Monday, November 28, 2011

Africa to America: language

We are often asked how their English is doing, how many words do they know, has it been difficult for them to learn etc. When we first started caring for them in UG, the reality of them not speaking many words became VERY real, as in we had 8 "words" to work with! In English, they would say: momma, daddy. Luganda words: Boda boda/Motorcycle. Words they occasionally would interchange between Luganda & English: Pia/Ball, Fuca/potty. Words they spoke in baby talk that we figured out: Biem was Car, "Kai-eat-a" was water or bath.

They understood a lot more in both Luganda & English than they could speak. In some ways that was good for us but hard for them, they had trouble responding in a way that we could understand. There was a lot of hitting & biting and some of it (not all of it) was likely a result of this communication gap. Despite our attempts to teach them some English, they really only picked up on Car & Ball and we eventually got them to say "cup pease." I remembered baby sitting for a family who used sign language with their baby. I vaguely remembered a couple of the signs: all done, more, eat  (not sure if they're the correct signs but it was at least a start to help with communication!)

I've said this many times but once we got home, it was almost like a switch flipped for them and they both began showing an interest in learning the language. We seemed to spend a LOT of time in the bathroom, if one was going, the other wanted to sit in there too. They would say "Momma mmmm" and point to something so I would tell them what it was. They quickly picked up Monkey, sink, bathtub, potty, picture, rug and towel. At the table we would go through the same routine and they picked up: table, chair, plate, cup, fork, spoon, curtain and window. They obviously wouldn't remember everything so there was a lot of repetition and we kept things in very broad categories at first. For example, any kind of bird -owl, penguin, flamingo, peacock etc. was just "bird" that says "tweet tweet." And any type of vehicle was a car -truck, van, bus, tractors etc. and they all say "beep beep."

Now they know how to say "what zat" and we occasionally have discussions over what something really is (perhaps our fault for putting things in such broad categories). For instance we drove down the road and saw 4 school busses. Amiya counted them and said "4 bus" and Malakai insists it's "school bus." They're both correct but don't quite get how 2 different things are indeed the same thing. Often even though I tell them they are both correct, Malakai gets his feelings hurt and starts to cry.

All in all, I think the kids are learning the language very quickly! I begin to realize when we're around other people that sometimes... most times it's hard for them to understand what they're saying but we've somehow learned to understand most of what they are trying to say, even if they're missing a syllable or a letter in the word.

Here's a video of Amiya getting onto me for taking her peanuts

It's been hard to get a video of Malakai saying very much. He's very much all BOY and will insert explosions or random sounds so I settled for this precious video where he's pretending to be a cat, sees himself on the camera & decides to give himself a Hi-5

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