Speaking the Language of Family

Marriage and family relationships invite miscommunication, but they also bring joy.

We talk and listen from our perspective, from our background, from our cultural. And in the figurative meeting place of our words, walls can arise that block messages or clouded windows can distort the meaning. But our words can also blend to express love and understanding, as well.

Miscommunication with my mother-in-law has been hard to overcome. She was born and raised in Finland. She came to the United States in her twenties and spoke mostly Finnish with her husband, who had served a Mormon mission to Finland and also spoke Finnish. My husband Paul, her first child, learned Finnish before English.

In October, she came to visit our home after returning from an 18-month Mormon mission to Helsinki, Finland. And she brought her Finnish family with her—her brother and his wife—who only speak Finnish.

They wanted to visit Minnesota where many Finns settled, including some distant relatives, after immigrating during a time of want in their country.

They don’t speak much English, and I don’t speak any Finnish. After a few days of hand gestures and head bobs, they made plans to visit other Finns in New York Mills, Minnesota, where a large population of immigrants settled.

Since they don’t drive and Paul needed to work, I volunteered to drive them on the 90-minute (one way) drive to New York Mills. I feared the quiet of the day, isolated from any conversation.

Prayer, the best communication tool there is, saved us. Paul prayed that I would have a worthwhile experience despite the drive and inability to communicate in English.

And I did! My mother-in-law sat in the passenger seat and opened up about her earlier life in Finland as a singer in a band who traveled all over the country and then her experience meeting the missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the record store where she worked when they looked for Mormon Tabernacle Choir music. She embraced the gospel of Jesus Christ, joined the Church, served two missions as a young woman and returned to serve another this past year.

The visit with the Finns brought the warmth and beauty of this country into my heart, again, despite the language differences. Those feelings remind me why we built the family culture we did, why my daughter chose to learn Finnish in college this year and why I love my husband and his family.

This Finnish family, even if I married into it, brings me joy.


1 Comment

  1. Tina
    Dec 9, 2012

    Thanks for this post. As a woman, the communication issue is a big one and I’m so glad that it was a positive time and things were shared and learned. We’re glad you married into this family too!

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