Criticism for speaking to my husband in Spanish

While we were living outside of Monterrey, Nuevo León, I gave EFL lessons to a handful of neighbors and friends who wanted to learn English.  I charged each student the equivalent of around $3 USD, or less, per hour.  While there was much continuing interest from residents in the community, there weren’t very many Mexicans who were actually willing to sacrifice a few dollars a week for education, though learning the English language is the type of thing that — as opposed to parties, glitzy clothing, toys, phones, and alcohol — would give them the chance at a better future.

As with coaching youth soccer, teaching EFL was something I thoroughly enjoyed doing.  I love being able to witness and contribute to others’ growth.  So I will probably end up doing it again in some environment.


Aron and me, October 2008;
a.k.a the “after” photo

That said, it’s noteworthy that my own husband — with whom I’ve maintained a steady relationship for more than five years — cannot understand enough of my language to carry on a complete conversation in English.  Pressure comes at me from all directions: “He needs to learn English,” “You should speak to him only in English,” or “Why don’t you just teach him English?”

Sigh.  Things people say.  A good part of me agrees, but it’s easier said than done.

We have been in the U.S. for nearly a year now.  Before then, all conversation between Aron and me, and among Aron’s family in Mexico, was in Spanish.  Every joke, story, cultural reference, and intimate word between Aron and me has been in Spanish.  So essentially, you could say our relationship was founded in a language that I have come to enjoy, love, and learn fluently — but this language is not the one I learned from my parents.  And going back and trying to translate those memories among us just doesn’t work, because the transition from Spanish to English, and vice versa, is generally not word-for-word.  That’s what makes it tough to learn new languages.

And since I don’t want any of us to lose our knack for Spanish while we are in the U.S. (and since, as a customer service rep, I get paid more due to my capacity to speak Spanish with ease on a daily basis), I’ve not been to eager to phase myself into speaking to Aron in English.  That doesn’t mean he hasn’t learned at all; it just means it hasn’t been as much of a priority as maybe it should be, particularly in onlookers’ eyes.

So as much as I appreciate the encouragement of strangers and loved ones to get Aron to drop his own language and replace it with that of the gringos, the situation is not as simple as what it appears to be.  Either way, bit by bit we are each becoming well rounded individuals.  I am confident we will “get there” someday.

13 thoughts on “Criticism for speaking to my husband in Spanish

  1. Pingback: Criticism for speaking to my son in English | La Güera Pecosa

  2. I am jealous you can speak Spanish so fluently! I took 3 years of Spanish but have forgotten most of it. I really wish I could speak more directly to the Latino and Hispanic families of the students I work with!

    • Thanks so much for your response! I actually get stopped in stores by people asking how I learned Spanish! You are definitely not alone — it is tough to go back and try to remember something that you don’t use on a daily basis… which is why I feel the pressure to hang onto my Spanish as much as possible!! I am still looking for my niche as far as how I can effectively serve Hispanic families… any suggestions?

      • I somehow missed your response to my post earlier! I know that many small schools/charter schools and non profit agencies desperately need translators but cannot afford a full time person. I would look in your area to see if you could volunteer or if they need help!

        • Hey, thank you for the suggestion. I have been told that hospital translators do pretty well… but working in an academic environment, I would probably be able to make more of an impact. My husband and I are looking to head southwest to settle within the coming years, and that is definitely something I will keep on the front burner. Thanks again!

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  4. Pingback: The Daddy Lego speaks Spanish | La Güera Pecosa

  5. I so know where you are coming from with this. When a relationship – any kind of relationship – with another person starts in one language, it can be very difficult and awkward changing it to another. Language is very powerful in that way – it can effectively alter the nature of your relationship in many subtle ways, and we may not always want that…

    • Very well said! And kind of like with parenthood or anything else, until you experience it yourself you feel it is your duty to judge the heck out of other people for it, lol! Thanks so much for your response 🙂

      • I’ve no experience of that, but that’s a prime example. Also, people, who’ve only ever been abroad for vacations giving you advice about moving and settling in foreign countries (which I’ve done twice). You cannot possibly know what it’s like unless you’ve experienced it. You can learn from reading about things and from looking at them through the rose-tinted glasses of a nice package holiday, but if you have not lived through the emotional upheaval of it all, you haven’t got a clue…

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  7. My mom is Mexican and my dad is Cuban, both being only spanish speakers as me and my siblings were growing up. My first language was spanish until I started school and forgot it. We all spoke to our parents in english and they spoke to us in spanish and somehow they learned english and we all understood each other.
    i did not REALLY learn how to properly speak spanish again until I was 20 and had to for work. It was a struggle and I regret letting go of my native language.
    My husband only speaks spanish too and i only speak to him in spanish, aside from a word here and there, but he communicates with my kids the same way I communicated with my parents and he has learned so much english he can understand nearly any conversation being spoken.
    In time, it happens, naturally. I don’t think it is essential to put him learning english as a priority.

  8. We get a lot of nasty comments when we are out and about speaking Spanish. My husband has lived in the US for a couple of years now. He speaks English at his work but it’s pretty limited and mostly what he knows is directly related to his job or things he has learned from being around my family. Everyone has pressured me so much to teach him English especially since I taught TESOL/TEFL in Honduras. It’s so hard. He is very shy and gets embarrassed a lot, even with me. I understand because I was the same with Spanish when I was learning, I just didn’t know him when I was learning so he didn’t see that side of me. It puts a strain on our relationship every time we try to have an exclusively English conversation. I think since he can get by fine speaking English when it’s necessary without me, that it shouldn’t matter that our language as a couple is Spanish. Like you said, those special memories and moments that we shared in Nicaragua in the early years of our relationship are not easily translated. We found what works for us and I hate that other people judge us for it.

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