Thursday, August 23, 2007

Neti's Teacher

When Mrs. Rollins found out Neti was going to be in her class this year, she went to our blogsite and started reading. When Neti walked into the room during open house she was greeted by an excited teacher who knew her by name without introduction.

Mrs. Rollins has picked up on some of the nuances of communication with Neti from simply reading our blog. For example, she knows that "No" might not mean "No" for Neti. We're happy to have a teacher who is committed to making the transition happen smoothly.

Well, since you're reading, Mrs. Rollins, here are a few other things we've picked up on when communicating with Neti. We believe that several of these are cultural, so other families adopting from Ethiopia may want to take note too.
  • "Come Here" - In America we summon someone to "come here" with our palm up and pulling our arms (or hands) toward ourselves. Neti puts her arm out with palm DOWN and pulls her fingers toward herself.
  • Pointing - Both our girls point with their middle fingers. It's usually a pretty subtle gesture that goes largely unnoticed. This was not the case, however, when Meke stood up on my lap, squealed, and pointed to the ceiling fans on her first week in a church service.
  • Shrugging - Both girls have shrugged with one shoulder when we ask them a yes-no question. We originally interpreted this to mean "I don't care" or "I don't know". But 100% of the time so far we've discovered that it actually means "no". Not sure if it's a cultural thing or a toddler "I-don't-want-to-answer-you" thing.
  • Wave and Frown - Both Neti and Meke shake their heads "no". But about half the time they indicate "no" by a quick wave, sometimes in front of their face, sometimes not. Most of the time the wave is accompanied by a facial gesture that communicates "no" also.
  • "Yes" - Meke is especially good at this one but Neti does it on occasion too. Insead of the nonverbal nod of the head, they'll both raise their eyebrows and lift up their chin. It's kind of an American cool guy wave. Imagine a car driving by while a guy's mowing the lawn. Instead of taking a hand off the lawnmower he just makes eye contact and throws his head back.
  • "I have no idea what you just said" - You may not be connecting when Meke gives a big cheesy smile and then looks away. For Neti, you'll see every one of her teeth and she'll let out one of her infectious giggles that bends her over at the waist. Or maybe you've just said something funny she happens to understand.

In summary:

  • "No" can mean "wait a minute".
  • A wave can mean "hello", "goodbye", or "no".
  • A single shrugged shoulder might mean "no".
  • Getting flipped the bird can mean "look up there".
  • A big smile can mean "I like you" or "What in the world are you talking about?"
  • And laughing can mean "you're a really funny person" or "I don't have a clue what you're saying."

It's all context. See how much fun this is! Wouldn't trade it for the world!


At 8:40 PM , Blogger Michelle said...

Sounds like you're doing a good job of translating! :-) Especially when you're flipped the bird! :-)

At 11:15 PM , Blogger jen said...

Loved this post - thanks! I have heard of the "no" shrug and the "yes" eyebrows from many families. I think it's a cultural thing; I'm going to go tell my husband about it right now, before I forget. :)

At 8:57 AM , Blogger The Elliott Family said...

Piper is 2(almost) and does the one shoulder shrug thing, the come-here wave, and the "what's up" chin gesture, too! Gotta be cultural!

How funny!



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