I attended a fabulous cookout this weekend that was hosted by a dear friend. Throughout the duration there were 8 – 10 people in attendance. One of these people is of Mexican origin but has lived in my northern state since childhood and freely admits that his English is much better than his Spanish. His girlfriend showed up late, but it was informal on the times so that was fine – people were coming and going over five or six hours. She is also of Mexican descent but was raised in a northern state. Both of them do speak Spanish at home with their parents, but speak English in their everyday lives and have no difficulty expressing themselves as they were educated in the English language.
My question is this, as no one besides these two people speak Spanish fluently (or at all for the most part), was it appropriate for them to trade commentary in Spanish while standing in the same room as five or six friends who are all limited to speaking English? I know one person tried to comment on it by saying that he spoke French if anyone wanted to chat, but they just laughed it off and every once in a while would have a brief conversation in front of us that no one else could understand. I feel that is the height of bad manners – it would be different if Spanish was their primary language and English was difficult – but this was a situation where it was clearly a choice to exclude the group from their conversation.
What should I do when this situation pops up again? Is there a gentle way to point out how offensive this is to the group as a whole? 0528-13
Speaking in another language that is unknown to everyone else or whispering together repeatedly while in the conversational arena that intentionally excludes others from participating is rude. Either they are conducting personal business that should have been dealt with at a more appropriate time and venue or they are having a running commentary about the food, the event, what others guests say or look like.
The gentle approach was taken and was ignored. As a guest you have no further recourse other than to give the conspiratorial couple the proverbial cold shoulder. If they want to verbally fence themselves off from other guests, you may assist in this endeavor by simply choosing to not engage them in any discussion. As a host, you can pull one or both aside and privately suggest that if they have unfinished private business that necessitates them speaking between themselves in another language that perhaps they would be more comfortable tying up the loose ends in the privacy of the den.