Friday, May 16, 2008

What They Don't Tell You

. . . about adopting from Liberia:

Saying that the transition will be easier because Liberians speak English is an exaggeration. In fact, saying that Liberians speak English is an exaggeration!
Our three truly have transitioned very well and the fact that they understand English so well has helped significantly. That said, we didn't understand much of what they said for the first month. Maya interpreted for us, because we didn't understand a single thing Isaac said. True to Liberian form, he doesn't say "th", and he rarely says the last sound of common words. He said he needed a bell to hold his pants up, for instance. And he was never full after having a second helping of dinner. He always asked for "terds".

Assume that your child hasn't been schooled at all, even if he has. Liberians learn to read by memorization, for example. Liberian children, for the most part, have no idea what sounds letters make. (Maya came to us an excellent speller, but she didn't know how to read anything at all.) Both Maya and Isaac know how to add fairly well, but if they see "71", they can't tell you what number that is (17, 71, or 701?) Place value is a very confusing concept to them. This will mean starting from scratch when it comes to many areas. Ask me how I know this. In general, children catch up quickly, so this won't be a permanent problem, to be sure. But it is best to be prepared.

Respect for property will need to be taught. Trash cans are few and far between in Liberia. They eat a banana, or don't eat it, and when they're finished they'll toss it on the floor. This was an easy lesson to learn, but not before finding yesterday's gum under my dining room table.

I wouldn't change a thing and I would do it all over again. More educated and more prepared next time! They are worth it!


The Herd said...

Good thoughts for adoption! I am so glad to be learning ahead of time--in case we ever adopt.

dkt said...

I even saw all these things in Matthew who was three at the time of adoption (but who acted more like two)

Naomi O'Donovan said...

Sounds like they talk in rural Ireland.

"Tree and a terd" for "Three and a third." :)

Melodie said...

My family and I continue to advocate that Liberian English is not English. It should be called Liberian Creole instead. Yes, those who are highly educated can be fairly easily understood by Americans, but the rest of the 97% (or so) of the country is a different story. If the pronunciation weren't enough to get past, then there are all the words that mean different things (like "dress" meaning "scoot over" or "move").

The funny thing is when Maya left the orphanage she was the child who spoke the best English!

Ginger said...

Thanks for saying that Melodie, I've been attacked for saying it myself.
Yes, Maya did have good English; she was schooled. She served as our interpreter for the first few months. Especially for Isaac. ;)