Saturday, August 1, 2009

Language, Language

by Liz

Been thinking about language alot lately.

As my 20month old (!) tests her increasing vocabulary and I hear my colloquialisms in baby tones I can't help to ponder my long term effect on her language place in the social realm of communication.

What I'm saying is that yesterday she responded to my question about bananas for breakfast with the painfully New England response of "yup." (cringe or cute?)

As we've been trying so hard to curb our tongue from more offensive utterances we overlooked the small sentence punctuations. I wonder how often the valley girl in me still says "like." I imagine I'll find out soon.

In the bigger context there's looming my responsibility to keep all her options open in regards to her homeland.

Amharic is the main language in Ethiopia - at least in Addis Ababa, the capital (which she's not originally from). I don't even know what the reigning language in her hometown of Tepi would be. And Amharic is hard. Different alphabet, tongue-twisting words, sentence structure based on the gender or social standing of the audience, lots of subtleties... I like the challenge of trying out new languages but I admit that Amharic really intimidates me.

Usually while traveling I make sure to arm myself with the basic words of polite social interaction; please, thank you, hello, goodbye... I still can't get through "thank you" without a tongue trip up. "Am-eh-say-ge-nah-lo". I feel my Ugly American-ness is glaring loudness every time.

But, I owe it to my daughter to give her a fighting chance if she should want to explore her culture more fully as an adult. I know you need the language to do this. I know I can't teach her myself, so I must find something that can. For now I've been trying to keep Ethiopian music and the one Ethiopian kid's DVD in constant rotation in hopes that her ears will form a familiarity to the words that will imprint themselves for later learning. I'm looking for more help in this audio training. Here are some links to my current research into Ethiopian language:

1) Tsehai Loves Learning:
A cute DVD of puppets singing and dancing to Amharic lessons (with written english translations). Really for Amharic speaking kids, and not something that even an adult could learn from despite the subtitles. I play it so the language will sound familiar to her. She has loved it since we got it at 12 months.

2) Amharic the EZ-Way-
I've been considering this program of conversational Amharic for travelers. It looks approachable. Its made for PC platforms. I have a Mac. I wrote the owner and he responded promptly promising a 30day guarantee. I think I should try it out.

3) Teddy Afro - Ethiopian Pop artist. We picked up several of his CDs in Ethiopia. Probably hard to find here based on a quick search of Amazon. They have several compilation discs

4) Rosetta Stone - not available in Amharic. I posted a request for the language but based on the size of the language group I'm doubting that Amharic is high on their development list, despite requests from noisy adoptive parents like yours truly. (but I still encourage noisy adoptive parents to put their 3 cents in...)

Any other ideas? please send them my way!

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