Few days ago, as I was reading the local newspaper; fed up with news about war, crimes, natural disaster, and a sick old Austrian bastard and his little secret family, I read the ‘Dear Abby’ column for a change. There was a letter from a lady who appear to have a daughter in law mentioned as Carmella. This lady complained that Carmella and her family always talk in their native language in front of the lady and her American family. She thought this is rude and asked for some suggestions.
Before we judge this lady as a snob ignorant bitch, let’s pause for a while. Imagine you’re visiting a country you’ve never been to nor speak their language. Wouldn’t you speak in your native language with your family or friends who come along with you? Did it ever occur to you that the local people might think you are being rude by not talking in their language?
Different example. A paranoid coworker of mine said the main reason she’s hesitant to go to a nail care center runs by Vietnamese (or other Asian ethnicity; but mostly Vietnam) was because, “Well, they talk in their native language to each other while they’re doing my nails. I think they’re talking about me.” I usually give her a big ‘Geez!’ whenever she complains but I think if I were her, I’d feel the same way too.
When my mother and brother were here visiting from Indonesia, I tried my best to be a translator for the big family conversation. My parents-in-law were present too, and it’s kind of hard to try to translate everything my Indonesian family said into English, cause sometimes it’s just not that important to translate. Like for instance, my mom was commenting on how cute the dessert cake was to me. And my in-laws were like, “What’s that??” Then again my mom made a comment about a painting hanging on the wall, and again my in-laws jumped right in and said, “Hmmm??? What’s that?”
So yeah, I did speak in Bahasa with my mom here and there when it’s just a casual talk. I thought it’s more convinient since she doesn’t speak English fluently. I tried to be extra careful when somebody else’s around (not necessarily strangers), I’d translate too. I did not get any remarks on being rude at that point, but would they say it to me anyway? Or would they write to ‘Dear Abby’ instead like Carmella’s mother-in-law? Is it fair to expect people to speak the national language of the country they’re in at that moment? Then by golly, the French is not so snobbish after all!