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​​1.5.4 Language


Adopting a child intercountry also gives rise to language barriers particularly for older children.  To assist the child to be able to communicate with the new parents and to express their fears, memories and anxieties, it is important that applicants are willing to learn and embrace some of the child’s language. 

In the ‘Spanish Languages Basic Phrases’ document are some examples of phrases and words to learn to help with communicating with the child.  Additionally the internet provides a vast arrange of material to assist in the learning of basic phrases and words. For example the following website is a forum for people that want to learn or improve their Spanish:


Applicants should find someone skilled in the language of the country that the child is from to tutor them in the language. On the adoptive parents and adopted child’s return to New Zealand that person could be useful to assist with communication with the child.

It is highly likely that one day the child will want to visit their country of origin and any language that has been maintained would be very helpful for the child. 

Lois Melina in her book “Raising Adopted Children” states that children who can speak their native language when they arrive home should be encouraged to keep doing so or not be discouraged from doing so.  The child may only be able to express themselves in their own language and not in English.  Children adopted under 9 – 10 years of age are likely to lose their first language as there are often limited opportunities to speak the language in the new community the child will be living in.  Jim Cummins, an authority on bilingualism states that the best way to maintain the language is to be within community groups who speak the language in a natural manner, as opposed to formal classes which tend to stress vocabulary and sentence structure, which are not perceived as fun by the child. Where there are opportunities for the child to keep the language, research studies show that encouraging the child to continue speaking in their first language can help them learn English faster and may help them in school.

Prior to travelling to Chile, applicants are required to learn enough of the Spanish language to be able to communicate with the child to be adopted.​