Wedding Woes

"Mom, I don't know what they're saying and you're being rude."

Dear Prudence,
I am a casual Spanish speaker—I can understand a good bit of what I hear and read, but have more difficulty speaking it. My mom, bless her, thinks I am fluent. Normally, this isn’t a problem. She might call sometimes with a question about something she heard on TV or about something on a menu, but that’s it. Recently though, something happened that made me uncomfortable. She had some furniture delivered, and the men who dropped it off spoke Spanish. She wanted me to give them instructions in Spanish, and I told her it wasn’t necessary, as it was obvious they also spoke English. Later, when they were speaking to each other in Spanish, she wanted to know what they were saying and if it was about her. I told her I didn’t follow their conversation, but now I wish I had said that she was making offensive assumptions. Would that be appropriate next time something like this happens, if it does?

—Not Your Translator

Re: "Mom, I don't know what they're saying and you're being rude."

  • "Mom, why would you think they're talking about you"?
    ^^^^
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  • I'm actually a little confused about what happened.  Was it just the LW there for the delivery?  If they were both there, why didn't the mom explain what she wanted in either Spanish or English to the guys directly?  Or why wasn't she listening to their conversation?

    I'm also not sure what was offensive about the mother's assumptions.  It sounds like the delivery guys spoke both Spanish and English.  I would speak in whatever language I was most comfortable with, which it sounds like the LW did.

    It does remind me of a funny story that happened to an ex-b/f.  He speaks Spanish and English fluently.  As do both his parents.  Amongst themselves, they speak in both languages.  But, out and about town, they all speak in English.  There isn't much of a Hispanic community in NOLA and he was really looking forward to visiting So. CA, where he knew there would be a lot of opportunities to speak to other people who spoke Spanish.

    He went to pick up his rental car at LAX.  He heard the counter person speaking to the other employees in Spanish, in a casual conversation, and certainly appeared to be fluent.  So he was really excited to flex his Spanish speaking muscles with someone, other than his family.  He spoke to the guy in Spanish the whole time.  The guy understood him just fine, but only replied back in English, lol.  My ex wasn't quite sure why, but was mildly disappointed.  Though he also thought it was funny that the guy just naturally assumed he spoke English also.

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    holyguacamole79
  • ILoveBeachMusicILoveBeachMusic Indiana
    1000 Comments 500 Love Its Second Anniversary 5 Answers
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    "Mom, why would you think they're talking about you"?
    Actually this brings to mind the Seinfeld episode where Elaine is in a nail salon and the technicians are speaking in Vietnamese (I think) and they are talking about her. She is just smiling and nodding not realizing that they are talking about her. I am in no way saying these guys were doing this but this is what came to my mind LOL!
    charlotte989875MesmrEweMissKittyDanger
  • I'm actually a little confused about what happened.  Was it just the LW there for the delivery?  If they were both there, why didn't the mom explain what she wanted in either Spanish or English to the guys directly?  Or why wasn't she listening to their conversation?

    I'm also not sure what was offensive about the mother's assumptions.  It sounds like the delivery guys spoke both Spanish and English.  I would speak in whatever language I was most comfortable with, which it sounds like the LW did.

    It does remind me of a funny story that happened to an ex-b/f.  He speaks Spanish and English fluently.  As do both his parents.  Amongst themselves, they speak in both languages.  But, out and about town, they all speak in English.  There isn't much of a Hispanic community in NOLA and he was really looking forward to visiting So. CA, where he knew there would be a lot of opportunities to speak to other people who spoke Spanish.

    He went to pick up his rental car at LAX.  He heard the counter person speaking to the other employees in Spanish, in a casual conversation, and certainly appeared to be fluent.  So he was really excited to flex his Spanish speaking muscles with someone, other than his family.  He spoke to the guy in Spanish the whole time.  The guy understood him just fine, but only replied back in English, lol.  My ex wasn't quite sure why, but was mildly disappointed.  Though he also thought it was funny that the guy just naturally assumed he spoke English also.

    The mom didn't speak to them in Spanish or listen to the conversation because she doesn't speak Spanish. The offensive part is that mom saw that they clearly spoke English, but assumed that their comprehension of English would be worse than the daughter's so-so Spanish. 

    My husband is a native Spanish speaker, and grew up in an area with a huge Spanish speaking community. (South Florida). When I visit with him, depending on where we are, he initiates conversations in Spanish or English. In some places, everyone speaks Spanish and it's the preferred language. In others, it can be considered rude for him to start a conversation in Spanish, because it is an assumption that the person hasn't learned English (e.g. implying they are uneducated). It's complicated. 


    THANK YOU!!!  The letter makes a lot more sense now, lol.  For some reason, I was reading it that her mom primarily speaks Spanish and only knows a little bit of English.  Like, the daughter had spoken Spanish fluently as a child, but isn't fluent anymore.

    I have no idea how my perception of the letter was so skewed, lol.

    I would be more understanding of the mom if she had only heard them speaking Spanish.  But it sounds like they were speaking English also.  As such, it does seem weird she wouldn't just speak to them in English, since that is the language in common.

    I know what you mean.  I grew up in So. CA and lived in Miami for 3 months.  In most of Miami, I just spoke English, unless I saw someone was struggling to understand me.  The one exception was the area my H worked in.  Everybody around there spoke Spanish.  So I would just immediately start with my pathetic, fumbling Spanish.  If they were bilingual, they'd give me a smile and tell me they spoke English.  And that was how that worked out nicely, lol.

    In So. CA, at least back when I lived there, there were only a few areas where Spanish was primarily spoken.  The rest of the time, I spoke in English unless I heard someone speaking Spanish first or could see/told me they didn't understand me.  But then, I'm not fluent in Spanish, so that was part of my decision making also, lol.

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  • I’ll add the idea that perhaps the Mom was trying to be nice by offering out some Spanish thinking that the delivery men might appreciate her trying. 

    I dont one like the part about her thinking that they were talking about her, but I suppose it is natural to want to understand. 
  • holyguacamole79holyguacamole79 a taco truck in Houston
    5000 Comments 500 Love Its Third Anniversary 5 Answers
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    My husband & I teach Sunday school and we have a lot of Hispanic families at our church.  My second major in college was Spanish, so I'm good to converse with parents as need be.  I introduce myself to the kids or welcome them.  Based on the parent's reaction, I *usually* have a decent idea of if they prefer English or Spanish.  I'll usually ask, "Prefiere ingles o espanol?" (do you prefer English or Spanish?).  I sure hope I haven't offended anyone!



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