There are a lot of advantages to having a Colombian mother-in-law. I get homemade bunelos every time I visit and fresh empandas and arepa con queso. Alright, so most of the advantages are food related. Aside from always wanting to feed me, my mother-in-law is also really sweet to me. Our relationship is almost perfect…almost. It would be, if only we spoke the same language.
I’m not saying that metaphorically. We literally don’t speak the same language. Her native language is Spanish while mine is English. We’re in the same boat when it comes to each other’s language: we understand it, but we can’t comfortably communicate in it.
So, how do we talk to each other? you may ask. Well, my man and father-in-law are both fluent in both languages and translate for us. It goes like this: I turn to my partner, he turns to his mother and I look for her reaction. My mother-in-law turns to her husband, he turns to me and she looks at me for my reaction. We can have an entire 15-minute conversation without actually saying a word to each other; just smiling.
There are so many times I want to tell her a story about work or something going on with my family, but I hesitate. I think too hard about how to express myself and end up not saying anything at all. She feels the same and admitted to my man that she gets that way sometimes, too. So, one day I finally got the courage to ask her about how this language barrier makes her feel about our relationship. She said she doesn’t feel like it affects our relationship, but we would be a lot closer if we could communicate without help. Mostly, she admits, it makes her feel bad because she’s been in this country for so long and can’t speak the language.
I understand the feeling. My nationality is American, but I am of Peruvian ethnicity and I can’t even speak Spanish. I feel like I’m not even a real Latina.
My battle with being a real Latina is not what’s important, though. My relationship with my mother-in-law is and we both want to become closer and feel comfortable communication with one another. So we are working on not using our men as translators. We are strengthening our relationship one slow-speaking conversation at a time.