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Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

How Children Play Who Don’t Speak the Same Language

How children play who don't speak the same language (c)Mudhut Mama

Close to our home, there is a small community comprised of project employees, wildlife scouts and their families. It’s just outside the reserve’s fence and if it weren’t for the danger of elephant and buffalo, we could walk to it. Since we can’t walk and I don’t have a car, it may as well be miles away. Today, my husband had to go into the workshop right next to the community and we decided to tag along. It turned out to be even more fun than we anticipated. We found a group of kids hanging out on the road near the workshop and discovered what happens when you put a couple of kids who speak very little Chichewa into a group of kids that speak about the same amount of English.

They introduce themselves and stare at each other for about thirty seconds while it sinks in that they haven’t been understood.

They touch each other’s hair.

They play with whatever is available.

They make swings out of tree limbs.

They draw in the soil with sticks.

They share shoes.

They share balls (this one was homemade out of old plastic shopping bags).

They share wild fruits and play with the remains.

They enjoy each other’s company even if they don’t understand each other’s words. It was really beautiful to watch how easily this group of children accepted my girls and how unselfconsciously my little ones approached the situation. There seemed to be no thought that they may not be welcomed to play. Long may it last!

© 2012, Jody Tilbury. All rights reserved.

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Jody is a stay-at-home mom, raising two girls in a wildlife reserve in Malawi. Pre-motherhood she worked with international and environmental education. Jody is homeschooling her daughters and enjoys sharing her love of other cultures, nature, and conservation with them. She writes about their adventures at Mud Hut Mama.

Leave us a comment!

  1. CommentsKids Don’t Always Need Words Republished at InCultureParent | Mud Hut Mama   |  Tuesday, 24 July 2012 at 12:45 pm

    […] Don’t Always Need Words” about a spontaneous play date has been republished as “How Kids Play who Don’t Speak the Same Language” at InCultureParent magazine. I’ve recently been introduced to this lovely magazine […]

  2. CommentsJustine   |  Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 5:07 pm

    I love this. It reminds me of things I’ve observed at the beach … how easy it is for children to play together, even without an introduction. This always amazes me, and yet, it’s also unsurprising. It’s only as we grow older that we accumulate all of the baggage that gets in the way of communication.

  3. CommentsKathy   |  Wednesday, 25 July 2012 at 10:39 pm

    What a beautiful and inspiring story Jody! I am typing this way past my bedtime and am feeling a bit emotional as it is, but your words and photos brought me to tears. Life is just so much simpler when we are young like this. I love that your children and the other children didn’t need to be able to communicate with their words to have so much fun together. That’s just awesome!

  4. CommentsMeera Sriram   |  Thursday, 26 July 2012 at 1:40 pm

    The pictures speak a thousand words! You and your family have a beautiful life, Jody! Thanks for sharing!

  5. CommentsThe ABCs of Raising a World Citizen: K - O | All Done Monkey   |  Wednesday, 09 January 2013 at 6:02 am

    […] by introducing them to other children.  As this post from Mud Hut Mama illustrates so beautifully, children are naturally drawn to each other, despite language and cultural barriers.  And here are some wonderful ideas from Teach Preschool […]

  6. CommentsPreschool Homeschool Lesson Plans: Week 2, Age 3 - Mud Hut Mama   |  Tuesday, 12 February 2013 at 12:12 pm

    […] but they also had a fun, and unexpected, time with a group of kids that I wrote about in How Children Play Who Don’t Speak the Same Language at […]

  7. CommentsWeek 2 – Change of plans and « Digital generation  research | communikidblog «   |  Monday, 04 January 2016 at 4:29 pm

    […] also found this report depicting how children who do not speak the same language can still interact with each other. Once […]

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