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Author Topic: Phone, MIL, and language barriers  (Read 13029 times)

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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #15 on: October 04, 2012, 04:03:18 PM »
I think you and your DH need to be honest with MIL.  If you call her on the weekend when DH is there and explain to her that you cannot understand her over the phone but you are touched that she is calling you.  She may be upset but I believe that it is more upsetting to keep calling someone and getting their voicemail (and never a call back).

How long have you been seeing/married to your DH?  Does he speak MIL's native tongue?  Could your DH help you to learn MIL's language on weekends, and you use a computer program to practice on week days?  I know learning a second language takes a lot of time and effort*, but this woman will be in your life for a long time.  If you have children, she will probably speak to them in her native tongue, and you should have at least a working knowledge of her language.

*I have had to learn two while I was in the service.  I was never fluent in Japanese (by any stretch of the imagination  ;D), but I did become fluent in Spanish.


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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #16 on: October 04, 2012, 09:40:49 PM »
If MIL is calling out of loneliness, it might help if you hubby took the initiative to call her more frequently.  He could give her news of you, which might stifle her urge to call you directly.  The two of you could also call her together on weekends and catch her up on the news of the week.  It wouldn't hurt to occasionally mention how very very busy you are during the week.

My cousin kind of forced Skype on her mom.  Cousin bought it, set it up, and forced her mom to use it a few times.  Eventually her mom came to love it.  Expensive and might not work for everyone, but worth a thought.
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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #17 on: October 04, 2012, 10:53:57 PM »
OP back again with some clarifications.

1. I'm pretty sure MIL is *not* calling because she is lonely. She is a very social, busy person (10-12 hour workdays, goes to the gym with friends everyday, spends time with her husband) so she's never been the type to get lonely. I'm pretty sure she's calling to discuss specific things we talked about last time we visited (DH and my plans for holidays/vacation/etc) and she's calling me, not DH, because she knows I tend to be the one who makes the plans. She's doesn't really call just to chat because of her busy schedule.

2. DH does not speak MIL's native language. However, because he grew up with her, he understands her totally fine in person. However, even he admits she can be hard to understand on the phone.

3. I do not speak MIL's native language. I have tried to learn several times but between work and school, I simply do not have time nor the means to do so.

4. MIL is also very busy as I mentioned, so there is no possible way she'd be able to take an English course. Period. Besides, she's been in this country for more than 20 years at this point...even if she did have time, I don't think she'd bother after all this time.

MIL left another message today. I opted to text DH and tell him to call MIL. He just told her I was busy and asked him to handle it.
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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #18 on: October 04, 2012, 11:02:36 PM »
If she's not gonna take steps to remedy her own un-understandable-ness, then she doesn't get to be sensitive about it. Sort of like how if you don't vote, you can't complain about who got elected.
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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #19 on: October 05, 2012, 07:50:18 AM »
Does it help at all if she slows down when she's talking?

There is a new "big boss" at my workplace who moved here from another country 25 years ago. He has advanced degrees from universities in this country. One would think he would have a good grasp of spoken English. Not so. The first time I met him, I honestly thought he was speaking his native language and said, "I'm sorry,but I don't speak your NativeLanguage." He blinked and then said slowly, "I was speaking English." I blinked back at him, because seriously, there was nothing in that sentence (or two? or twelve?) that sounded remotely like English. He then asked, slowly, "Do I need to speak more slowly?" And a chorus of voices (including my own) answered, "Yes!" We have found that when he speaks slowly, we can (mostly) understand him, but when he speaks at a normal speed, it's absolutely unintelligible to us.


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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #20 on: October 05, 2012, 08:50:16 AM »
If you can understand her in person, can you possibly 'train' yourself to understand her over the phone?  Of course, you'd have to be upfront with her about why you're doing this, and like a PP said, she'd just have to get over it if she wants to be able to call you.  It's not a slight; it's a fact and a problem.  It's like bad's embarrassing and a touchy subject, but if you have to be around someone and his breath makes you want to hurl, then something needs to be said, uncomfortable or not. 

But anyway, about the 'training'; I used to work for a company that sold systems to hospitals.  One of the doctors was not a native English speaker, and I just could NOT understand him.  At all.  Seriously, he sounded like the male verson of Charo, if you remember her.  Luckily I was with another guy who could understand the doc.  I met him another time, and then one time I had to meet with him myself.  Strangely enough, he didn't speak any better, but I was able to understand everything that he said!  My brain had somehow acclimated to his speech.  So it can be done.

So could you have some prearranged calls over the phone with you and DH on two extensions, and just have MIL talk and talk?  DH can translate, and you (and your brain) can get accustomed to hearing her.  You'll train yourself.  Do that a few times and I bet your understanding will improve.


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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #21 on: October 05, 2012, 09:14:48 AM »
If this would work for you -

I would ask DH to intervene, but in a very specific way. Have him call MIL and say "Mom, Kitchcat feels bad that the two of you have a hard time understanding each other over the phone. You do well in person, but phone calls are tough because there's always background noise on both ends, etc. She would love to be able to communicate with you throughout the week so I've been wondering if emails would work. There are websites and software programs that can translate so she can write in English and you in Native Language. Would you be willing to give it a try?"


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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #22 on: October 06, 2012, 04:08:11 PM »
Well, English is not MIL's first language and she speaks with an intensely thick accent. Furthermore, she speaks "broken" English so even without the accent, she could be difficult to understand.

However, MIL's is very poor at reading/writing English, so that's pretty much not an option. On top of all this, MIL is very sensitive about her language barrier.

I think it's your husband's issue to handle, since she's his mother, and I think he might should suggest that if she's so uber-sensitive, she could take steps to correct what she's so sensitive about, instead of going around being sensitive about it.

This. Having him speak to her seems like the best solution.
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Re: Phone, MIL, and language barriers
« Reply #23 on: October 06, 2012, 06:58:49 PM »
I love the idea of learning HerLanguage, but it can go further.  Have you thought of asking her to teach you her language over Skype (if there is someone to show her how to use it)?  Or over the phone of there is not?  From a book like Her Language for Busy People?  I am thinking that working with you may allow you both to learn as you might say, when she mangles English, exactly what she says when you mangle Her Language.  Also, in this mode she might slow down naturally.  If she likes keeping busy, she'll love this idea.  It might help you to understand her better, if not to speak HerLanguage