Sometimes I learn vocabulary based on what is happening in the moment. Other times, useful things just come to mind that need to be learned. There were no moms feeding their children nearby the day I realized I didn’t know how to say, “She is feeding her child____.” (Fill in the blank with whatever type of food you can get in a jungle village). So, I quickly sketched this:
Can you tell what it is? If you said, “It’s a mom feeding manioc root to her child,” you are correct! Well, instead of leaving these simplistic stick figures nameless, I identified them as a specific mom and 2-year-old in our village. For some reason, the children love this drawing, and frequently ask to see it. On one such occasion, we ended up sitting on my long kitchen bench, four children and I, looking through various sketches. On the page with a man, woman, baby, snake, fish, chicken, and dog, the 7-year-old girl started quizzing me. She had been there for my first class using those particular sketches, when her mom helped me practice body parts, and taught a few I hadn’t yet learned, such as beak, fin, and wing.
As my little teacher asked questions such as “Where is the man’s knee?” “Where is the baby’s eye?” “Where is the fish’s tail?”, I would point to the body part on the corresponding sketch. At one point, she repeated a question she had asked a couple minutes before, which was fine with me, because practice makes perfect. But, in typical older-brother fashion, hers reprimanded her, saying something probably to the effect of, “You already said that one, silly.” To which she replied haughtily, glaring at him, “I’m teaching her,” and kept right on going with the quiz.
A bit later, while I was making the Brasilian counterpart of “kool-aid” for the children, the 7-year-old boy told his cousins (the brother and sister mentioned above), “Last week, when our parents were gone for the day, we came over and taught Paulette.” His smug facial expression and the self-satisfied, important air with which he spoke were just too cute for words.
It really must be quite a thrill for children their age to teach adults, though. Seriously, what 5, 6, 7, or 8-year-old wouldn’t love feeling like an authority on any subject, having an adult ask, “Did I say it right?” “Will you help me study?” or “What do you call this again?” and totally believing their responses, however incorrect they might be, haha. If they ever wanted to, the children could trick me into learning things that are completely off base, or even inappropriate. Please don’t give them any ideas, though, because until now, they have been great little teachers, as far as I can tell. With a couple of them, I have to be careful, because they still have lisps which cause them to misarticulate certain sounds, so it’s best not to depend on them for new vocabulary, but work on reviewing words and phrases previously taught by someone else.
We have extra fun with the dynamic classes and learning exercises I plan. Late one morning, I had just returned to the house after a couple hours out in the community. Although it would have been good to study, a headache was threatening to turn into a migraine (this was back in February when I was getting those frequently – what a blessing that they are rare now), so I decided to take a break and lie down for a bit, to see if that would keep it from getting worse. I had just settled onto the nice cool tile floor in the bedroom, when a little voice called my name, “Are you there?” (Typical Neno greeting, even when you are visible, and it is clearly evident that you ARE there).
“Yes, hold on,” while I slowly sat up, and the headache intensified.
Well, the 6-year-old hadn’t stopped by just to see what I was doing, or ask for crackers. She was on an educational mission. Since I didn’t understand her words immediately (headaches aren’t particularly helpful when trying to process new languages), she quickly showed me what she came to do by grabbing a basket, a plate, and a drinking gourd, and motioning to my one and only chair. These were some of the items her parents and I had used yesterday, to practice positional words and phrases, then commands.
“The basket is on the chair.”
“The plate is under the chair.”
“Put the egg in the basket.”
“Put the drinking gourd behind the chair.”
You get the idea. Well, my 6-year-old teacher had gotten the idea too. This was a super-fun game that she could come over and play with me. Her timing wasn’t the greatest that day, when I didn’t feel up to studying or practicing, but I certainly wasn’t going to turn away such an enthusiastic (and adorable) teacher. So we played and practiced, laughed and learned.