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Monday, March 16, 2009

Speaking a different language in front of others

... IS SO ANNOYING!

Gosh! Why do people do this?

The other day I had a meeting at the masjid. InshaAllah I'm gonna start teaching Qur'an there and the Imam wanted to meet with all the Qur'an teachers to make sure we were all on the same page and to offer some teaching pointers. It was myself and two older sisters. Before the meeting even started the Imam said, "Sister Lazeena is here, so we will speak in English okay?"... since the rest of them have Urdu as their first language... but they DO speak good English alhamdulillah.

So he starts telling us about how to organize our time with our students and one sister interrupts and goes off in Urdu. The Imam answers her in English and she responds back in Urdu. I guess he didn't understand what she was saying and asked her to re-explain it. She explained it in English this time.

"So you can say in English?" He said with his little accent, and smiled. "Okay we talk in English inshaAllah?"

He continued to address her concern in English and the other sister then started talking to him in Urdu. Hello???? Then she turns to me and asks why I wasn't offering any input. "She's young, she's not experienced, we'll have to help her" the other sister tells her and the Imam... in ENGLISH! Ugh!

I straight out told her I couldn't say anything because I didn't know what she was even talking about.The Imam told them over and over again to speak in English but for whatever reason they didn't. I mean, I understand Urdu is their native tongue but if you can say it in English, then why not? The Imam was nice enough to answer their questions in English even though they spoke in Urdu, and they fully understood him when he did speak in English.

Now this is far from a worse case scenario. I've been invited to people's houses and everyone around me would be speaking in Urdu or Bengali and would totally ostracize me. Then when I turn down an invite in fear of that they get upset with me for not wanting to go. What difference does it make? It's not like my presence really makes a difference... most of the time the hostess if busy being the hostess (can't blame them), and I'm left wandering around looking for someone who's left out just like me, or watching the little kids beat each other up. Alhamdulillah I've met a fair share of sisters who would come speak to me or at least ask the other sisters to speak in English to include me. I know this is why a lot of masaajid which are dominantly 1 ethnic background do not get other members from a different background attending their masjid.

It's so rude and it makes people feel unwelcome. There's no reason for you to speak in another language. I always get a weird sense of paranoia... as if I think the person must be talking about me if they can't speak in English to their friend while I'm there. I get that sometimes there are jokes people make that only make sense in their language, which is cool with me, I'm always one for a good laugh.. but if we're talking about ashy feet or something do you really need to go off in Arabic for 10 minutes to your buddy while I stand there with a fake smile, staring at the wall, and eventually walk away? You must be telling your friend my feet are flakey (which they aren't!) if you can't say it in English ! Ahh!

If you speak a second language, alhamdulillah, this is a great gift. But use it wisely, please. Don't engaged in conversation with someone in your language if there is someone in the group who might not understand, especially if the other person is alone and has no one else to turn to and speak to. If it's a quick comment or joke, that's one thing... but if the conversation totally switches in that language and the person is left out that's not right at all. This is yet one of the many matters that is tearing the unity of our ummah apart!

25 comments:

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I'm Pakistani and my mom does this all the time and I hate it! I always tell her to cut it out. I know she's comfortable speaking in Urdu but still.. she doesn't like it when people do it to her so why do it to others? I hope our generation learns to stop this!

Asha said...

Oh sis,

Tell me about it! I know how you feel! I get that a lot as well and it frustrates me when people speak in their own native language and leave me out the conversation..

And it is even more annoying when I am talking to another person in my language and that sister would interrupt and be all pissed saying I should speak in English when I am not even talking to her. Oh the horror people can be!!

I would do the same as you. Just walk away quietly and unnoticed because I don't feel wanted and needed anyway :(

Mona said...

I agree it's rude. I have friends that are foreign and they have to sit and listen to everyone else talking in Arabic while they don't understand a thing when they could speak some English.

أم ترافيس said...

Ahem. This is my numero uno problemo in this country. Or among Arabs. I dont get it. It is so obviously rude. And it gets under my skin like nothing else

Falling Up said...

I hate that, too. But soometimes the really don't realize that they're doing it. I get so annoyed when my mom does this, but she really does it by accident. I don't know. She's trying. lol. But I can understand how irritating it must be.

Sahara said...

Assalamu aleykum,

Isn't there a hadîth, wallahu ta'ala 'alem that says that when there are 3 ppl, don't leave the 3rd person out to talk about your affairs, unless there's someone else that person can talk to. Correct me if I'm wrong. Does anyone have this hadîth?

Habayeb said...

The Prophet said: When three people are together, two should not talk secretly, leaving the third alone since this may grieve him. (Sahih Bukhari & Muslim).

True, happens with me when im amongst Arab friends or those in my volunteer group.Plus instead of the daunting task of translating the whole thing again just speak in English and make every1's life easier eh?

Lazeena Umm Yusuf said...

Yeah Sahara, I was looking for it.. Habayeb thanks for finding it! =)

Candice said...

I've been in that situation.. And so has my husband... It's hard not to talk in your native tongue with people you usually speak to in that language, but it's so important to make that effort.
I got used to pushing myself into the conversation. I guess I'm comfortable with that when I'm with my husband and his friends. But not with others.
There are quite a few converts in my city and I don't think any of them go to mosque regularly. It's all in Arabic... Not that interesting for us... Can't understand anything.

Khadija said...

this is exactly why i don't go to the masjid in my town. it is all indian and pakistani and they don't talk to you or answer your questions and when you're sitting there they talk to one another in urdu. these women lived here half their lives and attended college in the u.s. here but still for whatever reason are being unwelcoming. it does make me feel out of place and unwanted. i know this isn't a good reason not to go to the masjid but i feel so inferior there really, i'm much better off at home listening to lectures online i guess. i hope people learn to change, i hope their kids don't follow this pattern too.
i really like your blog, thanks for taking the time to post entries

Lexicala Complicata said...

Salaam Sis!

Believe me I feel ya!
"That is why some masjids are predominantly one ethinic group..." been there too!

You can take it in for a while but then you reach a point where you can't take it anymore!

Iftaars, Eid Parties, Etc... can be extremely excruciating when ur left to fake smile for hrs on end pretending to understand...

Take Care sis...n thnx for sharing!

NiDa said...

I absolutely agree darling - people do it far too often, and much more so in the Arab community, as far as I have expereicned it - Pakistanis do too.

But for some reason I feel more ostracized from people who speak my language and just ignore you point blank - and that is far too worse!

I got a sly way of things lol - I speak and understand 4 and learning 2 more, so people aren't always aware I understand - and when I answer back in urdu they are all like? " Oye yeh gori urdu kaise jaanti hai? " LOL I love it!

Just be patient sweety - and start learning :)

Anila said...

NIDA- Learning languages is a good thing of course, but we shouldn't have to just so we can eavesdrop or fit in with a community! People need to control when they speak in their language. There's a time to do it and a time not to. So we shouldn't have to learn, if anything we should have to learn Arabic but nothing else deserves us NEEDING to learn it just toc deal with people who can't be welcoming!

Muslimah2Muslimah said...

This is a very big pet peeve of mine and actually has started a few confrontations with my husband and I in the past. He and his family literally used to sit and speak in their native language (Wolof) for hours and I'd be sitting there filing my nails or playing with their kids. Then, it got to the point to where it was just pure annoying so began visiting with his family less and less. Now my husband makes sure that everyone speaks English whenever I am around so that I will feel more comfortable.

My advice is speak up. No one will realize it bothers you until you say something. And also, I'm sure they are doing it because they are comfortable with their native language and sometimes it is difficult to snap out of it.

~Najwa

NiDa said...

Anila sweety, i was being totally sarcastic - it was something you call a joke :)!

i didn't literarely sugest for lazeena sis to start learning languages for that explicit reason, but nontheless, as Muslims we should be able to learn and speak more than one! it helps tremendously with dawa and spreading the word of Allah - inshaAllah! I appologize for any misunderstandings!

Anila said...

NIDA ok i thought you were serious lol I was thinking like okay why is she saying this?

M2M- My inlaws do that too! I told my husband I hate to get together with his family because of that but for a while he never did anything because he felt bad to say to them. I mean can't you see I am just sitting here alone watching you all and not talking? Then they call me shy! Can you believe? Now sometimes they speak in English but mostly my husband has to sit by me and translate and I know it is annoying for him. I just don't want to go anymore, this is how isolating it does really feel and I hope anyone reading this who might do it can get insight of how others feel about it

Rere said...

yea, i got that a lot. its still in my own country but indonesia is a diverse culture country where almost every state/province would have their own language.
moving from the big city where they all talk in one language to a small city in a different province with a different language is really frustrating cos i literally cant talk with anyone and feel excluded from the crowd. i hate it so much i refused to learn the local language.

but i managed to learn the language any way. its not that hard after ten years.

Noshi said...

I know how this feels. Usually it's in my Spanish teacher's room. She goes off on tangent, talking to people in Spanish and then I hear my name out of nowhere. I'm like huh?!?!

My mom attempts to speak to my friends in English, it's so funny! But, then she'll go off in punjabi and my friends are just nodding. LOL It's hilarious.

I think I should reconsider speaking to my dad in English when my mom is there. I just realized it might really bother her.

JazakAllahu khair for the reminder jaan <3.

Haniyya said...

gosh i feel for you sis ! but as a desi, i feel unwelcomed myself. I am originally from Singapore..but a desi. I have felt so crappy going to some of the masjids here, its like m totally transparent. But then it could be because m dark..so they may assume m something else. oh well !!! Hence i have more non-desi sisters as friends, because of these scenarios.

Anonymous said...

It is just simply NORMAL to talk to people that know your own language IN your own language. "Own" being first and what comes most naturally. It is usually the language a person thinks in and it just comes most naturally.

I know how it feels to sit amongst ppl who are speaking a language you don't understand. Really I have been on both sides. It bothers me very little, I don't have two thoughts about it when it happens. Alhumdulilah, it's all good.

Anila said...

Anon- It's unislamic though and selfish to do that. We know some people are more comfortable speaking in their own language but I think we're all looking at instances where we're in a large group and people ramble off themselves making you feel unwelcome to people invite you over and none of their guests give you a break. It becomes really annoying, I didn't see nayone here say its wrong to speak your language, you just need to use it properly and mind your manners

Jaz said...

Oh totally! It makes you feel so left and helpless :( I know what you mean - and it really means a lot when people talk in English. It's extremely polite, especially if you're in their country. One time I went to work with my fiance in his clinic in Egypt and all the doctors there carried out their conversations in English and tried to include me so much. I thought that was lovely because I am extremely uncomfortable speaking Arabic and we were in an Arab country.

Aalia said...

Asalaamu `alaikum wa rahmatullahi wa barakato!!

Bismillah-

Lazeena said,

Now this is far from a worse case scenario. I've been invited to people's houses and everyone around me would be speaking in Urdu or Bengali and would totally ostracize me. Then when I turn down an invite in fear of that they get upset with me for not wanting to go. What difference does it make? It's not like my presence really makes a difference... most of the time the hostess if busy being the hostess (can't blame them), and I'm left wandering around looking for someone who's left out just like me, or watching the little kids beat each other up. Alhamdulillah I've met a fair share of sisters who would come speak to me or at least ask the other sisters to speak in English to include me. I know this is why a lot of masaajid which are dominantly 1 ethnic background do not get other members from a different background attending their masjid.

It's so rude and it makes people feel unwelcome. There's no reason for you to speak in another language. I always get a weird sense of paranoia... as if I think the person must be talking about me if they can't speak in English to their friend while I'm there.


Do you know how many times that happened to me? Subhan Allah, I haaate that feeling and actually a few times I went into the bathroom to just relax (and cry) because at times ppl were talking about me in Arabic. This is why I do not go to parties unless I have a couple of my English-speaking friends with me.

Anonymous said...

Anila
It is not unIslamic to do so. Please if you're going to say something like that bring some proof. People usually don't do it to alienate another person, if they DO intend to alienate others than I can agree that is unIslamic.
If the group is large it makes even more sense that several languages would be used.
Having been in situations like this for decades I think the whole thing is pretty petty.

Anonymous said...

Sorry one more thing. These petty issues are made into such big issues in American and UK where there is such a big mixture of cultures in the mosques. It seems if ppl are going to live in these multi cultural places they should simply deal with the differences...I for one love hearing the chattering of several different languages. It's wonderful!
Try living in a homogenous culture, as I am now, and see how boring THAT can often be.