Sunday, February 21, 2010

Needing some adoption advice please

Ok, my fellow international adoptive parents: I need some advice and I am looking for your comments. Please send me your thoughts and suggestions!

As we plan to travel to China to get our little girl, we are concerned about the language barrier and how we should be preparing to best meet her needs. My husband recently purchased a Rosetta Stone in Mandarin, so I decided to give it a shot at learning a new language. Let's just say that after about 30 minutes of total confusion on my part I decided to come back another day. I am NOT fluent in any other language, but did take a couple years of French in high school and have some Spanish speaking students in my classes at school. I can't imagine a language that is more difficult to learn than Chinese. We want to be able to communicate with her at least a little bit, but don't know how we will do this.

So, here are a few of my questions: Have you adopted an older child (3+) that has been in an orphange? Did he/she typically know any English? How did you communicate in those early days? Fortunately, love is a universal language, but we dearly want to be as prepared as possible so that we can make her feel as comfortable as possible.

I'm looking forward to your suggestions and comments!


Lori said...

Let me assure you, you do not need to worry about this! You will be amazed how easy it is to communicate with a child that age. Lucy was 2 1/2 and didn't know any English and it was not an issue at all. Your new daughter will learn English FAST, I promise!

Here is a resource that you might find helpful... It's a book of common phrases for adoptive families.

You will be fine!!

Suzette said...


Thank you so much for the words of encouragement and the website. I will definately take a look at it. Seems like we have been on this journey for so long and now it is getting her quickly! I just want to be as ready as possible.

Waitingfaithfully said...


Teddi was three years, four months old when we traveled to China for her. I went knowing ZERO Chinese ( a Cantonese dialect was spoken at her orphanage). As Lori said, it was pretty much a non issue. We did however use "baby sign language", which I was already familiar with-- having used it with Brogan as a baby. I did do a bit of refreshing (Google Baby sign langauge and you will find actual videos you can watch). A friend also loaned us a couple of board books with basic signs that I used. I would happily loan you the books if you'd like! "Baby Can Talk" has excellent DVDs that you can order online (I had one with Brogan . . . but lent it out). Baby Einstein also has great Baby Sign videos (Toys R Us or Target should have them), Teddi loved these DVD's--it is signing combined with Classical music, and pictures (if I remember right). They are very calming!

Signing was an absolute lifesaver for us. With Teddi's cleft issues, even once she began to learn English (which was pretty immediate), her words were hard to understand--we signed for a very long time! Now nearly two years later, she still uses some sign. It is very easy to learn--unlike Chinese, and it makes communication very, very do-able! Let me know if you'd like to borrow the books, I'll happily send them.

Blessings to you, as you get closer and closer to your sweet Lia Faith!



Sam Song - Auhtor of 5 wonderful books said...

I agree with Lori's comment wholehratedly!

"I can't imagine a language that is more difficult to learn than Chinese.

"We want to be able to communicate with her at least a little bit, but don't know how we will do this."

Ah, it's really very easy.

Japanese adopts a lot of Chinese characters, so, some Japanese know the
advantages of the Chinese language. A learned Japanese states that Chinese language is very systematic and logic. He looks at Mandarin from a different

Some people say the sound of Mandarin is poetic.

I'd say the writing of Chinese characters could be very beautiful.

It's also very interesting to note that we can learn Mandarin much easier if we understand the reasons or logic behind.

Actually, learning Mandarin can be easy, fun and joyful!

I'd like to recommend the following wonderful books to you: "Learn Chinese Through Song! The Popular Chinese Nursery Rhyme: Two Tigers", which are making a vital contribution to human culture and are written for all non-Chinese speakers in the world.

She could sing the rhyme with you only in several minutes.


Jean said...

We learned a little bit of baby sign language for words like more, drink, potty,eat, etc- that was a huge help!

We bought a little book and cd for adoptive families from Amazon- can't remember the name but that was helpful.

Smiles and pointing works great. Don't worry it will work out! We don't speak mandarin either and did not have a problem with either adoption.

They learn english fast!

The Spicer Family said...

Suzette, Vera was 5.5 years old, has Down Syndrome, and had lived in an orphanage all her life when we got her in Russia. I remembered a very few words from our first trip to Russia for Alex but it wasn't a problem. The facilitator can help quite a bit, both with communicating directly to your child and helping you to learn a few useful words to use while you're alone with your child. You'd be surprised how quickly you will learn those words when you're in the situation and needing them!

Obviously that was my most extreme example, but with all five of our adoptions communication with the child has not been a problem at all. You will truly be amazed at how quickly they pick up English, too. Not necessarily while in China, but once she is home and immersed in English she will be understanding it in no time and speaking it not too long after that.

God's got your back on this one! (I know, He always does!!)

Love you!!


Suzette said...

Thank you all so much for your encouragement and suggestions. I love some of the wonderful book ideas, songs and signing. I really originally thought about sign language and then thought I would learn some Mandarin. Little did I know how difficult it would be for me to learn.

Wife of the Pres. said...

Language is really a non-issue in all honesty. We adopted our daughter just a few weeks shy of 3 years old in 2008. She was born with cleft lip and palate and it was still unrepaired (palate still is actually), and so we immediately used signs with her. I would recommend this for any child about age 3-4.

Look for some Signing TimesDVDs. They are wonderful and you will all pick up 50+ signs in a matter of days!!! Seriously.

I just posted a video on our blog of our daughter signing her name! You can hear her speaking in it too and as I said, her palate is still unrepaired. We are with the same agency. I posted about it on the yah*o group. let me know if you want the password!

I understand the worries … believe me, we are bringing home a 10YO this time and the panic is really setting in about language!!! But for a 3YO, I would not worry at all.

Kay Bratt does have a wonderful resource on her blog of just some common phrases like "need to go potty" "hungry" etc. She has them spelled in pin yin, which makes it possible for us to actually take a stab at it!

Hoping we hear news of our TAs soon!

julia said...

hi. i'm not even sure how i came upon your blog today b/c i've been sitting here for a while and have been reading a lot of blogs. but i just wanted to add to the above comments. we adopted our son in june. he had just turned 4 (3 days before). we, too, bought the rosetta stone program and i was completely too old or slow or both to pick up any of it. my husband did some of it and learned random words like car, girl, book, bike, drink, eat, etc. whatever the first few lessons teach. he wrote down all of his words in a notebook and took them w/us to china. i thought it was a huge waste of time and silly. but a few hours after we met our son as we were leaving the orphanage and driving through the city, my husband started pointing out the window and saying "car", "man", "woman", etc. our caleb got this huge grin on his face and was kind of like "ya, i know that!". it was so sweet. so my point is. even if you think you know nothing, you probably know a few words. even a handful. all i knew was hello and i love you. that's it. and i was fine. there is something wonderful about having to go beyond words to communicate. gestures, hugs, more gestures,etc are all easier than you may think. the language barrier was one of my biggest fears and unknowns and it really ended up being a non-issue. truly. it's amazing. so i would suggest focusing on 5 words max and be really good at those. and they don't even need to be really useful words. my husband impressed our son w/totally random nouns. so don't worry at all. the language barrier will be one of those things you look back at and think, hmmm, not sure how it didn't matter but it didn't. love goes beyond words.

Angie said...

We brought our 7 year old son home from Thailand last summer. He knew no English, and we knew no Thai. It's a little tough at first, and having a guide to help explain things for the first few days really helps. We took our oldest son (9 years old) with us, and that helped form a bond right away and our new son could follow along and feel comfortable.
So, I rec. a sibling travel to help "break the ice," a picture dictionary with English and their native language,and get ready to do a whole lot of gesturing and pantomiming!
It can be very funny! But you will be pleasantly surprised how quickly your child will learn English.