Elective Mute.

The kids I encounter all have coping mechanisms for being in a foreign country and learning English. I know it. It is fricking hard to be dropped into a foreign culture and be expected to thrive.

That aside, one of the most extreme coping mechanisms students use is to be electively mute. The kid doesn’t talk. Ever. Extreme, but it’s also very effective. Eventually, people stop asking you questions in a language you are not comfortable with. They let you drift.

But no one drifts with me. Not for long.

Two months ago, Moon did not say a single thing in class. Even to direct Yes/No questions. I got a slight shake or nod of head, and never eye contact.

I started with simple yes-or-no questions. I got a nod or a shake. Still no eye contact.

So I upped the goofy. I got her to make eye contact a few times with clowning around. Got a giggle acting out the answers and the ideas about what she was reading.

Last week she whispered when she tested her flash cards.

This week she spoke audibly, at least half the time.

It’s a start.

4 Comments to “Elective Mute.”

  1. By Arwen, June 2, 2010 @ 8:01 am

    Yay! I would go quiet too, I think. One of my fave Grandmoms out here talks to me all the time in Mandarin, and we play act what we’re saying. I love that she throws herself in – it strikes me as brave and beautiful.

  2. By Stephanie, June 2, 2010 @ 3:47 pm

    My friend teaches grade school and a lot of her kids are immigrant kids. Their parents came over a long time ago, their kids were born here, but they still don’t speak English and they live in these tight, clustered, secretive neighborhoods. She tells me stories like this a lot. You all are pretty awesome in my book.

  3. By Beth, June 2, 2010 @ 9:52 pm

    I had an elective mute in my class last year. She talks to her sister, talks to friends outside at school, will even talk to friends in class. But never speaks out loud in class. Never answers a question. Doesn’t look at the speaker, even if it’s other kids.
    Okay, French is a second language for her, but Mom speaks French, so it’s not the language. It’s power.

  4. By Liz, June 2, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    Arwen, it is brave, to decide to play act. It takes a special will to say,”I will be be understood, no matter what.”

    Stephanie, that’s the way of it. If they don’t know it at home, it is so scary on the outside.

    Beth, that is exactly it: Holding the power is everything when you don’t have any other cards.

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