Learning a second language can be difficult, especially once you’re older. Kids have a pretty good facility for learning languages, so it’s best to introduce them to a second or even third language when they are young.
One Redditor who grew up in the US and currently lives in a foreign country is struggling with his wife about what language their child should grow up speaking.
Now he’s wondering if he’s wrong to push English when the child’s mother only speaks her language.
The OP says that he was born in the USA and after college decided to teach English in another country for a year. However, he ended up really liking the place and decided to live there. He’s been there for ten years and is fluent in the local language now.
“I married my wife (29F), a local woman, three years ago. A recurring point of contention in our relationship is the fact that her English skill is very limited, causing her to have practically no relationship with any of my family. I have offered to help her learn several times and she said she would work at it when we got married, however she has never done any serious studying. Whenever this is brought up she tells me that it’s either too difficult or she doesn’t have the time or energy (she works full time). This annoys me because in my mind this signals that she just doesn’t care about really knowing her in-laws and if she did, she would make time.”
The OP explains that they are expecting their first child, and he would like his son to grow up knowing how to speak English:
“I told my wife this and that when the baby is born I will speak to him exclusively in English to help him learn. She didn’t like the idea that she wouldn’t be able to understand what we’re saying to each other. I once again offered to help her learn, but she countered that if she didn’t have the time to learn before she definitely wouldn’t have the time while taking care of a baby. I held firm and told her that it would be a disservice not to have our son learn English and if she didn’t know what we were talking about then that’s her problem. After that my wife got angry about excluding her and she hasn’t spoken to me in a few hours. AITA for wanting to speak to my child in English even if my wife wouldn’t be able to take part in our conversations?”
The OP then added: “When I say I will speak to my son exclusively in English, I mean in talks between the two of us. If it’s a family discussion with all three of us I would use the local language. The problem is my wife doesn’t want me to use English with our child when she’s around at all which would severely limit how often I’d be able to use it.”
What do Redditors think?
“OP’s wife complained about being excluded if their child learns English, but she is the one choosing to exclude herself. I am wondering why. Is she one of the many people who really struggle in learning another language? Did she embarrass herself at school trying to learn another language? For some people it takes full immersion of living in a country where that language is spoken to pick the language up. It may be that OP’s wife is ashamed that OP has learned her language, but what he has tried to teach her is not sticking. She may be terrified that she will be cut off from both her husband and child if they spend a lot of time speaking English. OP needs to try to discover where her reluctance is coming from and help her get past her fears,” explained Far_Administration41.
“You’re not an AH for wanting your kid to speak your language. But your comment ‘my family and I are in complete agreement…’ gave me pause. I couldn’t help noticing that your wife doesn’t seem to be classified as family. Or that you’re including your parents or siblings or whoever you think of as family in an argument that’s between you and her. I imagine feeling ambushed by her in-laws doesn’t help your wife’s fears about being excluded from interactions with her kid. I think you two need to find a good therapist and work through her fears and your frustrations without the input of people who of course are going to be biased,” said winnie_the_grizzly.
“I kind of want to say E S H because of this: ‘I told my wife this and that when the baby is born I will speak to him exclusively in English to help him learn.’ It’s the ‘exclusively’ that bothers me. If you’re one-on-one with the kid then absolutely use English if you want, but excluding the other person in the room is always going to cause friction. But NTA for wanting your child to be able to speak to your family, and for being pissed that your wife has made no effort to learn to communicate with your relatives, your soon-to-be-born child’s relatives. I have a friend whose [language] isn’t great, but she is making an effort to learn more alongside her kids. She made time to learn a few things before going to visit her husband’s family in [country] for the first time. She got to know him him by editing his school work in college here in the US. (He’s a [language] teacher, she’s an English teacher.)” said bethsophia.
“NTA. Bilingual marriages are tricky, but you have the right to teach your child your language. The ‘problem’ of not understanding is not a real problem if you teach your child, always to talk the language the other person understands. It is common courtesy. Not learning your language would exclude the child to your family. The question of english as “international language” is additional, but i would advice, not to make this a point while arguing, bc it looks like ‘better language / worse language’ discussion. Just tell, your child is a part of your extended family and the most children have no problems with bilinguality. It can advance their language skill in general anyway,” noted BertTheNerd.
“Denying a child the opportunity to naturally and natively learn two languages, especially when the two languages are of each parent, is an automatic AH verdict. Speaking more than one language will connect your child(ren) to both sides of their family. Speaking more than one language natively offers employment and other life advantages. Speaking more than one language has been shown to improve brain function. OP, you are NTA,” said NoiseProvesNothing.
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