Feeling self-conscious speaking my language with dd - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 22 Old 09-28-2008, 12:23 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I guess I'm just looking for some encouragement from anyone who's btdt.

I'm an American living in Italy with my Italian husband and our 9-month old daughter. We've decided to do OPOL and fortunately both my in-laws and our friends here are very supportive, so I have no trouble speaking English to dd when we're around them.

But when dd and I are out and about on our own I feel anxious doing it. It's a combination of my feeling rude using a language that excludes everyone else (there's only one other English speaker in our town) and my discomfort with being a foreigner in such a closed environment.

For a while I was speaking to her less while out, but that felt so unnatural because I talk to her quite a lot when we're home, and of course it's a bad idea because she needs to hear English from me. Lately, I've really been making the effort to just do it, and to ignore all the staring, but it's hard. Please tell me that it gets easier!
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#2 of 22 Old 09-28-2008, 01:48 PM
 
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it gets easier. I'm american and live in Holland with my Dutch DH and our DS, now 5.5. For the first two years of his life, I was terribly self-conscious about speaking English in public to DS. (and, in Holland, almost everyone under 60 is very fluent in English!)

I'm an introvert and sometimes quite self-conscious. Even before I had DS, I felt self-conscious about standing out as a foreigner. Speaking with DS in public (in a store or wherever) would bring attention to me that I didn't want. It was tough.

Finally, though, I got over it. Most people loved to hear DS switch back and forth between Dutch and English. Plus, people knew I was a foreigner anyway if, for example, I was in a store buying something and had to speak to the attendant/cashier, etc. Also, despite OPOL, DS needed *a lot* of reinforcement with his English.

OP, if you live in a small town, then everyone already knows you're The American anyway. You probably already stand out. As mortifying as that might be, people probably expect that you'll speak English with your DC anyway. Hang in there. It does get easier.
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#3 of 22 Old 09-28-2008, 02:11 PM
 
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Think of it this way, maybe they just accept that English is the language mama speaks so NATURALLY, she'd speak in that language to her daughter.

It's weird, I tend to speak to my DD more in Spanish when we're out and about in our English speaking community than at home - no one seems to bat an eye.
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#4 of 22 Old 09-29-2008, 06:51 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by DariusMom View Post

I'm an introvert and sometimes quite self-conscious. Even before I had DS, I felt self-conscious about standing out as a foreigner. Speaking with DS in public (in a store or wherever) would bring attention to me that I didn't want. It was tough.

Finally, though, I got over it. Most people loved to hear DS switch back and forth between Dutch and English. Plus, people knew I was a foreigner anyway if, for example, I was in a store buying something and had to speak to the attendant/cashier, etc. .
I'm an introvert too, and that really fuels my issues about being a foreigner. Conformity is really prized here, and I'm already different even before I open my mouth- I look different, dd is often in a carrier (the only other mamas I've ever seen with babies not in strollers were gypsies), etc., etc. So it's true that they all already know that I'm foreign even before I speak English to dd. So I guess I just need to get on with it! I'm so glad to hear that it gets easier.

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Think of it this way, maybe they just accept that English is the language mama speaks so NATURALLY, she'd speak in that language to her daughter.

It's weird, I tend to speak to my DD more in Spanish when we're out and about in our English speaking community than at home - no one seems to bat an eye.
I'd like to think they'd accept my speaking English for that reason, but there's a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment here and I've actually heard quite a few people express dismay that immigrants speak their native language to their children because it keeps them from assimilating. Of course, most sentiment like that is motivated by racism...it's mostly directed at immigrants from the Middle East or Sub-Saharan Africa. But there's a lot of hatred here for Eastern Europeans as well. People who spout this garbage in front of me often add, but this doesn't apply to you because you're a "good foreigner." (Yuck, I just want to say please don't do me any favors.) So even though they may accept that we're different once they realize that I'm American, they still created a poisonous environment in which being different is unacceptable and sometimes even dangerous.

When people do look positively on my speaking English with dd, it's usually framed in terms of job opportunities.

Anyway mamas, thanks so much for the encouragement! I'm just going to go out there and speak English to my little American.
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#5 of 22 Old 09-29-2008, 09:45 AM
 
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Hi I am an american living in Germany with my german dh I have 3 children. I have 2 kids from a previous marriage to a german man and raised and am raising my baby bi-lingual.

At home I always speak english and when I am out and about I will speak german. I HATE being looked at because of the different language. I just feel really wierd speaking english when other people are around.

My older children. 15 & 13 had no problem with that and are fluent in both languages.

I would say if you are feeling self-conscious about it then speak italian.
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#6 of 22 Old 09-30-2008, 04:20 AM
 
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We arrived in France with our dd when she was 3 months, my dh is Algerian and therefore is fluent in french - I however am not!!I was SO self conscious it was awful, people would stare and try to speak to us and I hated it, then I guess the penny just dropped and I just thought, well this is my language and we'll speak it, if people stare - they stare, actually most folk know us around here now and don't really bother about it, although we live near Paris we don't live there as such and really there is no big deal as there are so many foreigners but in a smaller town it's harder and I found the same when in Italy (by myself!) but I think it's worth it.

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#7 of 22 Old 09-30-2008, 10:16 AM
 
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I grew up in the us with parents that spoke a non-english language as a language of preference.

A couple things... i think the different language hang-up, is more an american thing (that is going away!) People in other places esp europe/asia are much more comforatable IME, with the idea that there are other languages out there than their own.

Also, the world is shrinking! The idea that someone should have to feel ashamed to speak their own language to their child is awful! People are getting used to the idea of multilingualness (or they will be forced to get used to it) in business, in social life, at the grocery store and in the family.

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#8 of 22 Old 10-02-2008, 12:27 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I don't know...I worry about speaking to her in Italian for two reasons: I make mistakes and I don't want her to pick them up, and English education in the schools here is very poor, so I'll really be her only good source for English. My husband doesn't really speak it and we only speak Italian at home. I worry that she won't be getting enough. Films here are all dubbed, there's actually very little real exposure to other languages in pop culture...

I just need to get over my hang-up. I've really been making an effort the last few days and if anything it feels more natural to do it, even if it's still embarrassing. But it's definitely worth it.

Thanks everyone for your advice and encouragement!
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#9 of 22 Old 10-03-2008, 01:57 AM
 
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I would say just keep at it and know it will get easier....The first couple years I was pretty uncomfortable, but I pushed through and at 5 years in it never even crosses my mind. I say stick with it and know it gets easier. For me I thought about it, why should I feel uncomfortable speaking in the language I want to with my kids...really anyone who really cares will ask and you have a great explanation and 99% of the time I think they will be supportive. For the random person who is offended, who cares...

good luck
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#10 of 22 Old 10-03-2008, 03:20 AM
 
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I sometimes feel extremely uncomfortable speaking Hebrew with DD in public, because I'm serious....in my area, any foreign language is "Spanish" to some people, and these people have an issue with the Spanish language.

I just try to keep going.

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#11 of 22 Old 10-11-2008, 05:13 AM
 
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I am french Canadian living in America. I only speak to my kids in French (except to pray because I am use to English and when I read books that are in English).
I know it is annoying to certain people but I am used to it now so if I speak in English w/them it feels a little wierd..

In general, I get mostly compliments for teaching them a second lauguage.

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#12 of 22 Old 10-11-2008, 09:00 AM
 
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I speak English with my DS in public, though I am fluent in Czech (we live in Prague). He is just so used to hearing me speak English. I will speak Czech to him if we talking with people in Czech and if it feels rude to exclude them from our conversation, but even in situations were we're say at the playground with nothing but Czech speaking people, I'll speak to him in English. It's just our common language and I am the only person in his life that consistently speaks English to him (DH does to, but switches).
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#13 of 22 Old 10-12-2008, 03:28 PM
 
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I live in Mexico, and in our city the most "foreign" language that will listen too, is english and people feel offended. I find myself speaking Dutch to my DD sometimes, and specially when my auntie comes to visit, DD will get so used to speaking dutch during those long periods of time, that it gets hard for me to get spanish out of her, and her school is 100% in english until 5th grade, and i also speak to her in english.
I will get the dirty looks But i shouldnt really care, or maybe people think is great "we have dutch tourists in our city!" OR, they think that we just want to act cool and that we're speaking bad english, i heard a girl saying that once about us
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#14 of 22 Old 10-13-2008, 02:11 PM
 
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The answer is a loud 'no'.

My husband and I genuninely enjoy speaking to each other in German or English regardless of where we are at and speak to our child in either also completely regardless of venue. Most people are really, really, really supportive of it and tell us how great it is to raise a child bilingual. In neither country have we ever gotten any flack for it and even if we did by some jerk at the bus or at the grocery store behind our backs, so what? I really couldn't give a flying ykw.
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#15 of 22 Old 10-13-2008, 03:03 PM
 
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We live in Italy. I cannot imagine speaking anything but English to my DD (now age 4), no matter where we happen to be. Anything else would be completely unnatural. I have never encountered anyone unsupportive. I translate to people around to the extent necessary (although quite frankly, I really don't think I am being rude asking my daughter if she wants her snack in English without a translation to others. I'm not sure they would be that interested in most of the parent-child talk that goes on between us...).

As soon as your child starts materna, getting her to speak English will be an uphill battle. You want to get her as fluent and comfortable in English as you possibly can before that time. Trust me.

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#16 of 22 Old 10-13-2008, 03:12 PM
 
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I am in Germany, and I do get looks when people hear me speaking English, or yelling/playing loudly... but it's because they either want to practice their English, or because they understand and are interested to hear someone speaking in English. Everyone is positive because it's important here to learn and speak English and they all say how lucky my boys are to be growing up with both languages.

In reference to the previous poster, my 3 year old just started kindergarten a month ago and he already speaks to me mostly in German now.
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#17 of 22 Old 10-16-2008, 06:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Well, I've been feeling much less embarrassed about it lately...I've been talking to her more when we're out and it just feels natural to speak English. I've resolved to look at it this way: I do so many things differently from everyone here that it's silly of me to single out my speaking English as what makes me strange. For example, I'm not embarrassed that dd is often in a carrier or that I still breastfeed, in fact they make me proud! These things make me just as unusual around here as speaking English does.

And it's just a waste of energy to worry about what narrow-minded people think.

Thanks everyone, you've been so much help in working through this.

Roman Goddess, I'm Prof. from expats, a.k.a. karenuccia. I came to Mothering after you recommended it to me in a comment on my blog. Thanks! (Oh, and good point about scuola materna.)
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#18 of 22 Old 10-16-2008, 07:43 AM
 
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Roman Goddess, I'm Prof. from expats, a.k.a. karenuccia. I came to Mothering after you recommended it to me in a comment on my blog. Thanks! (Oh, and good point about scuola materna.)
Hi Karen! So glad that you made it over here!

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#19 of 22 Old 10-22-2008, 04:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by pear-shaped View Post
I guess I'm just looking for some encouragement from anyone who's btdt.

But when dd and I are out and about on our own I feel anxious doing it. It's a combination of my feeling rude using a language that excludes everyone else (there's only one other English speaker in our town) and my discomfort with being a foreigner in such a closed environment.
No helpful advice, but whenever you feel bad try to think of how much your daughter will appreciate this effort when she gets older. (especially a language with as much international marketability as English).

My mother started out speaking German to me, but gave it up for a lot of the reasons you mention, and I have always been really sorry that she gave up.

nothing more to say I guess :
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#20 of 22 Old 10-23-2008, 11:56 AM
 
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I'm living in an Arab village in Israel. I don't speak Arabic well. Like you, I make mistakes in gender, pronunciation, etc. and really don't want to teach my children the wrong things. Here, it is also an advantage if they can speak English with native fluency, so I feel like it is okay.

However, someone always comments that we should not teach them English, but should teach them Arabic. I feel like a) that is their father's responsibility and b) I am speaking the language of my heart to my children. I want my husband to speak to them in Arabic ... but HE chooses not to. I have tried hiring private tutors for our eldest, etc., but something always falls through with the lessons, tutoring arrangement, etc. Frankly, I have given up and no longer feel shy to speak to my kids in English.


I don't speak ANY Hebrew, the official language of the country; the Arabs in the village do not use Hebrew except to talk to Jewish citizens at work or school. So, no one is teaching our kids Hebrew at this point.

I guess, my advice is for you to do what feels the most natural to you ... your kids will use the languages and words they hear regularly. Encourage the family to teach them Italian while you work on their English.
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#21 of 22 Old 10-23-2008, 01:05 PM
 
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I just wanted to give you some encouragement from another point of view.

My dh is from India and we are living in the US (he is now a citizen). I WISH he had spoken his language with our kids. I wish I wish I wish so much! He was raised speaking both Tamil and English as a child in India. When he came to the US he was very fluent in English. We agreed that when we had children he would speak only Tamil to them. He then became self-conscious and stopped speaking Tamil outside when my first was an infant, and he finds it easier to speak to me in English at home since I don't know Tamil, so he doesn't transition well. As a result my kids don't know any Tamil at all other than what they picked up in India "What's your name? How old are you?" is about all they know. And they answer back in English. The kids can't even talk to their great grandmother in India which makes her very sad.

I am hoping that when they get older we can send them to India for entire summers and they will pick up more of the language and culture. I just wanted to encourage you to continue doing what you are doing, because I am living with what was not done and it's kinda sad. You are giving your child a gift that cannot be given later in life as naturally.

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#22 of 22 Old 10-24-2008, 08:18 AM
 
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I just wanted to give you some encouragement from another point of view.

My dh is from India and we are living in the US (he is now a citizen). I WISH he had spoken his language with our kids. I wish I wish I wish so much! He was raised speaking both Tamil and English as a child in India. When he came to the US he was very fluent in English. We agreed that when we had children he would speak only Tamil to them. He then became self-conscious and stopped speaking Tamil outside when my first was an infant, and he finds it easier to speak to me in English at home since I don't know Tamil, so he doesn't transition well. As a result my kids don't know any Tamil at all other than what they picked up in India "What's your name? How old are you?" is about all they know. And they answer back in English. The kids can't even talk to their great grandmother in India which makes her very sad.

I am hoping that when they get older we can send them to India for entire summers and they will pick up more of the language and culture. I just wanted to encourage you to continue doing what you are doing, because I am living with what was not done and it's kinda sad. You are giving your child a gift that cannot be given later in life as naturally.
We had this experience, too. I wanted my husband to speak only Arabic to the kids from birth even when we lived in the U.S. And he found it easier to speak in English. Now that we're back in his country, we're seeing the result of the choices we've made. This is another reason why I feel justified in teaching them my native language even while we're here. I don't want the youngest to go back to the U.S. unable to speak English and have the same pain and rejection my oldest is feeling here.
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