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MynaOphelia
06-11-2014, 04:53 AM
So the MC in the draft I'm working on now is from a mixed race and mixed culture background. His mom is Mexican and his dad is Egyptian, and the family lives in a big American city. Because the mother's native language is Spanish and the dad's is Arabic, they don't speak each others' native languages, so the family speaks English at home. The MC speaks English, Spanish and some Arabic.

I've been trying to figure out what the MC would call his parents, though. I know a lot of families with Spanish-speaking background use Mama or something similar. But if he referred to his mom as Mama, it stands to reason that he would refer to his dad in Arabic, so Abee (I think, if you speak Arabic please feel free to correct me), but then I feel like this might be jarring to readers or won't make sense. But I'm also worried it will seem unnatural for him to use the English names.

Some context, my family is also mixed culture, mom from Israel, dad from South Africa. (Family reunions are hilarious.) We also speak English at home, and I don't call my mom Ima or my dad Oupa. But my parents also tried really hard to assimilate when they moved here to the US, which contributes to that.

In the story, the MC's family is much more proud of their heritage than my family was. So I feel like maybe he would refer to his parents as Mama/Abee, but I don't know if this is normal for third culture families anyway? Is that common?

Any advice?

Osulagh
06-11-2014, 05:25 AM
Children call their parents whatever they wish--it's not culturally dependent, especially in a mixed-raced family.
I know a lot of people who's "made up" of all kinds of races, and they just latched onto whatever. My friend Jesus calls his father (who's Indian) Dad, and his mother (who's Mexican) Mom, yet they primarily speak Spanish.

I say, decide what is the dominant language in the family, and just choose whatever. I don't think it's a big deal tossing in a small explanation that "Abee" means father for the reader.

Also, wouldn't it be pretty weird for a mother and father to spend years together and not know anything of each other's native languages? I know a German man who's married to a Japanese woman, living in America, and they speak three languages interchangeably--including their three kids!

MynaOphelia
06-11-2014, 05:30 AM
Children call their parents whatever they wish--it's not culturally dependent, especially in a mixed-raced family.
I know a lot of people who's "made up" of all kinds of races, and they just latched onto whatever. My friend Jesus calls his father (who's Indian) Dad, and his mother (who's Mexican) Mom, yet they primarily speak Spanish.

I say, decide what is the dominant language in the family, and just choose whatever. I don't think it's a big deal tossing in a small explanation that "Abee" means father for the reader.

Also, wouldn't it be pretty weird for a mother and father to spend years together and not know anything of each other's native languages? I know a German man who's married to a Japanese woman, living in America, and they speak three languages interchangeably--including their three kids!

Thank you for the details! ^.^

I mean, the parents speak a little bit of each others' native languages, but not all that much. I guess I didn't consider it, I was also basing off my own family--my mom doesn't speak Afrikaans, etc--but again, my fam is weird. A lot of the TCKs I know personally didn't have such multilingual families, but I did not know more people were like that, that's really cool : ) Maybe I will change that in the story so they are more multilingual at home...

LJD
06-11-2014, 05:32 PM
Well, I think either Mama/Abee or Mom/Dad would be perfectly believable to me. I don't know which would be more likely. But if you want to do the former, I'd just do it.

Lots of different things happen...Even though I do not speak Toisanese at all, I call my maternal grandparents Po-po and Gung-gung. Yet my mom called her father Dad.

Keyan
07-06-2014, 04:14 PM
Pretty much anything would work, I think. If it's an English-speaking family in the US, Mom and Dad are most likely IME.

And languages work differently too. In some families they learn each other's languages; in others, they default to English. Triligual can be done, but it has to be done deliberately and each parent has to make the effort. It's difficult even for next-gen kids to keep their parents' language when it's only one language - and harder when it's two. My kids speak English, and their second languages are the ones they learned in school - French and Spanish.