Mentoring with a family that does not speak English can be very difficult thing to do. As if the language barrier isn’t enough to adjust to, understanding the family’s culture can be even more challenging. There are a few major distinctives when getting to know hispanic families; however, the overall idea is that they are relational. One thing that stands out in hispanic homes (whether Mexican, Ecuadorian, Salvadoran, or wherever else you point on a map) is spending time with each other. Here are a few things to keep in mind when trying to relate to your protege and their family:
The family structure is very tight knit, meaning that there is a good possibility that three generations may be living under one roof. For instance, your protege may have an older brother or sister with their own kid living under the same roof. That is something common to hispanic families. Caring and raising for children is just one way that hispanic grandmas like to be involved in their grandchildrens’ lives. Although this may not be ideal in other cultures, it is usually the norm for lower income hispanic homes. Along with that, other aunts, uncles, and cousins may live together as well.
Birthday parties, and especially quinceaneras are VERY important family gatherings. Getting invited to these events is a good sign of being welcomed into a family’s life. Whether it’s for your protege, their sibling, or even a cousin, attending or making an attempt to attend family gatherings will show your interest and care for them.
Another important aspect of hispanic culture is that the well-being of the entire family surpasses regard for individual needs. If your protege is older and has job, it will probably be more difficult than ever to connect with them. If there is a need in the family, it becomes an all hands on deck solution regardless of what each person has going on. For example, a guardian may be unresponsive to your phone calls because he or she is working to provide for the family and feels that setting up a hangout time with their child is far less important than things going on in the home.
These are just a few thoughts to keep in mind when getting to know your protege’s family. It is not the same for each family and may differ case by case. If there is one thing to know, it is to always be relational. If you are familiar with hispanic culture, it makes sense that parties go until the crack of dawn or that relatives live across the street from one another. Hispanic families are very close and connected. Getting to know your protege’s family is important, and meeting his or her extended family is also important. Always remember to show interest and try to interact. Families will not care if your attempts at Spanish don’t sound the way that you think they should– a small effort can go a long way.
Luckily for us, we no longer need to carry around English-Spanish dictionaries in our back pockets. There are numerous resources available right at our fingertips. As you may know, Google has made the “Google Translate” application for smartphones. In my opinion, it is by far the best one out there. It is accurate, responds quickly, and allows you to translate entire sentences at once. It is very simple and easy to use and even gives you the option to listen to what is being translated in Spanish. It is free to download on both iOS and Android formats and can be extremely helpful when sending a text message to a parent or trying to communicate something that you are not to sure how to say.
I am available to help mentors communicate with families better. Whether that’s making a phone call, sending a letter, or even going with you for a visit, it would be my pleasure to assist you in any way possible. If there are any other resources you wish to have, I will do my best to find more and share them with you. I am thankful for all that the Lord is doing here in South Dallas and will continue to pursue His work by encouraging and working alongside mentors that may be struggling to connect with Spanish speaking families.
Nathan Elizondo, Relationship Coordinator