Tensions are running high in a lot of households these days, and one family's in crisis because of their preference to not speak English at home.
A woman took to Reddit to ask for advice after her sister-in-law got upset that she couldn't understand the bilingual family's non-English conversations. She says she should speak whatever language she wants in her house, while the sister-in-law says that's rude and exclusionary.
My (33f) husband's (36m) sister (35f) is currently staying with us because of many circumstances. She will be staying with us for the foreseeable future. I'm gonna be honest, I wasn't exactly excited about her staying with us but she didn't have anywhere else to go so I relented. I frankly just don't really like her, although we're completely civil.
Now, my parents are from a certain European country and my first language was that country's language. My heritage is important to me and being bilingual has helped me out immensely throughout my life. When we first started dating, my husband made an effort to learn the language, and now although he isn't exactly fluent, he can understand and speak it well.
We also have two kids (9f and 6m). At home, they are supposed to speak my language. We absolutely don't have a problem when they speak English at school, or with friends at our house, or occasionally if they can't figure out how to say it otherwise. But overall, they are supposed to limit their use of English in the house and we enforce this.
The problem is that my sister in law is now staying with us and, like most Americans, only speaks English. Absolutely we have all conversations with her or involving her in English. Like at the dinner table, we all speak English so she can understand. But the rest of the time my kids and I continue to speak my language, as it's also the one we prefer, although my husband speaks mostly English to involve her.
This morning, I was cuddling with the kids on the couch reading them a story. We were all speaking the language as we usually do. My sister in law was sitting in a chair next to us. She asked me a question, I responded in English, then went back to speaking with my kids. We were all just laughing, having a great time.
Then she snapped at me. She said that it was impolite to speak in front of her when she couldn't understand, and that she had put up with it but had enough. She said she was tired of the private conversations and not knowing what I was saying about her, and that she wanted to spend time with her nieces and couldn't if she didn't understand them.
I couldn't believe that she talked to me like that in my own house. I told her that she had 35 years to learn another language, and that it wasn't my fault she never had. I told her that in my house I speak whatever language I want, and that if she didn't like it she should GTFO.
She was very clearly scandalized and left. I guess she complained my husband. He got mad at me and said that I shouldn't speak to her like that. But she snapped at me first! I told him that she was free to speak whatever language, but so was I, and if she didn't like it she could find somewhere else to stay.
Now my husband is pissed at me but I know I'm in the right. AITA?
G0rill4 sympathized with the sister-in-law's feelings:
This is a tough one because Ive been on your SIL side and it really sucks. Marrying into a bilingual family that would only speak english in direct conversation with me and no any other time.
Its not their fault of course but I just felt like a piece of furniture or like I was gatecrashing a party and had no one to talk too.. I barely speak to that side of the family anymore (even though I took time to learn their language - they just turned out to be assholes in 2 languages) bit I will say me and my kids are a lot closer to the kids and parents who spoke English regularly than those who didnt.
Not to mention, the sister-in-law's being kicked while she's down:
I imagine in your SILs case its even worse because shes homeless and having issues and its her kid niece and nephew who are fueling her feelings of insignificance - thats like a double ouch. I think her outburst is not coming from an a-hole place but one of frustration and feeling like trash.
Classycatblogger pointed out that there's a pretty simple solution:
Why not include her by asking the kids to help her learn the language? Maybe they could work with her to help create flash cards, and they can draw the word and write it in the two languages. Maybe they can help her learn to count to 10. It’s a tough situation, but trying to include her could be fun and would make life more tolerable for all!
Symmetryofzero pointed out that there's a difference between having a 'house rule' and enforcing it to the discomfort of others:
yes it's your house your rules, doesn't mean you should enforce them. She's a guest, and family. You're deliberately excluding her because you don't like her. Don't dress it up as anything else.
And laserfox90 thinks the 'house rule' is a bit on the psycho side:
I’m bilingual, all my friends are bilingual, and I’ve literally never heard of parents literally pressuring their kids to not speak English at home. Wtf kinda authoritarian rule is that?? I and all my friends grew up speaking mixed English and X language with our parents (like Spanglish) and we’re all fine.
A lot of times we’d just speak in English with our parents if we got bored of speaking the native language, yet we’re still fine and fluent. I’m not surprised her SIL got annoyed tbh.
And ISpewVitriol pointed out the biggest elephant in the room — she clearly is doing this because she doesn't like her sister-in-law:
You don’t like her and you were being an a-hole about it. You and your children speaking another language around her when you all can speak English is intentionally excluding her. You don’t have to sacrifice your language for her sake, you are being over dramatic and finding excused because as you said, you don’t really like her.