Monday, March 15, 2010

Willa, Minature Rosetta Stone

You can't let yourself cry about the fact that Saffron and Willa are
losing their Amharic. It is sad, but seems to be necessary to the
evolution of their English. Even Rundassa, who is a native Amharic
speaker, says his adopted Ethiopian kids can't speak a word of Amharic

So, we continue to quiz the girls on Amharic words in the hope that
they'll retain some Amharic neural pathways, or other such deeply
hidden Amharic vocabulary that will come out someday when they visit
their hypno-therapist to complain about me.

Otherwise, there's nothing to do but enjoy the miracle that is
children learning and adopting a new 'first' language, and laugh about
it along the way. With Willa around, this isn't hard to do.

Willa thinks she should quiz me about language the way I quiz her--the
only problem is, she no longer knows which way is up, down, Amharic or
English in her whirlwind new life.
So, she constantly says hilarious things. When she still used mostly
Amharic words, I would challenge her to use the English words by
saying, "in Englizania?" (The Amharic word for English.)

Therefore, Willa thinks the word for translating something is
"Banglizanya." So, she says things like:

"Mom, 'wait' Banglizanya?"

"'Wait' is 'koy' in Amharic," I answer.

"No!" she says. "'Wait' Banglizanya 'Just a minute.'"

And then,

"Mom, 'book' Banglizanya 'paper.'"

In other words, she thinks she's telling me the Amharic word for
'wait' is 'just a minute,' and the Amharic word for 'book' is
'paper.' Hearing such confused statments is hilarious, charming, and
insightful all at once. Certainly, these moments are telling about how
quickly Willa's grasp on her former life grows tenuous. As we knew, of
course, this happens much more quickly for her than Saffron. Saffron
can't remember much Amharic, but she is aware she's forgetting. That's
the difference.

Maybe it's just that I'm a word person by nature, but I find these
little languagisms some of the most intriguing developments of this
whole experience.


Charlotte said...

So cute!

MsScreensiren said...

So glad you are notating the change. What did you do to learn some Amharic before you went? A book? Online course, etc.? Just thinking of Chinese.

Brooke said...

I guess it's good they are forgetting it, but sad too. I hope you have hours and hours of them speaking it for the camera. One day they can look at themselves and see that they indeed once spoke it so well.