Episode 42 – Q&A – How do you manage family time when one parent is monolingual?

Episode 42

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I share how my family spends family time even when we are not all speaking the same language! I specifically share how we manage dinner time and play time!

Episode #42- Transcript

Hey there and welcome to another question and answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast.

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Alright, let’s get to this week’s question which came in via email and it reads:

I am bilingual yet my husband is not.  We are doing the One Parent, One Language strategy you have talked about but my little one is only six months so it is fairly easy for us to manage.  However, as she gets older I am really wondering how we are going to manage family time since my husband will not be able to understand what I am saying.  How do you manage family time with your family?

Thanks for the question and for sharing it with the Bilingual Avenue community so that we can all learn from our experiences!

This is certainly an interesting question and one that I worried about a lot before my daughter was born.  As many of you know, my husband Todd, does not speak Spanish yet we have chosen to do One Parent, One Language just like the listener said in her email.  I speak exclusively in Spanish while he speaks exclusively in English.

This is how we go about it and it is actually very very simple.  Let’s talk about dinner time for example, Todd and I communicate at all times in English, obviously since that is our common language.  And then just like you may imagine I speak in Spanish whenever I communicate with our Little Peanut and Todd does it in English.  If I am saying something to her that I know Todd is not going to understand, I say it to her first in Spanish and then turn to him and repeat myself in English.  If I say something that I assume Todd will understand but he doesn’t, he will just ask me.  He’ll say something like, “What was that again?” and I will just repeat myself.

I know that may probably sound really weird but it is a lot simpler and smoother than you may think.  We are all just so used to it that no one really thinks about it twice.  We have done the same thing when Todd’s family is in town or when we have friends who only speak English.  In those instances, I am probably much quicker to translate right after I speak in Spanish since they are not as used to it.  But even with visitors it really doesn’t feel that awkward.  That’s just how we do it!

One thing I have found adorable, is that our Little Peanut has started to translate for Todd.  Little things, but just the other day we arrived at a restaurant and as we walked inside I said “Ok, vamos a comer” essentially “Ok, let’s go eat” and my daughter turned to Todd and said “Daddy, eat!”  So I imagine that as she gets older she will also jump in and translate when she knows Dad may not have understood something, which in book is another great skill to have!

Now let’s say we are all playing together, well in that case we let one of us take the lead.  We are both present in the activity but we just kind of naturally let one or the other take charge.  The other parent is still engaged and talking but we are not both trying to talk over each other.  I don’t doubt that our Little Peanut could manage hearing both of us and communicating with both of us at once but we mostly just do it for our own sanity. If Todd is asking her, what color is this? I just let her answer it and I am not jumping in right away and saying ok but what does mommy call it?? I just let it happen and when there is a natural way for me to jump in I do so.

I am not saying that this is the best way and the only way it should be done but this just happens to be the way we do it and what’s worked for us over the past two and half years!

For those of you that are considering One Parent, One Language and are concerned that you may be leaving out your partner, my first suggestion would be to communicate together about your feelings and hesitations.  What is worrying one of you may not be what is worrying the other!  And you may find that just talking about it and doing some troubleshooting and trial error, you may find a solution that works for everybody.

And then my second suggestion would be to just try it out for a little bit.  Give yourself at least a week if not two and see how you feel.  It may feel a little uncomfortable at first but you will likely find that it may be a lot smoother than you ever expected.

I would love to hear how it goes so feel free to send me a note at bilingualavenue.com/contact.  Also, if you have a question, reach out as well!

If you would like more one on one help on your multilingual journey, I’d love the opportunity to work with you.  We’ll develop a customized language plan for your family to meet the needs of your children.  You can check out more information at bilingualavenue.com/consultations

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