purelystephanie (purelystephanie) wrote in linguaphiles,

Simplifiying your native language when in a foreign country

I am a native AmE speaker studying abroad in Spain for a year. I live with a host family and have a Spanish boyfriend, and during the year I've gained fairly solid fluency in the language. My host mom and host sisters speak very good English, as do my boyfriend and his friends, but we tend to speak Spanish and Basque because it's generally good practice for me and it's just easier for everyone.

Recently, my mother came to visit me, and she speaks absolutely no Spanish. I did a lot of translating for her during the trip, but when it came time to meet my host family and my boyfriend (both situations where she could speak English), I realized my mother was doing something I found quite offensive: she was "dumbing down" her English and using exaggerated hand gestures when she would talk to them, even though I had told her that everyone spoke very good English. When I talked to my host mom about it later, she wouldn't admit to being offended, but found it very strange. My boyfriend and our friends, on the other hand, felt they were being spoken to like children. I tried to confront my mother about it later, but she said she had no idea she was doing it.

My question to all of you is, do you encounter that type of behavior when talking to people whose native language is your (fluent) L2? What do you do in those situations? Do you find it offensive? 
Tags: cultural perceptions, multilingual, studyingabroad

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