I am from Argentina and my husband is From the US. We have always spoken English together. Now we have a 6 month old baby, Maria, and I want to raise her bilingually.
In theory my husband is in agreement but he doesn’t speak Spanish. I am worried if I speak only Spanish to Maria it will create conflict in our marital relationship.
Answer from Harriet Cannon:
In the healthiest of relationships, there will be some conflicts to negotiate as you transition from a couple to a family so take heart and make the time to talk with your husband about how your life together is changing.
You already know the reality that some words and concepts don’t translate from one language and culture to another. Your intuition is correct that this will highlight the differences between you and your husband when you talk to Maria in Spanish.
The emotional impact of cultural issues comes as a surprise for most bicultural couples when a child arrives. Many couples try to bury it by concentrating only on what they have in common. The truth is the two of you have to face your cultural and linguistic differences at a deeper level to raise healthy bicultural children.
The immigrant spouse has more losses to grieve than the spouse who lives in their native land. This puts responsibility on you, the immigrant, to be honest about how important your language and culture is to you including all its philosophical and spiritual meanings.
Make some practical agreements about how you can teach Maria both languages. Ask your husband to be open if he feels out of the loop. Talk about it often. Seek out other bicultural couples.
If you find yourselves unable to discuss this openly and honestly together without getting defensive, do see a professional counselor who specializes in multicultural relationships.
Photo Credit: Felix E. Guerrero