Ask Sahaj: My friend's family speaks another language in front of me

Ask Sahaj: My friend’s family speaks another language in front of me

hello sahaj: I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year now, and everything is going well, except for the interactions with his family. His mother’s first language is French, but she is also fluent in English. My friend and his younger sister grew up speaking French in their home since they were born, however we grew up here in the States, so we both speak English another way. In the meantime, I don’t know anything after “Bonjour”. When I go to his house and talk to his family, it’s okay at first, but then inevitably his mother makes some side comment in French either to my friend or his sister in front of me, which turns into full conversations, and I’m stuck awkwardly sitting there.

This got even worse when I went on a family trip to France with them recently. I was overwhelmed by the amount of speaking in a language I could not understand, and added that they were constantly speaking French among themselves. I understand French is the primary language spoken there and it might be what they used to do, but even in their house with me in front of them they always spoke French.

His mother is incredibly sweet and is generally very accommodating, but speaking French in front of me all the time was frustrating, especially when they were talking about the details of my trip or the activities we were going to do that day. My friend’s father doesn’t speak French either. It seems like it’s okay for them to speak another language around him, but I’m not sure I can turn to him for advice.

How should I raise this issue and deal with it?

stuck in translation: You seem to feel left out. It also seems that your friend and his family are not being rude on purpose.

As you join the family dynamic, everyone has to transform a bit – including you. This doesn’t mean your friend and family should stop speaking French to each other, but it’s reasonable to want to be able to understand what they’re saying, especially when the conversation involves or includes you. This means that you have a frank and honest conversation with your friend about how you are feeling.

This can sound like, “I understand that speaking French is normal for your mother and you when you are together, but I feel that it makes it difficult for me to participate in the discussion and it is important for me to be able to participate in some of these conversations.”

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When using I-language and touching on this with the intention of wanting to share how You are You feel, this opens the door to a larger conversation about your friend’s role, and can also help you reduce feelings of loneliness in the experience and in your relationship.

Keep in mind, though, that it’s not just a different language you’re browsing, it’s a different culture, too. Every family has a family culture with standards and values, and every language rooted in a larger culture has its own standards and values. These methods influence communication as well as personal expectations and behaviors.

As someone with parents who tend to speak Punjabi at home and an American spouse who doesn’t know the language, I had to be more intent on asking my parents to speak English when having longer or larger conversations. However, my husband also had to accept that expectation from my family Not Punjabi talk around it is unrealistic.

A bilingual person or a non-native English speaker may Think In a different language Therefore, it may be more natural for them to speak that language instead of translating their thoughts (no matter how fluent they are in English). This may be why they tend to speak French when they are together, and it definitely makes sense when they are in France.

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Since there is already a precedent for someone who does not speak the language in the family, your friend and his mom may think that behaving the same way around you is perfectly acceptable. While your friend’s dad might be okay with being more passive in these conversations, it sounds like you might need to be more active. This might sound like asking them directly, “Can you tell me what you’re talking about?” or β€œI missed that, can you translate it for me.”

Finally, you may have to build up a tolerance for the discomfort of your culture’s discomfort while figuring out what you can do to make the transition easier. It can be helpful to think about how serious your future is with your partner, and whether it would be beneficial for you to learn French.

Remember that being in a multicultural relationship requires both parties to be flexible in bending their cultural concepts, norms, and values ​​to make room for their partner.

Sahaj Kaur Kohli, creator brown girl treatment A mental health professional, he answers questions about identity, relationships, mental health, work-life balance, family dynamics, and more. If you have a question for her, Please submit it here.


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