Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Works for Us: Labeling the House

Since November is Adoption month, and we are currently about 7 weeks into our adjustment at home with our new 10 year old son from Ethiopia, I've decided to post a few WFMW's about some things that are currently "working for us" in his transition. Two weeks ago I posted about how establishing a routine and having a visual representation of our week has really helped him. This week I'll share something else we've done that has seemed to be effective.

It's helpful for anyone trying to learn a new language to label their surroundings with words in that new language. It even fosters literacy in one's first language. When my other two were little, there were words everywhere! I just decided that literacy would be a higher priority than decor, and slapped labels all over the house. God designed our human brain to automatically try to decode text.

Before we left for Ethiopia I ordered the Talk Now- Learn Amharic software. We found that to be a very useful (and inexpensive) program for learning some basic vocabulary (and hearing pronunciation by a native speaker) before we traveled. One thing I loved about it was that it had printable picture dictionaries for each category of words (greetings, food, household, etc.) with a picture of the item, the English character, the phonetic pronunciation, and the Amharic Fidel characters. Very, very helpful.
Before we left I printed out the picture dictionary pages and cut out each word and laminated them into cards. It has helped him (and us) because it's got the word for us to say in his language, as well as for him to read and learn in English. (You can click the photos to make them larger so you can see the print... sorry the glare of the flash made them hard to read.) Not only is this helping him learn the words for "spoon," "shirt," etc. it is helping him to know where those things are kept. I wanted him to know where to find a bowl in the kitchen, or where his socks are. This helped him to begin to feel "at home" even faster.

At a local teacher/office supply store, I also found pads of Post-it Notes that have English vocabulary words on them. I took some pads of those notes with me to Ethiopia and asked our orphanage director and translator to write on in Amharic. She was SO sweet to do this for us! I brought those home and laminated those as well, and they are all over the house. On lamps, inside the refrigerator, etc. The one that says "coat" is on the door of the coat closet, the one that says "towel" is taped under the hook where he is to hang his towel. These have been very, very helpful.

He is making great strides each week in learning English, but it is definitely step-by-step (sometimes very small steps) every day. I know from international travel that being surrounded by a language that is not your first language and letters that you can't make sense of can make your mind tired. I believe that seeing words in his language sprinkled throughout the house not only rests his mind, but teaches him where things are and begins to show him what the word looks like in English. "Signs" directing him to an item's location, with a picture and in words he can read, have helped him to feel more control. He not only hears spoken English throughout the day, his brain is storing them by seeing them as he looks around the house. I am far from being an expert on language acquisition or adoption, but this is one thing that is working for us!

For more tips, or to share something that works for you, visit Rocks In My Dryer. Have a wonderful Wednesday!


Much Ado said...

Just popped in to say I am LOVING your posts and especially the adoption related ones, you have so much good, godly advice. I am taking note for the future! :)

Rachel@just another day in paradise said...

great idea. I hope to be able to put the advice to good use one day. . .love your blog and story.

Bailey's Leaf said...

Friends adopted their son from Ethiopia almost three years ago. Lewi is now closing in on 5 and is the greatest kid. He picked up English so fast!

I'm an adoptive parent myself. My husband and I adopted our daughter from the county south of us.

Those adopted kids just always have a special place in our heart!

Thank you for posting about your son!

Jill said...

Lovin' it!!

Kerry Hasenbalg said...

I really like your blog! It blesses me that you continue to say "yes" to God. You are a wise woman!
Since the Word says, "What you do to the Least of these, you do for me.." So, I suppose in a spiritual sense you just did the ultimate for Jesus...You made Him a full fledged member of your family! Awesome!
Kerry Hasenbalg