Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Raising Missionary Kids

No doubt you're familiar with the Missionary Kid stereotype:  awkward, out of style, out of touch.  Unfortunately, it's a stereotype for a reason:  because it's often true.  Have you ever thought about "why?"

Part of our extensive training touched on this subject.  Kaylee has read (and is re-reading) Third Culture Kids.  We're aware of the issues, and want to do our best to make sure that our girls are comfortable and well-adjusted no matter where they are.  However, the fact remains that they are not "normal" here, and when we return to the States for furloughs, they won't be "normal" there either.

The main reason I'm thinking about this right now is because of something that happened on Saturday:

Our church runs Horita Feliz (little happy hour), a weekly kids' program, in 4 surrounding neighborhoods.  On Saturday, I took Anne to the one nearest us.  Although we tried taking her a year ago, everything was still too much of a shock for her and she wasn't ready.  I believe she is now, and we're going to make it a regular part of our week.

We were the first ones to show up, even though we were 10 minutes late.  She and I sat down and continued the conversation that we were having on the way there.  Before long, 5 little girls showed up,  all but one a year or two older than Anne.  They sat there, chattering away, occasionally asking me something about Anne.  They were very curious about her, in a friendly way, and eventually came and sat closer to us.

That was when I realized:  Anne is now at the age where girls really start to communicate and relate to each other verbally.  And she's alone.  She knows that one of the reasons we're going to Horita Feliz is so that she can have more exposure time in Spanish, and we talked about that as we sat there, waiting for the program to start.

She said to me, "I wish we had not moved here. . .but I know that we had to."

I'm proud of her attitude, even though she is often shy (sometimes rebelliously) and hesitant to use what she does know.  She is learning.  And she is finally showing some interest in putting effort into learning the language, because she sees the need for it.

In the meantime, how much is her social development going to be set back??

Although kids do have an easier time picking up language naturally, it is simply not true that "they'll be speaking like natives before you know it" or "they'll be fluent before you are."  It takes time and effort on their part as well, and they can't study like Kaylee and I do.  Anne has a friend her age at church; they play together every Sunday.  We also have a teenager and 20-something that have started to come over a few hours a week to play with the girls and give them more time in the language.

As you pray for our progress in language learning, PLEASE do not forget to pray for that of our children as well!

Anne and the kids singing "I'm in the Lord's Army," in Spanish:
(If you click the Full Screen button in the lower-right corner of the video, you can see that Anne is actually doing the motions. . .an improvement, as she gets comfortable with participation)

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Worst Stage of Language Learning

As I (Nathan) move into the Advanced levels of language, my progress gets harder and slower.  To continue progressing, I have to fine-tune my pronunciation.  I have to increase my speed and grammatical accuracy.  I have to speak in paragraphs.

My biggest roadblock at this point is learning and incorporating higher-level connectors.  You know, the ones that show purpose, reason, cause/effect, and hypotheses; words and phrases that express complete thoughts.

Essentially, I'm learning how to speak like an adult, but not just any adult.  I want to speak as someone educated, well-spoken, and confident, with the ability to influence people through my speech.

I'm trying to accomplish in 6 months, in a second language, what took me about 15 years in my first.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Bilingual Baby

While Kaylee and I put in many hours a week studying Spanish, our girls obviously don't.  We do informal teaching with them, of course, and they do spend a couple hours per week in Sunday school.  Anne and Addi are quite capable of being polite in the language (when they're not being shy), and Anne often asks us questions about words that demonstrate that she understands quite a lot.

Now it's Lydia's turn.  She has turned into quite a little chatterbox and loves to point at everything and say what it is.  I took this video of her on Oct 31 when she was a couple days from 18 months old:

Today she turned 22 months, and I finally captured her saying the same thing, in Spanish, something she started doing over a month ago:

The best part?  She picked up "Hola" by herself.