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#1 of 17 Old 04-24-2009, 05:48 AM - Thread Starter
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Hi, I am new to this forum... And I have a general question... I have been in a relationship for 4yrs now, with my bf who is mexican. At first his mom didn't like the idea of me I am white...but it seems she has come around to the idea finally lol. Ok so we have talked about marriage and what not... But I don't want to say I have a problem with his family because I think we get along fine. Sorry I apparantly like to ramble on... My question is I so don't understand/speak spanish, at first when they would speak to me in spanish I would think they were on a roll talking to everyone else that was there and they would quickly translate it to english... now 4yrs later they no longer seem to translate the conversation into english and are still talking to me in spanish only now they don't correct it. So am I just looking too much into it or are they actually being rude, if so how do I handle this??? I guess all of this came about because I took one of my bestfriends who is also white (we are both as pale as can be lol) to my bf, sis babyshower when everyone kept coming up to talk to us in spanish she asked if that always happened, I kinda shrugged it off but it definitely got me thinking and YES it so does! There was a 5min period when a lady wanted to take our pic in front of the presents we had brought we clearly were not understanding her but she was persistant about it we finally caught on. I do know for a fact that everyone does speak english, and I understand that they might feel more comfortable talking in spanish so that plays a part in me ignoring it and being ignored in general conversations.

Just looking for advice on more experienced multiracial couples... Thanks!
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#2 of 17 Old 04-24-2009, 07:58 AM
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Get yourself a good Spanish course.

I think for business purposes, it's convenient if everyone speaks the same langauge, and here that's English. But, this is family. If you intend to join this family and want them to accept you, it would be most helpful if you learned their language. And they would respect you more for it, I think.

I don't know my dh's language, but I am going to be learning along with my children when we start that with them. Dh and his brothers know English and were able to translate for conversations, but it would be unfair to expect that to do that the whole time in a family setting. We really cannot expect our inlaws to conform our culture when they are in their own homes or home-culture settings.
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#3 of 17 Old 04-24-2009, 01:19 PM
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To me it seems like they have become really comfortable around you and have "forgotten" to translate what they said into English for you. I agree with Cappucino, go get yourself a good Spanish course because it truly will bring your relationship with your in-laws to a whole new level and you'll have them to help you out with it too.

I honestly don't believe they are being rude. I've found that those who don't grow up bilingual have a harder time switching back and forth between two languages. I grew up speaking Mandarin and English fluently so switching back and forth is like second nature to me, though occassionally I do have a hard time translating something because the true meaning gets lost in translation.

My mother on the other hand came to the states when she was 21 and she's been here 35 years now and she will still rattle off in Mandarin at my DH. In fact she'll often do it to all my Korean friends and I have to say, "Mom they don't speak Chinese." The funny thing is many times they will actually get what she's telling them.
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#4 of 17 Old 04-24-2009, 04:14 PM
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In four years, it's possible they've anticipated that you've picked up enough to not be entirely out in the conversational cold.
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#5 of 17 Old 04-24-2009, 10:30 PM
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I don't think your bf's family is being rude, I think they're complimenting you!

My DH and his family speak Russian. Sometimes they speak English when they talk to each other around me, but they often speak Russian. I like to think that it means they're so comfortable around me that they continue being themselves, instead of going out of their way to speak English for me.

I second taking a Spanish course. It will get you SO MANY brownie points! My in laws have been on me to learn Russian, and I'm trying, but it's so different from English that I'm having a hard time. Still, every time I manage to learn something new in Russian, they are soooo excited. I think it shows them that even though I'm raising their granddaughter in the US, I still respect and appreciate their culture and will take steps to make my DD bicultural.

Actually, it might be a good bonding experience to ask your bf's family to teach you some Spanish.

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#6 of 17 Old 04-25-2009, 12:37 AM
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I agree with the PPs.

After all, any white family that did not speak, say, Spanish well, would probably talk to a Spanish-speaking in-law mainly in English, but slowly if necessary. What else could they do? Spanish is the second most spoken language in this country and THE most spoken language on the two continents.

Learning Spanish won't hurt you even if you don't marry this guy. I think they are acting as politely as possible, and you should enjoy it and go with the flow.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#7 of 17 Old 04-25-2009, 12:51 AM
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I agree that it's a compliment. It means they're not thinking of you as different from them anymore. I *love* when my in-laws speak to me in Arabic, and even if I can't respond in kind, I try to let them know I understood what they said.

Definitely learn Spanish!

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#8 of 17 Old 04-25-2009, 02:15 AM
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My FIL, who is very nice, talks to me in cantonese (chinese) b/c he forgets that I can't (I've tried learning, it is 1000 times harder than spanish.) My MIL, who is very rude, says passive agressive stuff to me in english and mean stuff about me to DH in cantonese.

Speaking to you in spanish isn't rude. They probably just figure you've picked up enough by now to get the gist of what they are saying, and that by talking to you in spanish you'll learn even more of it.

I reccomend getting some lessons or language tapes. I like the pimslur language tapes myself, I learned japanese from them (though it didn't work for cantonese which is about 100 times harder than japanese.) Spanish and english are closely enough related that you should have no trouble learning it, especially if you already know any other romance languages.

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#9 of 17 Old 04-25-2009, 10:57 PM
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My husband used Pimsleur for basic Arabic.

It's not that the stay-at-home-parent gets to stay home with the kids. The kids get to stay home with a parent. Lucky Mom to DD1 (4 y) and DD2 (18 mo), Wife to Mercenary Dad
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#10 of 17 Old 04-26-2009, 10:42 PM
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I agree w/ PP that it's nice that they consider you "part of the family" an relaxed about language. I also agree that working on your Spanish might be a good thing.

About 1/2 my DH's family speak no English, including my m-i-l. So, I have basic conversations w/ them in Cantonese & tend to zone out (pleasantly) during family ocassions or amuse myself by trying to follow what they're saying.

I'm a "glass if half-full" type of person, so I see lots of benefits to not quite participating in the full conversational flow.

DH's relationship to his family remains HIS relationship. I don't have to take any responsibility for the "kin work" that often falls on a woman: organizing family dinners, outings, etc.

At family parties, there is little burden to make conversation. When the kids were babies & toddlers, I worked looking after them. Now that the kids are older, at all-day parties I can read a book, go for a walk, or help a bit w/ the cooking & clearing. No expectation that I will play mahjong and have chit-chat. No fear that we will get into an argument about the best recipe for XYZ.
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#11 of 17 Old 04-29-2009, 12:05 PM
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it is hard to tell from the examples you give whether your bf's relatives are trying to be rude or not but to a great extent it doesn't actually matter. i think regardless of the intent the result of the current situation is you feel excluded. you asked how to handle it/what to do about it so here are
some things i've done when i find myself in situations like this:
(given that even if you start intensive lessons today you aren't going to be
participating in native level conversation immediately...)

--attaching myself to one person who is english-friendly and wants to translate the overall gist of the conversation.
--having one on one conversations with people off to the side of the larger conversation.
--smiling and acting like i'm following even when i'm not
--playing with the kids or otherwise amusing myself while the adults talk in their own language
**showing an interest in the relatives and culture in OTHER ways besides english** asking about the food someone made, how to make it, can you go shopping together for the ingredients etc...
--making an attempt at the language with basic greetings at least, asking how to say certain phrases that are specific to the situation your in, showing an interest in learning... (most everyone likes to teach someone else if you ask)
--doing things that don't require talking but are helpful and inclusive--playing games/cards, helping out in the kitchen, doing the dishes, etc.

i don't think its reasonable to expect the relatives to adjust to you when you attend larger family functions, so that is when some of the above strategies could come in handy.

on the other hand i think your bf has a part to play in sticking by you if you feel uncomfortable, translating if need be, or asking someone else to do it, or asking relatives to speak more english to you especially in smaller groups or when addressing you directly.
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#12 of 17 Old 04-29-2009, 03:59 PM
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i married into a similar situation. i don't speak spanish, though i understand a lot more than my IL's think i do. the family conducts all parties in spanish. my MIL doesn't speak any english (i joke that is why we have such a great relationship- and it is probably true, cause i am so NOT a passive person that can handle their drama). i tried at first to speak spanish with the family, but the sisters (who are all older than me) would giggle in a very patronizing way so i just stopped trying when they were around. i do try to speak it with my MIL when they aren't around simply to be polite to her. a lot of his family will speak to me directly in spanish, if i understand, i will respond in english if i don't then i just ask for a translation. i have an AWESOME goddaughter/nice who is completely bilingual and i have often attached her to my side at big parties so that seh can translate for me. i can though avoid a lot of nitpicking from my MIL cause she knows that i can't understand her.

also, when DH and i frist started dating, his english wasn't very good, so that was our focus in terms of language building. then his brother came, and his sister came and they wanted to practice their english with me, so by the time nobosy wanted to pratice english anymore, they and i were just used to dealing with the broken english.
as a previous poster noted, it does get me out of a lot of work that my SILs do, particularly the driving of their mother everywhere. she doesn't drive, never has never will, and since i am now the only SAHParent in the family, i would be expected to drive her everywhere.
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#13 of 17 Old 04-29-2009, 10:33 PM
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[QUOTE=pokeyrin;13646887]To me it seems like they have become really comfortable around you and have "forgotten" to translate what they said into English for you.


I totally agree with Pokeyrin. A lot of times, we'll be visiting with my family, chatting and look at my husband for his thoughts and he'll start to laugh and say "I don't speak Portuguese!" I even forget sometimes and do it at home if I'm speaking to my DD "Oh, that's lovely drawing. Hey Daddy, come look at S's picture" and it takes a second to realize he doesn't realize I'm speaking with him.

Of course, we definitely don't mean to be rude and usually we speak English, but this can be hard during big family gatherings, esp. since we're the type of family that constantly "hop" around and crash everybody else's conversations or when there are visitors who don't speak English. My family is also a little embarrassed and apologize as soon as they realize it's happened. My DH is never upset as he knows no insult is meant. Also, people tend to spread all over the house at our gatherings so he usually finds himself in conversation with someone away from the main "Portuguese" group. He's tried to learn Portuguese, but languages aren't his thing and he hasn't picked up much in the 10 years we've been together. My family really appreciate his efforts though as a sign of respect. I think your BF's family would probably feel the same even if you don't become fluent.
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#14 of 17 Old 04-30-2009, 09:05 PM
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I can just give my personal experiences.

My Dh is from the Ukraine so his family speaks Russian. I really don't mind that family get togethers are often in Russian. By this point, I'm kind of used to everyone speaking another language around me. I know some Russian but it takes so much effort that it's often not worth bothering with trying to translate during a meal. Also, my fil speaks English only slightly better than I speak Russian. It wouldn't be fair to take him out of the conversation to put me in. I don't think anyone intends to be rude, it's simply how they're comfortable speaking. It's probably a relief to his family that they can finally speak in the language they were raised in and can most easily express themselves.
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#15 of 17 Old 05-01-2009, 03:55 AM
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How do you feel when they are all speaking in spanish around you? Do you catch the vibe that they are being rude? Do they make YOU feel like an outsider? Like they are being nasty behind your back to your face so to speak?

We can't guess as to what they are saying. You would have to point out that you feel uncomfortable- and I didn't hear that.

In my past, I've always dated mexican men and their families all spoke only spanish andI was HORRIBLY uncomfortable I felt like they were all talking about me, calling me names and just being rude in general. Years later I found out that I was right. You kinda have to (once again) follow your intuition on this. If you are comfortable and feel that they love and respect you- then I wouldn't worry. I would learn the language reagardless! You don't have to be able to speak in order to undestand I'm horribly dyslexic and spanish was impossible for me to speak, for whatever reason, but I know enough to know what people are saying around me.

If you ARE uncomfortable- speak up to you DP. Tell HIM how it makes you feel, and that you are worried about what's being said and what you are missing in the conversation. I am a FIRM beliver in good open communication at all times in a relationship- and I think that it's especially important when the partners speak a different "native" language!

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#16 of 17 Old 05-01-2009, 10:08 AM
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it sounds to me that they are not being rude. it seems that they have been around you so long that they are used to you as a fixture in the family and are including you as they normally would other family members, but they forget that you can't speak the language.

this happens pretty frequently to me at work and i always kindly interrupt them and when i do, my coworkers usually laugh and say they forgot and translate what they were just saying into english. i don't think you should be offended.

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#17 of 17 Old 05-01-2009, 01:52 PM
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dogluver, it sounds like you and I are in a very similar situation, except my dh is from India instead of Mexico, and I've only known his family for a little under two years now. I usually feel like the odd woman out at parties or even just hanging out with his family. My dh was raised bilingual, as was the rest of his family, and most conversations are primarily in their language with a smattering of English here and there. Most of the time they don't bother translating for me, which I don't mind. I know they like me and are not trying to make me feel left out, and I don't ever want them to think I'm uncomfortable with the situation (which I'm not). Like skreader, I just drift off into my own little happy place until someone addresses me directly.

I have noticed that recently my in-laws seem to be "testing" me to see if I've picked up any of the language. For example, if someone is going to make tea and is asking who wants some, they'll say it in Tamil first, and then translate for me. Lately they have been very deliberately leaving off the translating part, and then everyone looks at me to see if or how I'll respond. It's all in good fun, more like they're trying to teach me a few words or phrases. There's been no expectation that I'll learn the language, though I'd love to if there was a way. I find I usually have an idea of what was being said anyway.

It seems to me your main options in your situation are 1) learn Spanish, at least so you can understand spoken Spanish, and reply to them in either language since they know both, 2) accept that you won't understand the conversations taking place, and if someone insists on speaking directly to you in Spanish, ask politely for a translation, or 3) either ask that everyone only speaks English in conversation around you, or try to get someone (probably your bf) to translate everything for you. I would personally never consider option 3 because it just seems too disruptive to other people.

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