Sometimes it’s good to put yourself in an adopted child’s sandals. I try to imagine moving permanently to another country and culture with no knowledge of their language. Add to that having to learn what family life is all about, odd cultural behaviors and how you fit into this strange new place.
It is normal to expect some delays in gaining English language skills when bringing a child home from Ethiopia. Most internationally adopted children evaluated by a speech therapist test significantly below age expectation for language skills. Their native language has been ‘prematurely arrested’ and depending on their age, development and attachment, learning English can take quite a while. Having said that, many parents are really surprised at how quickly their Ethiopian children pick up and become fairly proficient in English.
While there is a great deal of scholarly information about second language acquisition available on the internet, I wanted to provide a place here for families to share some very practical ideas for helping a child make the transition from Amharic (or Oromifa in the case of YWAM’s orphanages) to English. Leave a comment and answer one or all of the following questions, being sure to give your child’s age at the time you brought them home:
- What did you do to prepare in advance for helping your child learn English?
- What worked for you? What didn’t?
- How long did it take for you to be able to effectively communicate with your child?