Family Relocation: Perdón, I Speak English but Hablo Español
When we moved eight weeks ago to the city of Atlanta, I was set on making sure that my daughters would keep their Spanish. I vowed that no matter what, they would speak to me and their family in Spanish even if people who don’t speak the language were around. I figured if I spoke English to them, every single time someone who doesn’t speak Spanish was around, they would quickly lose it.
My daughters have had no problem with this arrangement. I hate to admit it, but I never thought I would be the one with the problem. I have found myself constantly apologizing for using our native language. You see, now that I’m actually in the situation, I am still adjusting to the fact that when I speak to my daughters in Spanish when non-Spanish speakers are around, I am automatically and purposefully leaving someone out of the conversation, something that makes me feel very uncomfortable.
Trying to be fair to people around me, while trying to keep my native language in my daughters is easier said than done. I am very strict about good manners and yet I find I am wrestling with myself between making sure that my daughters don’t get lazy about speaking Spanish and being polite with others.
What has been my solution? I spend twice as much time talking. Whenever I am around English speakers but have to address either one of my daughters, I first speak to them in Spanish and will quickly turn around and explain in English what I have just said. It is downright EXHAUSTING! I am certainly hoping my daughters find this method a lot more intuitive that it has been for me.
I have also resorted to forewarn and apologize to people ahead of time so that they understand I am just trying to keep the girls’ Spanish alive. The people I have met here seem OK with my language conundrum and in fact are hoping that some of our Spanish will secretly rub-off on their kids.
I never thought I would ever apologize for being bilingual. But wanting my daughters to be true bilinguals means being stuck somewhere between language pride and social politeness.
Have you found yourself in a similar situation? How do you handle it?