Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Sunday, January 23, 2011

New friends

Subtractive Bilingualism is - to totally paraphrase - the process of loosing a person's first language and learning a second language that becomes the primary language. This is what happens to a child who adopted internationally and must learn a completely new language.

So, Axel has been in my care almost 8 weeks, and hearing nothing but English since he came home 6 weeks ago. We really don't know how much he was hearing of Serbian, but we know he wasn't saying much in the way of Serbian words.

Today we met with our new friends J. and M. who moved here from Serbian 9 years ago. They were very anxious to meet Axel, and we were anxious to see how he would react upon hearing Serbian.

When we arrived, they said hello to him in Serbian, and greeted him with his birth name, Djordje.

He gave NO indication this was familiar to him. NONE.

I was both saddened and fascinated by this. I would think that if he'd been hearing Serbian, he would have given a reaction of familiarity, but he didn't. I think M. was a little disappointed because he was really anxious to to interact with Axel in his native language.

J. had made palachinca. These were my FAVORITE treat while in Serbia! They're like a crepe, and are filled with whatever you want to put in them. J. put chocolate in them. Ohhhhhh delicious! My favorite way to eat them while I was in country was with Nutella on them. When I came home I told Dean I wanted a crepe pan so I could make these, but today J. assured me I can make them without such a thing! (clearly J. doesn't understand my level of culinary ineptitude!)

Also, when I was in Serbia I had bought some stuff called Pavlica. It was used the same way we use butter here. I could never figure out exactly what it was, but it seemed like a blend of sour cream and cream cheese. It was just awesome! I've tried to find places here where I could buy it, but without luck. When I asked J. about it, she reached into her fridge and pulled out Daisy brand sour cream. "This is the closest thing you'll find to it here in the US." I was right that it's sour cream, but our sour cream is more sour than theirs. J. said Daisy brand is VERY close to what they have in Serbia. Guess what I'm gonna go buy tomorrow?

We got to talk about a lot of things. Dean and M. had some guy time in front of the game in the basement, and J. and I talked about more serious things regarding kids in Eastern Europe. She had never seen a child with Down syndrome in their home country. They were thrilled to see Axel thriving and living life!

So that was our fun day with new friends! I can't wait to get together with them again. I have a lot to learn from them, and they such incredibly nice people. Meeting them made me really miss being in Europe.


Sheila said...

Masha will talk to you if you speak Russian. Mostly, repeating what Randy says (he is learning Russian via keystone) but she does react. Lera won't react at all. She will repeat anything Randy asks her to say but she doesn't volunteer. She hasn't for a very longtime. Our contact at Masha's agency told us that it was not uncommon for them not to respond or to become angry or violent when they hear their former native language. Some are frightened they will be taken back or that you are returning them. Some want no reminders of that time. He said that the better they liked you the less they were likely to respond to anything but English.

Kathie Brinkman said...

Very cool. btw, we only use Daisy brand because it's all natural and it's VERY thick and creamy. I love it!

Terri said...

Reminds me of my daughter, who's still dealing with the effects of subtractive bilingualism 16 years post-adoption, at age almost-21. She had very little Russian at age 4.5 -- mostly baby-talk among the kids at the orphanage, and didn't understand much from the host family or doctor in Moscow -- but then lost even that and had to start all over in English. I think the hardest part was dealing with professionals in this country who had zero experience with subtractive bilingualism and made no attempt to understand her language struggles in that context. Her language and cognitive abilities have been consistently underestimated by folks who could only view her through the lens of severe delays in primary language. If I had it to do over, I'd have insisted on ESL services.

Difference2This1 said...

I find the entire issue of the language very interesting also (and frustrating in our case)...mostly because is it SO, SO different across children. Tessa played like she had never heard a word of Mandarin or Cantonese by 3-4 mths home when a native speaker spoke to her. She learned enough oral English to "get by" and make people think she has a handle on it better then she did until about 6 mos home. Then she just stopped trying to learn more- now she thinks she knows enough of English, won't admit to knowing Chinese, yet writes her old Chinese name on her school papers next to her new one and in letters to friends who were adopted, yet gets irritated when someone/kids at school asks her about Chinese, won't admit to remembering Chinese characters if you ask her (I asked her to help another parent needing a quick character translation). She's done Rosetta Stone, had ESL services for 2 1/4 yrs, and the school's ELL online program for 2 1/4 yrs (which she won't do anymore because she says they talk too have to to TEACH YOU and yes, you do need it very much!!). Her language acquition is such a mixture of "typical" and "uncommon" that I have absolutely no idea if she is doing well for an older child home 2 yrs or poor. She seemed quick to jump ship ref.her first language, no longer interested in learning caught in the middle of knowing neither very well :( Good grief..I'm looking forward to getting these two boys who don't speak home and counting signs they learn....much easier, right?? Blessings, Jennifer