I posed the following question on our Facebook page last week:
Do you think it’s rude to speak the minority language with your children when you’re around people who don’t speak it? What do you do?
These are a sample of the first responses we got:
I kind of new what to expect, but I was still curious to get a feel for how you deal with this situation which doesn’t seem like a big deal when you have babies and toddlers who can barely speak, but can become an issue the older and more talkative they get. It’s happened to me with my 4-year-old daughter, Vanessa, who started talking pretty early and hasn’t stopped since .
As many of you know, we use the mL@H method – meaning we only speak Spanish to them – to raise our children bilingual. So, in our case, speaking to them in any language other than Spanish seems unnatural.* Therefore, when we’re around people who don’t speak Spanish, we generally just continue speaking in Spanish – unless what I’m saying needs to be understood by all and then I’ll just say it in English. While I’ve never been told that it’s rude, I could see where some monolingual people might feel that way. I guess it’s awkward not to understand what someone next to you is saying because there’s always a slight chance that they’re talking about you.
Some of you felt this way and told us that for this reason, you end up translating what you say.
The way I see it is that most of the conversations I have with my children are really intended to be between them and I, so why would it matter if others understand, right? Having said that, the bottom line for us is that we simply don’t use English to communicate with them, save the odd word or phrase here and there. Honestly, we don’t do it because we’re trying to be so strict about our efforts to raise them bilingual, rather because Spanish is our first language and, again, it’s what comes natural. And so, I decided to continue the discussion by finding out if this makes a difference or not by asking whether you speak to your children exclusively in Spanish. The answers proved that the method you use to raise them bilingual has a lot to do with how you deal with my original question.
Interesting, right? So, if you didn’t get into the original discussion over in our Facebook page, what do you think about this topic? How do you deal with it and what method are you using? Let’s continue the conversation!
* I should clarify that I have started speaking French with Vanessa, in an effort to expose her to a third language as early as possible, but our interactions obviously limited because of her lack of vocabulary. Furthermore, it has been a conscious decision on my part to go ahead and introduce French, while English has always been something that Vanessa has heard outside the home and mostly when we’re not around.