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?
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: 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