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Question
Posted by: Lisa | 2011/03/09

Lost in translation?

Hi There
I am currently in a wonderful relationship with my bf of three years.I am an extremely confident and bubbly person except when it comes to his family.I am english and he is afrikaans.I speak fluent afrikaans but when we visit his family i get so intimidated that i completely muddle up my words and i eventually have to speak english.They think im being disrespecful if i speak english and they become quite nasty.My bf always stands up for me but i wish that he didnt have to.Ive never experienced feeling so shy and out of place before.Is there any sort of way i can get myself to be comfortable and confident around them?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageCyberShrink

Of course it's not disrespectful for you to speak English to them, any more than it is disrespectful for them to insist on you speaking Afrikaans. In fact, less so, as it's customary in most cultures, to do all you can to make your guest feel at home and to feel comfortable.
A counsellor of the CBT sort might be able to help you to relax deliberately when you feel you need to, and to stop enabling them to push the switches that make you feel awkward.
Also, you can discuss this with your bf, so he can explain to his family, that (a) it is their duty within their own cultural traditions to do far more to make a guest feel at home, and (b) that you are fluent in Afrikaans but find it hard to be so when nervous, and they have been making you feel nervous.

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Our users say:
Posted by: Romany | 2011/03/10

Normally Afrikaans people are VERY tolerant of people unable to speak Afrikaans? It is normally the English speaking that enjoy a good joke about the Afrikaners trying to speak English?
Are you sure you are not being over sensitive here?

Reply to Romany
Posted by: Vaal Donkie | 2011/03/10

Let me try and explain what my personal experience is. I am very proudly Afrikaans and I wouldn''t have it any other way. I respect other languages and I like speaking English to people. I learned to love it in high school, especially after I started reading more serious writers like Lewis. Tolkien, Huxley, etc. But there is so much legislation and polticking to get Afrikaans out of our schools and universities and my beloved language is molested so much on stupid programmes like 7e Laan and Binneland Sub Judice, that I can''t help being quite sensitive. It is also a big slap in the face when an obviously Afrikaans coloured person refuses to speak Afrikaans to me. I recently found out the reason: Afrikaans was the langauge of the " oppressor"  and therefore they refuse to use it with a white person.

All these things irritate me and I believe a lot of my peers feel the same way. Now, if I know my fellow Afrikaans-speakers, they are a welcoming and understanding lot, but you must understand that at work, even though 90% of people speak Afrikaans at home, have to speak english in meetings and it gets boring after a while. When you get home in the evening, you''re quite fed up.

Does this little rant shed any light at all?

Reply to Vaal Donkie
Posted by: Rump | 2011/03/09

Hi Lisa,

I am from England and married an Afrikaans boy (they are delicious, aren''t they?!?) Anyway, his family are VERY Afrikaans, especially the dad who does not like change. I am trying to learn the language, but they laugh at me as I get my words all muddled up, I know the vocabulary but do not know in what order they go, like Clara in 7 de laan! They have warmed to me and speak a little English to include me in the conversation. I think if your personality shines through and they see that you are trying, then they will get off their high horses and try to make an effort to converse with you. Don''t let them get to you, you seem confident, so just keep at it and in time it will improve. Even if you put in some English words, I think it is okay. I often hear Afrikaans people slipping in an English word here and there, in fact, I think that is the way SA is going, so that people can have conversations with each other and not be afraid to speak as you don''t know the language fully.

Take it easy!

Reply to Rump
Posted by: Hestia | 2011/03/09

Hi Liza. I am Afrikaans myself and normally I am just happy if someone tries. Just continue being yourself. some people, English and Afrikaans, just come down more rudely than others. Just take it one day at a time. Is it that they are really being nasty or are you just very sensitive about this?
Either way, just love your boyfriend. The family will soon learn to live with it

Reply to Hestia
Posted by: Lisa | 2011/03/09

Jerk has anybody ever told you that if yoy love someone with all your heart you first sort out the problem before you leave them.And hes not the problem.I am.i can see why youre so bitter.With the advice youre handing out you will never be happy

Reply to Lisa
Posted by: Jerk | 2011/03/09

Dump him loser

Reply to Jerk
Posted by: cybershrink | 2011/03/09

Of course it's not disrespectful for you to speak English to them, any more than it is disrespectful for them to insist on you speaking Afrikaans. In fact, less so, as it's customary in most cultures, to do all you can to make your guest feel at home and to feel comfortable.
A counsellor of the CBT sort might be able to help you to relax deliberately when you feel you need to, and to stop enabling them to push the switches that make you feel awkward.
Also, you can discuss this with your bf, so he can explain to his family, that (a) it is their duty within their own cultural traditions to do far more to make a guest feel at home, and (b) that you are fluent in Afrikaans but find it hard to be so when nervous, and they have been making you feel nervous.

Reply to cybershrink

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