Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cultural Adaptations, part 2

I've been mulling over some issues relating to cultural adaptation lately that are of concern not to me individually, but to my children. In case you thought you missed the "Part 1" of the title--it's not something I wrote but rather something I experienced personally. John and I have been through almost five years of acclimating to this culture and now very rarely have "bad culture" days where the cultural differences bother or frustrate us. But, now we are in the stage of watching (and helping, and encouraging) our children as they adapt to culture, (hence, part 2, the 2nd generation).

In a way, some of these adjustments in our kids took me by surprise. Our kids are growing up here, right? They should be used to the culture, right? They've never known anything else, right?

Those statements, of course, are true. But we are seeing our kids go through some acculturation processes as they get older and able to understand more. Some things about this culture they absolutely take in stride--the noisy streets, the pollution, the vendors everywhere, the fact that everyone else speaks a different language. Other things, well, it's taking a little time.

One particular area of concern is usage of the local language. Actually, it's still an area of concern for all of us! We still feel we have some distance to go in growing toward fluency. But I guess I wasn't prepared to see my children struggle with it as well. I thought it would be easy for them to just "pick up" especially since we give them plenty of opportunities to be exposed to the language, especially for Clara Anne who is attending kindergarten three to four mornings a week.

This issue hit home with me last weekend. Clara Anne has a special little friend at kindergarten whom she had been asking to have over to play. So I called her mom and we agreed to a playdate on Saturday. They came to our home and I had several special activities planned, including reading the true story of Christmas, decorating Christmas cookies, and coloring with special Color Wonder markers from America (thanks again Cornerstone!). The girls really had a fun time together, and played together happily. Later, though, as John and I reflected on the morning, I realized with somewhat of a sinking heart that this little girl had done all the initiating in the play time--ALL. Clara Anne hardly said a word. John expressed it best: "Clara Anne just doesn't know how to play yet in the local language." She doesn't know how to say things like, "let's go play with dolls! Look at my doll! Her name is Mary . . . " or any of the thousand things that she would say to her friend Emma who speaks English when Emma comes over to play. Or, if she knows how to say them, she is too shy to try it out in the local language.

I've been trying to work with Clara Anne a little more intentionally but I get the feeling that I am trying a little too hard. The more I try to help her speak, the more she resists me (at least lately, I'm sure it will change). John assures me that when Clara Anne has listened and absorbed enough, she will start speaking when she feels confident. I am praying that that day will come soon! Clara Anne can have a tendency toward shyness anyway so adding the language barrier in makes it all that more difficult to be friendly.

So there's something that we are praying about. Our Father is in control and I know that we can trust His hand and depend on His wisdom as we try to help our girls adjust to the culture around them.

**Update**Last night as I was getting the girls ready for bed, I was singing "Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes" in the local language, and I forgot for a moment the order of the body parts listed in the middle section. As I was pausing to think what came next, Clara Anne filled it in for me! So there's some small progress! Perhaps there's more local language floating around in her brain than I realize!

1 comment:

Kellie said...

We understand what you are going through and are experiencing similar type struggles with Micah. I keep saying - in time and he is slowing warming up to using more language but it is not as easy as I thought it would be for him. We are remembering you all too!