Episode 52: Q&A – Will I ever feel completely comfortable speaking a language other than the community language to my kids in public?

Episode 52  

On this episode of Bilingual Avenue, I answer a question from a mother who often feels awkward speaking to her daughter in a language other than the community language.  She asked for my personal experience and wondered if she will ever feel comfortable talking to her daughter in Russian in public.  I share my experience and encourage her to keep trying it for a few months before giving up.

Episode #52- Transcript

Hey there and welcome to a Question and Answer edition of the Bilingual Avenue podcast.

We are back to the regular Thursday Q&A episodes.  I hoped you enjoyed last week special interview with my father to celebrate episode 50.  If you haven’t listened to it, check it out at bilingualavenue.com/episode50 and let me know what you think! I’ll pass it on to my dad!

Alright so today’s question was a quick message I received from a parent that I wanted to share with you because I imagine many of you are wondering this as well.

Let me read you the email:

Hi Marianna,  just a quick note to get your insights … will it ever stop being awkward?  I am speaking a minority language to my daughter, she’s 15 months.  I have to be honest, I feel so awkward speaking a different language to her than I do to everyone else especially when we are in public.  I feel really self-conscious about it and feel like I am leaving out my friends.  I don’t know maybe it is because I am speaking Russian and no one around me even knows a word in Russian.  I gotta know from your experience and that of other parents you have talked to, will it really ever stop feeling this awkward? – Antonia

Thanks Antonia for sending in your very honest concern and for allowing me to share it with the Bilingual Avenue community!

Let me start off by saying that you are not alone and that many other parents feel awkward … usually when they first set out on their language journey.  Some parents are never faced by having to switch languages while other take a little longer to make the adjustment.

I was already used to switching languages in front of others when my parents were around and even then I still felt a little awkward those first few months when I would speak Spanish to my daughter and English to other friends around me.  I never really felt uncomfortable when my husband was in the room because I was just more comfortable with him but I’ll be honest, I really did feel a little strange especially when I was with my other mommy friends.

But you know what?  Eventually, that feeling of awkwardness went away almost completely.  I say almost completely because every now and then from time to time it may still creep up again if I am with someone that I have JUST met but for the most part I can confidently tell you, yes, the more you do it the more comfortable you will feel to the point where one day it really will not bother you!

If you really do feel like you are leaving others out of the conversation, consider repeating what you just said to your daughter to others in the community language.  I’m not sure where you live but let’s assume the community language is English.  Consider repeating yourself in English so that others know what you are saying.  That may ease you in that transition.

I do know of many parents who have chosen to maintain the One Parent, One Language or Minority Language at home policy but speak the community language outside of the home freely with their children.  For some people, this just feels more comfortable and more natural.  Perhaps that is something you will want to consider.  Just keep in mind as I always say that every time you make the switch from target language to community language you are going to decrease the level of exposure in the target language.  That is a trade-off that you will have to consider but is certainly an option available for you in the even that you truly just do not feel comfortable speaking a target language to your child when others around.

For now, I would say keep trying to speak to your daughter in the target language for a few more months.  You may find that once she becomes more and more vocal and expressive with you in Russian that it may feel more natural to engage in conversations with her this way!

Either way, I wish you the best of luck and keep us posted on your progress!

To the listeners, thanks again for tuning into another episode of the podcast.

And remember, all the Question and Answer questions have a transcript on the website in case you wanted to revisit any of what we talked about.  You can find the transcript to this episode at bilingualavenue.com/episode52

May you have fun travels on your language journey! Hope to see you again on the avenue.

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