Before coming to the field I can’t tell you how many time people told me, “Don’t worry your kids will just pick up the language”. I got the field and looked around and noticed that this fact was simply not true. While kids do pick up language faster and more efficiently than adults, they still have to be in an environment or given the tools to make sure it would happen. So many parents have been told not to worry about it and don’t realize until it is too late that it isn’t as natural as we thought it should be. This issue is multiplied here in West Africa as there is not just one language our kids are hearing around them, but a multitude. So without effort it is unlikely that they would gain significant skills in any language. Thankfully I realized this early and knew that if our kids were going to learn language it was up to us to create the environment they would need to make sure this would happen. For French we used a combination of things, but school was the largest piece of it. School was where the natural part of language learning comes for them. A few months in school and they took off like race car. They learned language in a way that we as adults never could and it still never ceases to amaze me how native they sound. However speaking only French still cuts us out of a lot of life here. So the next problem was how to get them Wolof. School was not an option for that, so it was time to try a new path.
So this summer I am experimenting with language session for our kids. As adults we do language session and so why not do them for our kids as well to help them build the foundation they need to take off. For the next 2 months they are going to be doing 10 hours a of language sessions a week, with additional play time that will only be in Wolof as well. I am excited about the opportunity as I hope to create something a little more user friendly for other parents to use with their kids in the future. However it is quite the undertaking and I am sure it will not be without its hiccups and bumps a long the way.
We had our first language session last Friday. The boys lasted the 2 hours just fine and grasped it so much quicker than the adults I have worked with. I am learning how to adapt it though as their attention spans are not as long as an adults would usually be. So we are changing activities frequently and trying to do activities that involve movement whenever possible.
So as you think of us this summer, pray for our boys as they attempt to learn Wolof. They are excited, as learning French has taught them the importance of language, but it is still a lot of work for them. It will not take the 2 years that it will take us, but it will still require a significant amount of work on their part – and on mine.