I showed Raihana a spider yesterday and called it “makree” (in Urdu). Because I was trying to occupy her and keep her in the high chair for a meal, I had a brief conversation with her about the makree. In part this was because the makree gave me the heebie-jeebies something awful: this was no beloved daddylonglegs. This had the crab-like appearance of the bad ones, and the very solid torso and the defined legs, as it sat in the middle of its web – which was clearly outlined in the middle of the glass door. We had abbu kill the spider, because after all, in Georgia we have heard of some local spiders being so venomous that they have caused someone’s mother’s face to become partially paralyzed for life.
Anyway, today I was keeping her occupied at breakfast (an unsuccessful attempt: she docilely accepted food but kept it accumulated like nuts in a squirrel’s mouth). So the makree came up again as a topic of conversation in my sleepy mind. Raihana immediately turned to look at the glass door.
One mention of the spider, a new word, and she had retained it. (Good Lord, I’d better stop using the bad words when she drives me out of my mind.) She really is a sponge right now (as her Montessori teacher mentioned today). Her teacher at school told me that Raihana said “lunch is ready” (in garbled toddler style) on seeing the lunch-lady.
Until now I’ve been focusing on babytalk and providing a limited number of essential small words: milk, food, come, etc. Now I’ve changed my strategy and am having sentence-long conversations with her (all in Urdu) because I do believe she’s gone beyond (in terms of reception) babytalk. She may not be producing much language right now, but she’s processing it. This is an exciting time.
And as I said in my last post, there is so much lost potential in terms of educational materials – I mean for URDU. She can watch Little Bear on DVD (in English), she can play with foam letters (in English), she can read an array of books (in English), she can hear songs (in English – except when she hears my old Indian and Pakistani songs). Where is all the material we need in Urdu? The British and American immigrants from Pakistan (of the 60s) are already having grandchildren, and we are still so far behind. Arabic, of course, there is some more of.
But somebody point me in the direction of Urdu foam letters, blocks with Urdu letters, Urdu board books–and not the bilingual board books which have English in bold script and Urdu below in smaller script; even these (the “Elmer” books, for instance) often feature indifferent translations, as I complained to one publisher (Milet) recently.
As for the materials produced in Pakistan, to date all I have are the alphabet qaa’idas. Most of them are not board books, and bound to be ripped apart by a moderately determined toddler. The storybooks I’ve seen so far are not great, and are also made of flimsy material, though I hope to see better stuff soon.
I brought home a tape of “tot-batot” songs (poems for children by the poet Sufi Tabassum), but sadly the production value is not really great. The music and rhythm are not attractive or catchy for a child – in fact they seem more grownup-like than anything else.
If anyone has anything better, please let me know.