Sunday, November 23, 2008

Curious about language...

I wonder - if those of you who have adopted an older child from another country - when did it finally sink in with your child that no one understood what they were saying?

Jia just chatters on and on and on... and I don't know if she's chewing me out or just discussing the affairs of the day. She's upstairs right now with her baba and jie jie and is talking into a voice changer I introduced her to... and having the greatest time!

There are those moments where she just chatters away in her little child lispy Mandarin. She never seems to comprehend that we are not understanding a word she says... and I wondered... does it ever sink in and when?

So far, I've been lucky to understand what she wants just by paying attention to her actions or catching a familiar word or two... but when it comes to her "conversation" - which obviously tends to be one-sided - there's yet to be a give and take. I just wondered when she'll get it... and what do I do when it happens? How do I handle the pain of her isolation? I have Chinese friends I can call for help when she needs desperately to be understood, but they aren't available 24 hours a day. Her passive learning of the English language has been pretty good so far.

But then - in the middle of the night when she says she has to go to the bathroom (in Chinese) and when we get back into bed and snuggle, she says as best as she can, "I lub eyou-eh!"


Lisa said...

Don't know about the language but those are beautiful pictures, Julie!

Gina (Caleeo) said...

Sorry I missed welcoming you home! I too fell off the face of the earth for a while, just busy with life and such.

Seeing the pictures of the girls together is absolutely amazing. I am sure they have their moments, but in the pictures, they look so happy. I will be thinking about you all a lot as you adjust to home life as a family of four. Look forward to hearing how it is going.

Keri said...

It must be frustrating for both of you. But, it looks like you hae the language of love down pat! She looks so happy in each of those pictures. What beautiful girls she has.


Cara said...

It is thrilling to see the pictures of Kenzie and Jia enjoying each other so much! Thank you for sharing :)

Kevin said...

I am Beth Schickel, an adoptive parent through FTIA & also a waiting parent (LID 4/21/06). I used to be a Speech Pathologist but left the field several years ago. It may be helpful for you to establish some sort of hand gesture indicating that you don't understand. It takes all kids a little while to understand when they are not making sense with their talking. Right now your daughter's brain is sorting out which words are English and which are Chinese. Also, she needs to sort out which words you understand and which you don't. It is amazing how quickly they can sort it out! You may see her combining languages for a while. In the meantime, I would also suggest incorporating some sign language to go along with your English words. Fine tuning oral motor skills takes more time than gross motor movements (hand gestures).

I hope this helps a little! If you have any questions, you can e-mail me at

It is very encouraging to me to see your girls together!


sarah said...

Such beautiful girls you have! I love all the photos . . . it makes me happy just to look at them!!

Super Mommy said...

When I adopted Jasmine - she was 15 months old - she had aquired some language, but nothing like a 4 yo. I can tell you she certainly understood a lot more than she could speak though! Jia sounds like a really smart girl and languages seem to come easier for kids, so hopefully she'll catch on soon!!

Love the photos!!

Mendy said...

Beautiful pictures of a beautiful family. And look at all those smiles. WOW!

Karyn said...

There was no a ha moment with our four year old where she suddenly realized we couldn't understand her. She'd just chatter away and jesture and pantomime to indicate what she wanted. Her chatter gradually included more and more English and less and less Chinese. It was a fairly smooth and gradual transition and she never seemed bothered by any language barrier. A year and half later, some people say she sounds like native speaker.

Like Kenzie, our older daughter had the toughest adjustment of all of us, having to deal with being dethroned.

GouGouAwu said...

"I don't understand(your language speaking)"

Chinese PinYin:" wo ting bu dong"
[wo tiŋ bu: d ɔŋ]
if your Mandarin pronunciation is not so perfect,I can image she might correct you, :D

hehe,such easy~~next time please do not pretend to understand and say "yes" or "no",that's gonna confuse her :]

GouGouAwu said...

Since you haven't enough time,her older sister has.Why not she teach Jia English little by little.You could tell Kenzie to do this job,yet they have a chance to get closer.