One of the most common questions we are asked about the adoption of our older child is whether she spoke any English when we brought her home and/or how we’ve dealt with the language barrier.
There are many ways to communicate in those first days, weeks, and months. From playing charades (which didn’t work so well for us!) to utilizing Google’s translator website to working with a handheld electronic translator, we were able to ask Caroline questions, discuss plans, and cover the basics. But I’ll be honest. It was very difficult on some days because there was so much I wanted to communicate to our new daughter and yet I couldn’t. Many times, the conversations wouldn’t translate correctly. Or my words would lose their meaning when seen on the computer screen rather than with my tone and facial expressions.
However, the bottom line is that you can break through that language barrier early on and still bond with your child. Don’t fear the language challenge. You can conquer it.
Some of the best ways we found to help Caroline learn English were to:
- label objects around the house
- keep a notebook in which she could write new words to review
- look through the Oxford Picture Dictionary (English/Chinese version)
- invest in the Rosetta Stone computer tutoring program (you could try to borrow it from someone)
- make flash cards and posters
- read, read, read!
Obviously, there are countless other ways to learn a new language, and I know many of us would love to hear suggestions and ideas in the comments.
After being home 15 months, we find it fairly easy to converse with our teenager on a daily basis. Caroline enjoys coming to us to share experiences from her day at school or her thoughts on the latest book she has read. The dialogue between us seems so natural that it’s almost hard to remember the days when our verbal communication was so limited. One thing we have noticed, though, is that she has slowed down in her absorption and learning of new words. Honestly, I think she realized that she could get by with the vocabulary she’s already acquired. But I am also sure her brain often seems overwhelmed from the work of understanding a new language. We’ve realized that we need to continue being intentional about teaching Caroline words so that her “word bank” will continue to grow.
And one last thing… just to follow up on my August 17th post “Spread Your Wings But Don’t Fly Too Far…” I did end up driving Caroline to school that first morning. And as she walked into her new school, she looked back at me over her shoulder and smiled. And while I expected her to begin acting even more independent, she has actually been opening up to me more than ever before. It looks like my chick decided to camp out in the nest for awhile, and I’m savoring every minute!