Saturday, October 25, 2008

No I Don't Believe Them Now, They Speak A Different Language*

I had Lana evaluated by the ESL staff at our school district.

I made this request because, even though I think her comprehension of English is astonishing, considering that she has only been speaking it for 20 months, I am just a lawyer. I am not a linguist. And I wanted her to be given the services she needs if she needs them.

My first conversation with the ESL director went something like this:

Her: What other language do you speak?
Me: (Missing her point entirely) - French. And some Japanese, but, I can't read it.
Her: You're speaking French and Japanese at home?
Me: No.
Her: (silence for a few seconds) - You speak English at home with Lana?
Me: Of course.
Her: Why would you think Lana needs ESL services?
Me: We adopted her from Vietnam last year. She spoke only Vietnamese until after her fourth birthday.
Her: Oh. Does she speak Vietnamese with you now?
Me: No. But, she's only been speaking English since about March of 2007. For the first two months she was with us, well, it was very difficult.
Her: I see. You're concerned she needs extra tutoring to assist her in becoming more fluent?
Me: Exactly. I mean, I understand everything she says, but, I'm her mother.
Her: I will have one of our teachers evaluate her next week.

I was happy with this answer.

So, then I got a call from the ESL teacher who had evaluated Lana.

Her#2: This is Ms. B________ from S_____ Schools. I'm calling because I evaluated your daughter regarding her ESL needs.
Me: Thank you for calling.
Her#2: You know, most children adopted as infants from other countries have no retention of the language of the country they were adopted from.
Me: (Silent annoyance as I think, 'Did you even READ her FILE??')
Her#2: It's just that I've never had an adoptive parent ask for this service.
Me: (Trying to keep snotty and bitchy out of my voice) - Lana wasn't adopted as an infant. We adopted her when she was 4. She spoke only Vietnamese until last year.
Her#2: Really?
Me: Yes.
Her#2: That's amazing. Lana comprehension and fluency is testing out at the same level as a native speaker. She doesn't need any ESL services.
Me: That's good news. I mean, I thought she was understanding everything, I guess I just wanted verification.
Her#2: Are you sure she spoke Vietnamese before?
Me: Yes, I'm sure. I mean, I only know about 30 words, so, communication for the first several months was really, really hard. I pretty much only understood that she either needed to pee or that she wanted the cat to go away. But, she was speaking Vietnamese when she came to us.
Her#2: Hm....Lana denies any knowledge of any language other than English. She denies that she ever spoke Vietnamese.
Me: I see. I have some video of her speaking Vietnamese. Maybe I should show them to her. Thank you for taking the time to talk to her.
Her#2: You're welcome. You may want to ask for her to be evaluated by the speech therapist next year for her speech impediment, but, it may work itself out.

So, I hung up the phone feeling both relieved and slightly concerned. I am relieved that her fluency and comprehension are what I have believed them to be for some time now. I am concerned that she denies that she ever spoke Vietnamese.

On the other hand, she doesn't so much deny that she spoke Vietnamese to us, it's more that she separates time in her head by saying, "When I spoke Vietnam, I did this" or "When I spoke Vietnam, I had a different mommy." It may be that she was not ready to let the stranger, the unknown ESL teacher, in on the details of her past....

Anyone think I should be worried about this?


*Barenaked Ladies, Hello City


Blogger Anne K. said...

I'm no expert, but it sounds like your hunch that she may be compartmentalizing may be spot-on. Also, I think you were more than patient with the school officials. They sounded somewhat dismissive, which would have put me in a bad mood very quickly!

Saturday, October 25, 2008 1:10:00 PM  
Blogger thecurryseven said...

I don't think I would be concerned. TM is still a bit fuzzy about what he's done when. I would be more than a little annoyed at the school personnel you talked with, though. Pat yourself on the back for handling them so gracefully.

One thing I have noticed about TM's language (other than the fact he still doesn't like to produce any ending consonants)is that his oral comprehension is not as great as I had assumed. Functional English is fine, but it's when we get to academic stuff that I notice it. For instance, D, who's 8 months younger than TM and a native English speaker, has no difficulty telling back to me what I have read to him. When I first tried this with TM, he was clueless...disturbingly clueless. We have been working on it and he is getting better, but it does sometimes make me wonder how completely he really understands us sometimes.

Saturday, October 25, 2008 2:41:00 PM  
Anonymous Christina said...

That is really intersting that she tested so well. I'm thinking about having Zeeb tested, but after 2 years home I'm guessing they won't catch it even if he isn't processing as normally as an average 5 year old. (sad how little confidence I have in the public school system these days...)

I wouldn't be worried about Lana's response - likely it's compartmentalized in her head or she just didn't understand the question. But I bet she would think it was cool to see herself speaking Vietnamese on video.

Saturday, October 25, 2008 3:43:00 PM  
Blogger maxhelcal said...

I wouldn't worry what so ever. Vietnam must seem like a lifetime away to her by now. Just think, she has been home with you more than half the time she had spent in Vietnam already including when she was only an infant.

Bronte seems to always put herself in the 3rd person. Like Bronte wants to go outside now or Bronte no like it. None of my other children did that.


Sunday, October 26, 2008 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger Emily said...

Well, it sounds like the "assessor" didn't quite understand your situation. So, maybe she failed to communicate on Lana's terms...I mean, does Lana know what "Viatnamese" means? If she says "I spoke Vietnam" maybe she denied speaking "vietnamese" because she literally didn't understand such an adult term?

You should be so proud of her, and yourself! It sounds like it was a frustrating few months in the beginning...and, don't forget that you are her advocate...if you dont' speak up for her, who will? certainly not the school who doesn't even take the time to read her file!

Monday, October 27, 2008 10:43:00 AM  
Blogger Nicole - Raising Animals said...

I think you did good. :-D
You had concerns, had them evaluated, and the experts agree - Lana is doing wonderfully. Good job mom!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008 10:25:00 PM  
Blogger Trannyhead said...

I don't think you should be worried about that. She may have felt under attack by the stranger - as in the stranger thought she wasn't speaking English well enough so she was trying to prove otherwise.

How obnoxious that they didn't read the file. Don't you love "services?"

Thursday, October 30, 2008 9:35:00 PM  

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