Sunday, August 2, 2009


One of the recurrent discussions of my marriage is whether it's fucking rude for people to speak in a foreign language in front of people who don't speak that language or whether the non-foreign language speakers should just suck it up. It's a big issue because Husbandrinka speaks English, French, German and Italian fluently, while I slog along in Russian, English and Latin. In addition, I have no Russian friends who come to New York and Caesar hasn't been visiting me from Ancient Rome lately, so I haven't been in the position to lord my fluency over him, whereas he has a constant stream of foreign friends that visit us and they have a tendency to speak all foreign even though I've pointed out several times that this is America and not fucking Frogland.

So here's my prologue. Don't worry, there's more to come!

One summer nine years ago when my daughter was two and my son was just an glint in my fertility doctor's bank account, Husbandrinka and I rented a house in Biarritz for a few weeks in August. Husbandrinka's friend from London, with his wife and two kids, rented a house with us and yet another couple and their three children stayed in the main house in town, which belonged to the wife's mother.

Everyone, except for me, spoke French and most of the people, again, except for me, spoke German. One of the maids spoke Russian, so I could have bossed her around I suppose, but I was too busy swearing everyone to secrecy about the fact that I spoke Russian, because if there is anything that I know about Russians it's that if they think that you think that you're somehow "above" them, even if it's because you're friends with someone whose parents employ them, they will make your life unbearable. Seriously, it's easier to deny your heritage or move or commit suicide and hope for reincarnation.

Anyway, although everyone tried to include me, inevitably they would slip into drunken French. And the good news was that once I drank enough wine, I was pretty sure that I could understand what they were saying. The bad news was that they were plotting my murder. Although I may have been paranoid.


Blogger Comedy Goddess said...

Did it sound like this: Avez-vous bien planifié pour la fin de semaine?

It's harmless and plain fucking rude.

August 2, 2009 at 9:33 PM  
Blogger Magpie said...

I speak three words of German, and fourteen of French, and one vulgarity in Chinese. But infertility, huh? I didn't know that.

August 2, 2009 at 9:40 PM  
Blogger Charmaine said...

During my last trip to Israel I was having dinner with a large group. Everyone was speaking Hebrew...I think.

My date and I retaliated by speaking broken Spanish.

It not rude to speak in other languages UNLESS your guests are there to deliver you a gigantic check to start a new company in your country.

Call me crazy.

August 2, 2009 at 9:43 PM  
Blogger Renee said...

We have friends that speak English when we are all together and then they argue with one another in Hebrew on the side. I think that is totally acceptable. Because I don't think we would want to hear what they are saying to each other.

August 2, 2009 at 10:05 PM  
Blogger Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

It's fucking rude. Which doesn't stop two of the people I work with from doing it. I'm pretty sure they're the only two that speak Arabic.

August 2, 2009 at 10:49 PM  
Blogger bernthis said...

my friend speaks French and she oftens invites me out with her friends but they all speak french and I don't drink and so it sucks and I just don't go

August 2, 2009 at 10:57 PM  
Blogger *Akilah Sakai* said...

"One summer nine years ago when my daughter was two and my son was just an glint in my fertility doctor's bank account,..."

Best. Opening. Ever.

You crack me up, Marinka. I don't have that problem with friends because I don't have any. I kid. Thankfully the few I have that speak other languages never do anything like that to make me feel uncomfortable.

August 2, 2009 at 11:08 PM  
Anonymous Halala Mama said...

Ahh!! This is one of my constant complaints with my husband. When we are with his famiily, i NEVER know what is going on because for the life of me, I cannot pick up any French at all. None. SO I end up interesting places like a New Jersey flea market because I don't know what is going on and he doesn't ever tell me - I have to wait until some other friend or family member takes pity and translates for me. I swear I'm going to take a class behind his back someday and learn it and NOT tell him.

August 2, 2009 at 11:24 PM  
Blogger the mama bird diaries said...

I took SIX years of latin. We should go party in the ruins of Pompeii together. But the only thing I can remember is Caecilius est un agricolae.

August 2, 2009 at 11:27 PM  
Blogger Pseudonymous High School Teacher said...

Here I thought it was going to be your husband not liking your Russian.

August 3, 2009 at 12:04 AM  
Blogger Loukia said...

I think it is rude to speak another language in front of others if it is obviously being done in a way that the others know they are being talked about. My husband and I (Greek) argue in Greek all the in public... as if no one will know we're fighting just 'cause we're talking Greek!

August 3, 2009 at 12:07 AM  
Blogger A Mom on Spin said...

of course it's rude to speak uppity French. . .but drunken French. . . I'll have to think about that. . .

August 3, 2009 at 7:32 AM  
Blogger Z said...

Well, when Ceasar finally does come for a visit, we'll all have to go out for some drinks, mmmmkay? Because I'm totally dying to whip out my latin - semper ubi sub ubi, you know? ;)

August 3, 2009 at 7:44 AM  
Blogger MommyTime said...

My two cents is that it's rude if they know how to speak the language you speak and just can't be bothered because drinking and Frenchifying just go together for them like drinking and cigarettes go together for other people. But if the don't speak English, or don't speak it well enough to say more than "ze toilet, where is she?" then they really can't help themselves.

I have a friend whose husband's family always speaks Chinese when she's there, and she's pretty sure they are all talking about how much they hope the babies don't grow up to be blond like she is. Now THAT is rude.

August 3, 2009 at 8:34 AM  
Anonymous Vicki said...

I hate people who can't speak Latin. After all the trouble I went through four years of Lattin conjugations and declensions, you're telling me that someone doesn't understand "Arma virumque cano?!" Muy terrible. Or whatevs.

August 3, 2009 at 8:35 AM  
Blogger Jess said...

Hi there,
I have read your blog for a few months now and I have a question. With so many languages in your household, are you teaching any to the children? If so, which ones?

August 3, 2009 at 9:20 AM  
Blogger Christy said...

I speak pig-latin; does that count? No, seriously I do. So does my aunt. Her husband is Iraqi, and before she learned Arabic she used to call us up and speak pig-latin in front of his pompous friends. It drove them crazy that they couldn't understand what she was saying! hehehe!

August 3, 2009 at 10:12 AM  
Anonymous peajaye said...

this is why you need a smart phone - cuz any time the conversation goes into another language, you can just pull it out and catch up on your blog reading. and then you can laugh smugly, and when they ask you what's so funny, you can just shake your head condescendingly and smile, "oh, you wouldn't understand."

August 3, 2009 at 10:41 AM  
Blogger blognut said...

Yes it's rude! It's riduculously rude.

Next time, whip out your cell phone and start a text conversation with a friend. Be sure to laugh loudly every few minutes while looking around the room guiltily and then diving back into your phone.

They'll probably get the hint.

August 3, 2009 at 10:55 AM  
Blogger That one girl said...

It's kind of rude.

At the same time, it's good practice, so you don't forget. Then again, I'm not super fluent and if you are, do you ever really 'forget'.

Weird how French is the only language you pick up while wasted.

I was plastered a few years back and had a full blown french conversation with some guy at the bar. My friend told me this the next morning.

The only french I really know if from the Club Med songs. How I had a real conversation is beyond me. Then again, I've never doubted the magic of alcohol. Not once!

August 3, 2009 at 11:58 AM  
Anonymous Wendi said...

I suspect the two women who do my mani/pedis talk about me in Vietnamese because every third word is "blondie."

August 3, 2009 at 12:11 PM  
Blogger Amy said...

OMG that's it? It's ends there for today? that sucks.

August 3, 2009 at 12:27 PM  
Blogger Anna See said...

yes, they were rude. plotting your murder? perhaps. it does sound like an interesting setting for a murder mystery.

August 3, 2009 at 12:37 PM  
Anonymous Sandy said...

What a great story! Can't wait to read more!

I love hearing the sound of different languages, so I don't mind when people speak them around me.

August 3, 2009 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Momo Fali said...

I know the Vietnamese ladies at my nail salon are talking about my big feet. I just know it.

August 3, 2009 at 1:12 PM  
Blogger Lia said...

Oh this issue is so close to my heart. I am Swedish and I live in Montreal with my French-Canadian husband. I speak Swedish and English and I should be speaking French but that language is just so hard to learn. My husbands family live nearby and his parents don't really speak any English so in the four years we've been living here I have yet to have a conversation with them. My husbands sister is married to a Kiwi guy so they speak English and their kids speak both.
I am a firm believer in that it's rude to speak a language that not everyone present understands because I've spent plenty of dinners quiet in a corner simply cause I can't join the conversation. But if there is no common language then it's harder of course.
When we go to Sweden to see my family I spend a lot to time translating everything to my husband but he does not return the favor here, probably because we live here, but it's still rude.
Sorry for rambling on. Maybe I should just go write a post about it.

August 3, 2009 at 1:26 PM  
Blogger bonnie-ann black said...

i have about 10 phrases in about 10 languages (even a few in russian and gaelic) most of which consist of greetings, asking for directions, how to order food (and, most importantly, wine)and being able to query whether or not the other party would like to accompany me to bed for the purposes of a sex night (which phrases, sadly, i've never had the opportunity to use).

it's tough to say whether its rude or not, but i often do wonder -- how does one end up having a spouse who has relatives or friends that speak another language totally and why would you marry that person?

August 3, 2009 at 3:17 PM  
Blogger Aunt Becky said...

pretty sure that you weren't paranoid.

August 3, 2009 at 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Maureen at IslandRoar said...

My kids used to have friends who were from Germany, and their mom would come get them and they'd all speak German (even tho they all knew and spoke English fluently). I just knew they were talking smack about me and my kids (I could tell by their faces). Anyway I used to yell, "Speak English!!" at all of them, which is probably just as rude. It didn't work by the way. The mom would smile and continue in German.

August 3, 2009 at 4:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank god my husband and I are boring American's with no real culture.

August 3, 2009 at 4:55 PM  
Blogger Mwa said...

I do think it's rude. Even though I speak Dutch consistently to my kids, because I read somewhere that I should. Even when the in-laws are around. So I suppose I'm saying it's rude, but hey go for it if you feel so inclined.

August 3, 2009 at 5:29 PM  
Anonymous Andrea's Sweet Life said...

So, did you pick up on any of that drunken French? Because I think that would be nice to put on a resume.

Languages Marinka Speaks:
Drunken French

August 3, 2009 at 6:19 PM  
Blogger Jeanne said...

My French doesn't improve with liquor, but my dart-throwing does.

August 3, 2009 at 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Heather, Queen of Shake Shake said...

It is rude. But don't worry, I have a plan to get Husbandrinka back. If and when I ever come to NYC, I will constantly talk Southern English in front of him. He'll have no fucking idea what I'm saying.

August 4, 2009 at 6:27 PM  
Blogger anymommy said...

A lot of people seem to plot your murder. Have you considered the reasons behind this?

I agree that it's rude to know foreign languages. How educated and above the rest of us. You're all inconsiderate. (Insanely jealous.)

August 5, 2009 at 12:16 PM  
Blogger ShallowGal said...


August 8, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

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