DEAR ABBY: My parents immigrated here from a foreign country 20 years ago. Although they speak some basic English, they have yet to become even remotely fluent in the language. As a result, they are always asking me to do everything for them -- pay their bills, file their taxes, go with them to doctors' appointments, translate for delivery people and take my mom on errands because she doesn't drive. I am irritated.
When will they learn English? I am the child, not the parent. I feel like I have been a mini-adult for many years as their personal chauffeur, secretary, interpreter, etc. I don't mind doing occasional favors for them, but enough is enough. What should I do? -- BEYOND FRUSTRATED IN CHICAGO
DEAR BEYOND FRUSTRATED: I think you should take into consideration that learning a new language is much easier for children than it is for adults. You were immersed in English when you went to school and were exposed to it not only in the classroom but also on the playground. Your parents weren't so lucky. They should have enrolled in an ESL class right away, but instead apparently interacted only with people who spoke their language.
However, it's never too late to make an effort, so encourage them to start now. A way to persuade them would be to ask them what they would do if, heaven forbid, something happened to you. Some people who have picked up English did so by watching English language television instead of what's aired in their own.
You are not alone in having this problem. The children of every ethnic group that has come to the United States has experienced what you are.