It’s been a very hectic few months for me after coming back from my six week trip to Chile. There, as you may have read, my son Matías really picked up and strengthened his Spanish. It was an amazing transformation, one that both my husband and I are extremely proud of. He just beams with pride when people realize his son can easily transition from Spanish to English without getting mixed up or asking for help.
However, it seems like not everyone feels the same way, and the negativity is coming from our own family. At the beginning of August, we went to my brother-in-law’s wedding. His wife, is Ecuadorian and raised in the U.S. She speaks Spanish but has admitted that she doesn’t feel completely comfortable speaking the language, and jokes that she will send her kids to my house to learn the language, but she loves that I am teaching him Spanish and she now makes more of an effort to speak to him too. Naturally, many of her guests were family from Ecuador and each of them came up to my husband and I praising our language efforts with Matías saying, “Qué bueno que le enseñen español. Bien hecho.” Needless to say, we were ecstatic and extremely proud; how could we not be?
However, my in-laws who know that I speak Spanish to him and have heard us in action many times have never commented on the subject. But on that particular day I called Matías, who was standing by his grandfather, to come over to where I was. My father-in-law looked at me, then back at the guests, laughed and blurted out some random words and sounds as if speaking Spanish blatantly mocking me. I froze in shock. It was not a mistake; it was deliberate. I kept my cool and continued to speak to him in Spanish then changing to English at the end saying “Now you can go with Grandpa” and I walked away so that he wouldn’t see my blushed face. I was beyond hurt and livid!
I just couldn’t understand — I make every effort to speak English in front of them and in their home so that they don’t feel left out, but they do know that we are a bilingual family and that’s not going to change. I told my husband and he was just as surprised as me, not knowing how to really approach this issue because, clearly, they are bothered by it.
Knowing so many of us come from both English and Spanish speaking families, I ask you, how should I deal with this? Have you had a similar experience?
For more stories on raising your child bilingual go to SpanglishBaby.com