamil to the kids so they don't understand the language. I asked him to teach me some basics but he said it's too hard, and besides we live in the US so there's no need. I really would have liked for them to learn the language and I even bought language books, but it just didn't happen on his part. I have accepted that, although I'm sad about it.

His whole family is very very fluent in English and a lot of their conversations have English words mixed in here and there when the English word works better, but most of the conversation is in Tamil. So if I want to be part of the conversation sometimes I will ask, "What's so funny" with a smile, and my MIL will give a very basic idea and then to back to Tamil! And my dh just continues in Tamil also.

So, for over a month now I find myself sitting in my own kitchen or livingroom with two people who are having a great conversation-- sometimes they laugh really hard, sometimes it's serious. I understand about every 10th word, including my name sometimes!!

I have asked my husband privately over and over to please speak English in front of me. Even if I'm not part of the conversation, it's within my range of hearing and I might want to be part of it. If he wants to speak to her privately, go to her room or something. It lasts about 5 minutes and they are back speaking Tamil in front of me again. It's really super annoying and I feel lonely in my own house. Husband says he just forgets, but I don't think he's trying too awful hard.

Any ideas on how to address this further or to cope with it for another month?
post #2 of 56
Can you talk to your MIL about it?
post #3 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoppyMama View Post
Can you talk to your MIL about it?
I have, but she also forgets. And I feel much more comfortable speaking to my dh about it. There is still that MIL formality that exists between MIL and I.
post #4 of 56
It sounds like constant, in the moment, reminders is the only thing to do. Maybe if they're interrupted enough they'll remember. Sorry, that would be really frustrating.
post #5 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PoppyMama View Post
It sounds like constant, in the moment, reminders is the only thing to do. Maybe if they're interrupted enough they'll remember. Sorry, that would be really frustrating.
Thanks for listening-- I really needed to vent about this.

I just need to remind myself that she's really helping us out, she's probably homesick, and missing her son between visits. But still . . I feel like a piece of furniture.
post #6 of 56
I think it's a bit thoughtless though unintentionally so. I can relate to what you're saying, but I'm in the role of your DH though. My spouse can't speak the other language that I can speak with my parents. All of us can speak English very well, but for some reason my parents in the past would talk to me in the second language with a mix of English thrown in. It made my DH feel really left out even though we weren't talking about him at all. Once we were made aware of the way we were behaving, we stopped having conversations in anything other than English if Dh was present. Sometimes I catch my mom lapsing and I'm quick to point out in English that she needs to keep the conversation going in English.

I think you just have to intrude into their conversations often enough that they get the picture. "Oh..what's so funny?" "I don't understand what you're talking about. Can you tell me about it?" and things like that. Just keep doing it..the squeaky wheel gets the grease, right?
post #7 of 56
Thread Starter 
I guess what makes me upset is when I do gently insert myself into the conversation, I get something like, "I was just telling my mom about when I was in school and played a joke on my friend." and then they go back to Tamil and I never hear the joke or what happened. And this is with me in the same room, at the same dinner table. No sincere effort is made to include me.

They can speak Tamil all they want in private but it's just rude when there's someone who is in the same room and can't understand the conversation. I am not sure I can change this situation. I probably should work on just having more patience.
post #8 of 56
I have to say this is something that has not ever really bothered me. I understand the urge to speak the language of your childhood with your parents. My DH speaks to all his family members in their language. I speak to my dad and many other relatives in our language. DH and I speak English to each other.

I figure if I want to be part of their conversation it's on me to learn their language. If DH wants to be part of our conversation it's on him to learn our language. It's not on any of us to have to change patterns of interacting with our families that have been in place for decades.

I actually find it fun to attend to conversations in a language I know little of (but am trying to learn). It is a really interesting and engaging exercise. I consider all the DH-language conversations to be learning opportunities.
post #9 of 56
Would you be comfortable asking your MIL to engage you and your DC in learning Tamil? I think having your MIL staying there is an excellent opportunity for your DC to start soaking up the language and hopefully you will all be able to continue it with more ease after she has returned home.
post #10 of 56
Thread Starter 
Here's the deal-- if it was just this issue it would not be so bad. In the past I embraced Tamil and tried to learn it but it's a HARD language and there are no classes locally. The children's books allowed me to phonetically read the language, but I can't understand what I'm reading. Grammar is hard and there is a proper way to talk (that very few use) and an informal way, and a way in between.

From the time my kids were babies (even before they were born) dh had wanted to teach them his language and I thought that was great. Dd1's first words were in Tamil because I learned them from picture books and taught her. But he never spoke Tamil to her. He grew up bilingual himself and found it easier to speak English to her. Repeated reminders led to nothing. He was just no longer interested, said we are in America now so what's the point? Dd2 was then born and she was very very sick for years, and we just focused on getting her better.

So here we are, the kids don't know Tamil at all because it was not kept up, and dh and his mom are talking non-stop in Tamil for a month. It's not just me that's bothered.

I get that dh misses his mom and they talk more easily in Tamil. He comes home from work and they immediately talk, and this continues with the two of them together non-stop until bedtime. They go for an evening walk and all that. Same with weekends when he's home all day. I know that this is a special time for them and I'm happy for them both. It's just getting really old that I can't be a part of their conversations at all, and neither can the kids.

MIL is also not that interested in speaking Tamil to the kids. Even in India on our long, long visits, I asked that they all try to speak Tamil to them, but they always spoke English to them and Tamil to each other. Most people in India do speak English except for the rural people or very old people.

At this point, I'm wondering if it's worth it to try to teach us all Tamil (since dh doesn't seem to care), or if I should just have them learn Spanish or something practical instead, as their foreign language.

I guess this issue is bigger than just them talking in another language all the time.
post #11 of 56
I'm negative nancy coming onto this thread to say WTH?

He refused to share it with you and the kids, says "You're in America now" AND you have let him know about your feelings several times?

This isn't innocent at all!

I'd consider saying, "Hey! You're in America now!" every time he starts it. LOL

That would really make me mad...not the language part, the disrespect part....
post #12 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post
Sorry I just have to vent. But first of all I want to say I really love my MIL. She came to help us out while Im in nursing school this summer, to avoid the kids being put in full time day care. She cooks, cleans, and stays out of discipline and other issues. She is really a wonderful person.

However . .. she and my husband speak Tamil (their language) 90% of the time. My husband chose not to teach Tamil to the kids so they don't understand the language. I asked him to teach me some basics but he said it's too hard, and besides we live in the US so there's no need. I really would have liked for them to learn the language and I even bought language books, but it just didn't happen on his part. I have accepted that, although I'm sad about it.

His whole family is very very fluent in English and a lot of their conversations have English words mixed in here and there when the English word works better, but most of the conversation is in Tamil. So if I want to be part of the conversation sometimes I will ask, "What's so funny" with a smile, and my MIL will give a very basic idea and then to back to Tamil! And my dh just continues in Tamil also.

So, for over a month now I find myself sitting in my own kitchen or livingroom with two people who are having a great conversation-- sometimes they laugh really hard, sometimes it's serious. I understand about every 10th word, including my name sometimes!!

I have asked my husband privately over and over to please speak English in front of me. Even if I'm not part of the conversation, it's within my range of hearing and I might want to be part of it. If he wants to speak to her privately, go to her room or something. It lasts about 5 minutes and they are back speaking Tamil in front of me again. It's really super annoying and I feel lonely in my own house. Husband says he just forgets, but I don't think he's trying too awful hard.

Any ideas on how to address this further or to cope with it for another month?

This is exactly HOW a deaf child feels with a hearing family. They often feel rejected, not important or a big obligation to their family. I'm so thankful that I have deaf parents.

I hate to say, but don't expect them to change or even try to change.
post #13 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by VroomieMama View Post
This is exactly HOW a deaf child feels with a hearing family. They often feel rejected, not important or a big obligation to their family. I'm so thankful that I have deaf parents.

I hate to say, but don't expect them to change or even try to change.
Wow that's a great perspective! Thank you!
post #14 of 56
That is really too bad both of them don't want to share the language or the jokes. As far as teaching the kids a new language, it sounds like you may have to move on from Tamil. Maybe you can learn French with your children and speak to them in French exclusively, turn the wheel in your direction.

ETA: the deaf child feeling is a great thing to say to your family. No one should be left out when they ask to be included.
post #15 of 56
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by claddaghmom View Post
I'm negative nancy coming onto this thread to say WTH?

He refused to share it with you and the kids, says "You're in America now" AND you have let him know about your feelings several times?

This isn't innocent at all!

I'd consider saying, "Hey! You're in America now!" every time he starts it. LOL

That would really make me mad...not the language part, the disrespect part....

post #16 of 56
That is really too bad both of them don't want to share the language or the jokes. As far as teaching the kids a new language, it sounds like you may have to move on from Tamil. Maybe you can learn French with your children and speak to them in French exclusively, turn the wheel in your direction.

That's a good suggestion. I have seen some of my friends turning the table against their family by just completely signing and laughing. Their family would say, "Huh, what's so funny." and my friend would say, "Oh, its not important" or "I'll tell you later." or just basically summarize what we talked about.

ETA: the deaf child feeling is a great thing to say to your family. No one should be left out when they ask to be included.

Yeah.
post #17 of 56
You've already told them both and they keep "forgetting". If they truly are willing to speak English but keep slipping back into the other language I'd be a bit passive aggressive in a friendlier way. Like insert myself into the conversation everytime they start to speak it and say something totally random. "Wow, I really like broccoli too. Think we should have some for dinner?" Like REALLY random, lol. I'd think they would eventually get tired of explaining what they were talking about each time and it might sink in and remember to make the extra effort. I'd have fun with it until then.

If they say they have no issues speaking English but don't intend to change and using the forgetting as an excuse, then its a completely different issue and I don't know how I'd handle it.

Either way it sounds frustrating! I'm sorry mama. And yes, if you want your children to know another language I'd just pick one that is easier to learn and you and th ekids work on it together. Regardless of what your DH and MIL speak or if they decide to participate, it could be fun for you and the kids at least.
post #18 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post
At this point, I'm wondering if it's worth it to try to teach us all Tamil (since dh doesn't seem to care), or if I should just have them learn Spanish or something practical instead, as their foreign language.

I guess this issue is bigger than just them talking in another language all the time.
I think you've answered your own question here with this post. Obviously Tamil is very important to your DH and MIL. I *think* part of the problem is that he might not be used to speaking to non-native speakers and probably wasn't patient enough with you in the beginning for you to stick with it? Especially since it's not a common language and you can't take night courses.

I can relate to some extent. DH grew up in a country where he never met a non-native speaker until he was in college! And even then the non-native speaking professors had been living there for years and years. So when I was in my beginning stages of learning his language the burden was very much on me. I was able to take 2 night classes, but honestly, the vast majority I learned just from exposure and sitting down and memorizing words, listening to CDs, and DVDs etc. I did have a step up because I was already fluent in another language before meeting him so I knew the process of learning a language but I really think the major reason I learned it was due to my stubbornness more than anything else. That being said, none DH's family speak English and we've been able to build some strong bonds due to the fact that I speak their language so it was well worth it. He does have some friends that do speak English but I'd miss out on so much if they were forced to speak English.

When I learned German (my first second language ), I went abroad and had had just a few classes and a HUGE accent. Everybody kept trying to speak with me in English the second that they heard my accent. I was just pretty blunt with them and said that I paid a lot of money to go abroad specifically to learn the language and could they please speak with me in German. I did have one guy get VERY upset with me but he later apologized. Sometimes I would have to remind people multiple times but eventually I did learn the language and now many people don't even recognize my accent.

I say this all to tell you that learning a second language is very hard. But it sounds like it would be really beneficial for you to learn it but it won't be easy and you'd have to be pretty strict with his family members about speaking it with you (constantly reminding them etc.). However, I've noticed once you get over the initial barrier of knowing nothing people tend to enjoy speaking with you more, especially since many of your funny phrases are pretty entertaining for them. It takes a lot of patience and you have to be willing to embarrass yourself a bit.

FWIW, I've seen a lot of relationships of people with different nationalities. The ones that seemed to do the best have learned each other's languages.
post #19 of 56
Quote:
Originally Posted by USAmma View Post
Wow that's a great perspective! Thank you!
I hope things work out for you somehow.
post #20 of 56
Quote:
I get that dh misses his mom and they talk more easily in Tamil. He comes home from work and they immediately talk, and this continues with the two of them together non-stop until bedtime. They go for an evening walk and all that. Same with weekends when he's home all day. I know that this is a special time for them and I'm happy for them both. It's just getting really old that I can't be a part of their conversations at all, and neither can the kids.
I say this as gently as possible - it's not all about you. Your MIL loves her son just like you love your children. It's completely understandable that she wants to engage him in their mother tongue. If they wanted to include you in their conversations they would. Let them enjoy each other just as I am sure you'll want to enjoy your grown children one day sans their spouses.
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