Lost in Translation


Dear Dharma, 

I have a problem and I need some advice on how to approach my girlfriend about it.  We’ve been together for almost 2 years, and are very happy in almost every way, but there is an issue for me that I am hesitant in bringing up.

Her parents are first generation immigrants, and speak another language at home.  They speak English as well, but when we go to visit them, and it’s just the 4 of us, they all speak in the other language and I’m left sitting there not being able to participate. This can go on for hours.

I certainly don’t want to come across as the ugly American, but how can I tell her that I feel this is rude?  It is starting to make me feel resentful of having to go visit her parents.

Help Dharma!

Feeling Left Out

Dear Left Out,

Really?  This has been going on for almost 2 years, and it’s just coming up now?  That’s a lot of sitting around watching the clock and waiting to leave.  The fact that they can speak English to you, their guest, but actively choose not to is incredibly rude and the fact that your girlfriend needs to be told this is perplexing.

Which, of course, needs to be your next step, you definitely need to have a conversation about this.  It doesn’t have to be crazy confrontational, but it could be along the lines of, “I would really love to participate in the conversations that occur when we visit your parents, but it’s difficult when I don’t know what you guys are talking about.”

See what her reaction is to that – hopefully it’s “OMG, you’re right!  I’m so sorry!  I just get caught up in what’s going on and didn’t even think!”  If so, it’s up to her to lead the way with her parents.  If she speaks in English to them, they may well respond in suit.  Or they may not, but she can always translate, and they should start to get the hint.  Above all, she definitely needs to make the effort to include you in the conversations.

However, if she doesn’t see it as a problem, I might just sit the next visit out.  There’s no value to anyone for you to be there, and a complete waste of your time… And if your girlfriend is okay with that, then I may have to come back and question just how happy this relationship actually is.



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Categories: Advice, conflict, Family


  • everett says:

    The fact that the parents are rude like this isn’t even the worst thing, in my mind. It’s the girlfriend has been ok with this… FOR TWO YEARS!!!

    wow man, your “happy in every way” is actually pretty sucky.

    • Dharma says:

      Agreed! The only benefit of the doubt I can extend is that she is genuinely oblivious, and he hasn’t brought it to her attention… It’s weak, but it’s a possibility!

      Thanks for your comment, Everett!

Whether you agree with Dharma or think she missed the mark on this one, leave a Comment!

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