Rediscovering Habeshaness: Ethiopian Language

In February 2014, we took our daughters back to Ethiopia for the first time, since their adoption in 2009. This is one of many blog posts we have written about our family’s homeland trip. I also go to Ethiopia every year with our charity, Vulnerable Children Society, so there are additional blogposts from my trips to Ethiopia to enjoy!

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Over the past week, it’s been fascinating to see the girls adding mannerisms and language, to embrace their Habesha-ness.

On the road, in the van, instead of arguing,
“Yes!”
“No!”
“Yes!”
“No!”

They, with a bit of a smirk, yelled at each other,
“Ah-o!”
“Ai-del-em!”
“Ah-o!”
“Ai-del-em!”

Bucka!” (enough!)

The girls have also been trying to integrate the yes and no gestures back into their bodies’ vocabularies. The raised eyebrows indicate yes, and the shoulder shrug indicates no. Usually, the only time we saw this at home was if they were super tired or super surly… Then we would see the barely perceptible shoulder shrug.

But in Ethiopia, they are trying to start using the gestures again. With Spice, it’s subtle, but with Sugar, it’s almost comical. She refuses to say yes; instead, she opens her eyes super wide and raises her eyebrows dramatically to the heavens. It’s super cute, honestly. The are still working on picking it up from others, though…

I can understand a lot of Amharic, especially around the topics of family and home. I also have collected probably at least a hundred words in my travels. So all the Amharic the girls know is from me. They haven’t ever really used it, though, until this trip. Mainly, their vocabulary is around all the animals, which is their favourite topic of conversation in any language. They’ve also been learning the numbers, and a few bits of small talk.

These are small bits of progress, but it’s delightful to see. Over the past few days, they have been feeling more and more at home. They really don’t seem to care if their vocabulary is limited; they feel like they belong.

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