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Parents speaking foreign languages at den meetings

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Does anyone know if the Scouts have any guidance on whether or not adult partners of Tiger Cubs should be allowed or discouraged from speaking foreign languages with each other at den meetings?


Recently, it's become a problem in our Tiger den. Two of the moms are Polish and often chat with each other (and each others' kids) in Polish at the table during den meetings.


Most of the other moms and the new Tiger den leader feels that it is disruptive and asked me, the Assistant Cubmaster, to talk to the Cubmaster and have us ask them to refrain from it while the boys are supposed to be working on that week's den subject and projects.


I did so, and at first the Cubmaster agreed. But after speaking to the Polish moms (one of whom is a very close friend of his - maybe beyond friendship), he came back with a very stern warning that they are allowed to speak anything they want at any time, and anyone who complains is infringing on their civil rights, their right to free speech, and is basically being prejudiced.


He also referred to the fact that we support foreign languages by offering the Language and Culture belt loop.


The Polish moms threatened to leave, so the Cubmaster became angry at the moms that asked them to stop, plainly stating that if they want to continue to be prejudiced, the complaintants can leave the pack.


I believe that it is rude to speak foreign languages when you are sharing a space with other people who don't speak the same, like at a table during a den meeting. While there are exceptions, parents should try to speak english. If they want to speak something else they should excuse themselves first and maybe step away if need be.

Of course, they can speak anything they want when we are just standing around and not trying to work together.


The funny part about all of this is the two Polish moms also complain that the other moms make them feel unwelcome, especially my wife and the den leader. The Poles keep to each other and make no effort to try to join in, so I don't know what they expect.


Unfortunately, this is a difficult subject that is starting to tear apart the Tiger den. We are very ethnically diverse, with our ancestries hailing from Greece, Puerto Rico, Africa, Slovakia, Ireland, Norway, Italy, and of course, Poland. Most boys are first generation americans with their parents' as legal immigrants.


Everyone got along this year until the second Polish mom joined in January, and they started chatting in their native tongue. Now, the Cubmaster is considering splitting the pack in two to seperate the combatants.


I think that is a bad idea and will only allow bad blood to fester, besides it being like treating adults as children.


Sorry about the rant, but I was hoping someone could point me to any possible ruling or guideline that the scouts may have about the subject.


Opinions and suggestions are also welcome.

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I can't imagine that the BSA has specific guidance on this topic, as it would vary greatly.


The Cubmaster's argument is specious - this is not about what people are allowed to do by the U.S. Constitution. It's about not being disruptive.


The general rule is that we ask parents not to be disruptive at den meetings. The den leader has every right to expect that.


I'm not clear on whether the mothers are doing things that are disruptive simply by speaking (would it still be disruptive if they were speaking English?) Why is the language disruptive?


There's another argument - which is that we are all together at the meeting and the goal is to benefit from being part of a group. The whole group only benefits from something if the whole group is able to understand what is being said.


People have an expectation that they'll feel comfortable in a group. If either set of people - the Polish speakers or the English-only speakers - feels uncomfortable, they are likely to start dropping off.


In my unit, I would probably talk to the English-speakers, and get them to be very specific about what makes them uncomfortable. Then I would go have a conversation with the Polish speakers, and talk to them about why they were choosing to speak Polish, and about how that made the others feel. If the women are talking together in the back of the room, and other women do the same thing, then I wouldn't really care what language they spoke. (If they started talking about someone in particular, and you could tell that by looks or gestures, that might be another thing.) But for things said to the kids, I'd try to suggest a policy that everyone needs to be able to understand what is being said.


At this point it sounds like the groups are polarized. Unless you are a skilled arbitrator, I'm not picturing a good ending here.

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Sigh. I started a thread a few weeks ago questioning whether parents or Cub Scouts were the biggest behavior problems. Adults being the problem won by a landslide!


As a Cubmaster I ask what would I have done had this question been brought to me? My bias would be to say, "the Den Leader is responsible for the program he/she conducts unless they are doing something clearly wrong".


Is the Den Leader doing something wrong?


Well.... maybe.


Is it wrong to chat in a foreign language during the program, or is it just wrong to chat during the program if it's disruptive?


If the CHATTING is disruptive, it would have been far better to have objected to that.


If the chatting itself isn't disruptive, then it's not really disruptive, it's just annoying and it's probably something that could be ignored.


While it might be nice if everyone spoke English, everyone doesn't.


If buckytom's comments are accurate, she has already resolved the issue I pose: it isn't the chatting itself that amounts to a disruption. It's the fact that the chatting is in a foreign language that is the issue.


If I were Cubmaster I would say that it's OK to chat in a foreign language as long as the chatting itself is not disruptive.


As a thought experiment, let's have one of the Polish moms be the Den Leader. She adopts a rule that's it's OK to chat during the Den Meeting as long as the chatting is done in Polish. How would that go over?

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You'll probably have to put up with hearing foreign languages spoken at your Den meetings. We are in an area with many languages also. If these womwn are loud and disruptive it's a matter of manners. If they are actually being disruptive, why not address them like a kid and ask them,"excuse me, (name), is there something you'd like to share?". They'll probably get the hint that they are too loud, or maybe they really do have a question.Some people are just loud. It's good for their kids to be in the program and that English is the main language spoken.The moms probably just use it as their own personal time to connect with each other.I've worked in situations most of my life where I'm in the minority as a native English speaker. You get used to hearing all those languages buzzing around after awhile. This could just be plain old rudeness.

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I think it's rude and disruptive to chat in ANY language while trying to work a project at a den meeting. This isn't about the language itself, but about the fact that they are talking during a meeting in a manner that is distracting to the boys, the other parents, and the den leaders who are trying to conduct a meeting. It's hard enough to hold the Tigers' attention for 5 seconds without other people contributing to the problem.


Our den is been known to do "sing's up" to get adults to be quiet too! ;)


On a related note, I speak Spanish as a first language and people DO tend to get paranoid when hearing too people speak in another language that they don't understand. Human nature dictates that "they must be talking about me". I try to avoid it in the presence of others.

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If the two mothers are fluent in English then the only reason to speak Polish is to exclude others and that is rude. I have been on the receiving end of being in a meeting where everyone spoke English and yet they conducted part of the meeting in Spanish. It did not matter whether they were speaking about me, it was done to make others feel unwelcome, excluded and isolated. This is not a civil rights matter, it is a matter of manners!


I work in Boy Scouts and this certainly doesn't pass my kind, courteous or thoughtful test.


I might moderate my thoughts, a little, if one or both is not fluent in English. Then this might be a matter of transmitting information but then a simple explanation to other would help.

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The original post said that the parents were being disruptive. If that is the case then the language issue is irrelevant. The program is for the boys, not to be a parent coffee klatch. So you have every right to tell them to be quiet or, better yet, to come help with something so they are not idle and prone to chatter.


However, if all the adults are sitting around chatting after the meeting or whatnot and they are chatting in Polish, I don't see what the problem is. They are talking between themselves so while it might bug the other parents that they can't eavesdrop, there's nothing wrong with it.


Unfortunately if the parents were approached from the basis that it is the language, and not the behavior, that is the problem, you are going to have a very difficult time changing the focus of future discussions. You are going to have to be very clear that language is not the issue.


Normally I would say this is a problem for the DL to handle but he has already asked you to intervene. It just seems odd though, and not the type of problem that would be elevated to the Pack level.That alone probably served to annoy the Polish parents as well.

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"We are very ethnically diverse, with our ancestries hailing from Greece, Puerto Rico, Africa, Slovakia, Ireland, Norway, Italy, and of course, Poland. Most boys are first generation americans with their parents' as legal immigrants."


I would ask the Polish moms to stop being disruptive while we're doing stuff. It's not talking-time, it's gluing time. or sculpting time. or whatever-time. Step in the hallway if you need to chat.


BUT!! We would also do the Languages & Cultures beltloop & pin, and learn a little Polish and Greek and Norwegian and Italian and Slovakian. In the tiger den, parents & scouts are supposed to share in the program, and this is a great opportunity for everyone to find a way to share. Teaach us songs! Teach us numbers! Teach us colors!


Yes, I'm a languages nerd. This den is lucky to have a opportunity like this.


Bad manners is bad manners, but multiple languages is a gift.

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I'm not going to buy the "It's disruptive" line just yet. Not without more information.


Are they speaking at the table during an activity when no one else is chatting with each other? Then it's disruptive, and it doesn't matter what language one is speaking.


If, however, it's an activity time where parents and children are engaged with each other, and informally chatting with each other, then what is being described as "disruptive" is not that the parents are speaking to each other, but that they're speaking in a different language. That's not being disruptive, that's just participating in the activity the same as everyone else is, and who really cares if they speaking in a different language. For all you know, they're talking about their bunions - and I'd be grateful is I didn't have to hear that conversation.


If these parents are doing the same as every other parent in the room, just in a different language, then let them be. If other parents complain, I'd tell them that you aren't the language police.


The only time it becomes an issue is if they're in the back of the room talking loudly while others are trying to listen. That's when it's time to speak up.


Frankly, I find the following to be the most disturbing part of all this:


"I did so, and at first the Cubmaster agreed. But after speaking to the Polish moms (one of whom is a very close friend of his - maybe beyond friendship)"


And I don't mean on the Cubmaster's part - but on your part. Maybe beyond friendship? You're an ACM - if you aren't on the same page as the CM - and if you're entertaining these kinds of thoughts about the CM, then perhaps you'd be best to move on to another Pack - before you let something like that slip out in front of other leaders/parents. Whether your instincts are right or wrong, if you think the language issue is a hot issue, just wait until this hits your fan blades.


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Calico - I saw the "beyond friendship" comment too.. Thought bad of it, then revised my thoughts.. If they are two single parents, then it may be just an innocent comment about observing a possible spark. Then again, it may not be so innocent..


As to the issue, I am with others.. Either the chattering is disruptive, in which case a casual comment by the den leader would have been the proper approach.. Then raising it to an issue to be dealt with outside of the Den, and bringing in the different language as a point of problem, blew a simple fix into a big problem..


If they are chattering while 5 others seprate other conversations are also taking place, then let them be.

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Sounds like the problem is the mothers are having conversations, not that they are speaking in foreign languages.

If that is the case, then why mention the specific ethnicity and/or language eight times in the original post? It just isn't relevant. It's also not consistent with the first line of the original post, "Does anyone know if the Scouts have any guidance on whether or not adult partners of Tiger Cubs should be allowed or discouraged from speaking foreign languages with each other at den meetings?" If the problem is that the OP has problems with people who are speaking to one another when it is more appropriate to pay attention to whatever the den activity of the moment is, then he/she would have just said that.

IMO, Calico Penn's assessment is spot on. Perhaps the complaining parents are troubled most by the fact that they cannot listen in on these other folks' conversations. I think the most likely explananation is that English is their second language, and they simply feel most comfortable speaking to one another in their native language. (This message has been edited by The blancmange)

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Marriage has its adavantages. One of those is learning to say "I'm sorry" -- even when your sure you're right.


Your "English only" adults owe the chatty Polish moms an apology. Not because what you think would help them and their boys "get with program" was necessarily wrong, but because you really do want them to feel welcome and your complaints about the language made things worse, not better.


You do want things to get better, right? Then encourage each Anglo mom to invite each Polish mom over for dinner, or to go dress shopping, or a simple play date. You may offer to take their husbands (or other male family, they're single moms) fishing.


It takes years, sometimes, for people to feel comfortable talking in a language they have never learned from their youth. You could offer $1000 and they wouldn't get it. Offer friendship, and they'll do it in a couple of months.


Besides, that's the only way you're gonna find out if there's any real dish about the Cubmaster!

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qwazse - Sorry I just gotta poke fun at this..



Then encourage each Anglo mom to invite each Polish mom over for dinner, or to go dress shopping, or a simple play date. You may offer to take their husbands (or other male family, they're single moms) fishing.



I got this 1960's "Leave it to Beaver" image of the Moms & Dads..


How about you all going out to pizza, bowling or maybe you all can go fishing..


Unless it is that the culture has the wives still acting like "June Clever"... I just had to put a modern day spin on things.

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