If you grew up in a Latino household, you know bilingual Latina moms have a particular tone of voice when they’re being serious. And that tone is most likely in Spanish.

It’s a natural switch that puts us in fight-or-flight mode almost immediately. Mamá means business, and la chancla must be coming.

While this is as natural as drinking Cafecito con leche since we’re five, researchers have just discovered our Latina moms’ superpower.

new study from the Florida Atlantic University found out bilingual Latina moms “retain their cultural practices” when in conversations in Spanish with their children. However, bilingual moms “switch cultural practices” when they switch languages. Researchers say this “switching” extends to language use with their kids.

Bilingual Latina moms do talk more and listen less

According to the study, children who hear a language other than English at home “currently make up more than 25 percent of the school-aged population” in the United States. Most of those children hear Spanish because that is their parents’ native language.

For the study, researchers recorded the mothers in conversation with their children. They recorded bilingual Latina moms twice, once interacting in Spanish and once in English. The research examined the quantity of maternal speech, how mothers elicited conversation in their children, child conversational participation, and the “ratio of maternal-to-child utterances.”

While the research team found that immigrant mothers are “increasingly American-like in their talk” as a function of how long they have lived in the U.S., the cultural switch is real.

The research found out monolingual Spanish-speaking Latina moms “talked more and asked fewer questions of their children” than other immigrant mothers. Spanish and English conversations between bilingual mothers and their children similarly differed in the ratio of adult-to-child speech. “This suggests that children of Latina immigrant mothers in the U.S. are socialized to talk less,” the study explains.

“In Latin America, adults do not elicit conversation from small children to the same extent [of other mothers],” said Erika Hoff, Ph.D., senior author and professor. “In fact, that is not the culture in many places. So, when you ask Latin American mothers to sit down with their 2.5-year-old children and play with toys or read a book, you get more ‘mom’ talk and less child talk.”


WE ONLY SPEAK TO HER IN SPANISH! Two days ago, I accidentally asked her where her nose was in ENGLISH and she SHOWED ME. I was SHOOK. Then I kept asking other body parts in ENGLISH and she knew them as well! Goes to show she is learning English, on her own!! ???? #momsoftiktok #momlife #bilingualbaby #toddlerlife #latinamom #colombianmom #momanddaughter #bilingualmom #smartbaby #motherhood #teachingbaby #posititivemotherhood

♬ original sound – Marggy | HOMEFULLOFJOY

Turns out, Latina Moms are indeed ‘nicer’ in English

We’ve all been there. No matter the Spanish rant mom just had in the car, once she switches to English in public, she’s a whole other person – most likely, a nicer one. While we’re used to it, it is even hilarious for us, but it turns out it has a scientific explanation.

Researchers found children of Latino families “are expected to show respect for others by conducting themselves in a way that is not disruptive to the group and by listening to adults.” On the other hand, other immigrant mothers encourage their kids to “express their individuality” in public.

“Children of Latin American mothers are socialized to use language a little bit differently than children of European American mothers. They’re socialized to listen more and talk less, even in their English interaction,” said Hoff. “I would advise teachers and those who evaluate children of immigrant families not to make the same assumptions they would for children of U.S.-born monolingual English-speaking families. They are not going to be as talkative, and it is not because they know less or are less able. It is because that is what they have been taught.”

“[Speaking in English] gives you time to organize your thoughts,” Alicia Civita, Venezuelan bilingual mom of two, told FIERCE. “You can think things through, and you’re even ashamed sometimes.”

When asked in which language she considered herself to be “nicer,” Civita said laughing: “In English, a thousand times.”

“There’s less connection with your feelings,” she added. “And you have less vocabulary.”