Reflecting on My Literacy Experience as a Refugee girl

Overcoming the challenges of language barriers and breaking through my comfort zone.

Fathiya Barkadle, M.Ed.

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Photo by Joshua Hanks on Unsplash

Reflecting on language and literacy experiences bring back one of the most beautiful and memorable moments for most of us, especially when parents are involved in your education. For example, my mother has been a key integral in my education and she taught me at home three different languages (Somali, Amharic, and Arabic) which I’ve always found fascinating and resourceful until this day.

I interviewed my mother who was my primary educator and still is for her traditional proverbs and wisdoms that she enlightens with me and my siblings. I began asking her about seven to ten questions to reflect on my childhood literacy experiences and how she has managed to teach all of her children how to read and write three different languages.

She grinned and said, “Fathiya when you’re a mother you believe yourself sometimes as a superhuman.” She continued on to response to my questions, and stated that these questions are essential to ponder on at times since all of you have grown.

“Sitting on a maroon and flowery mat and listening to one my famous pianist reminds me when you started saying your first word, said my mother.” I was about eight months old when I started uttering my first words as ‘mama’ and ‘dada’ and of course it was in Somali because that is my native language.

My mother said that it was one of the best memorable moments when your child utters her first word because I couldn’t wait to start teaching you two other languages. “Mama, caano aa rabaa.” (Mommy, I want milk). That was your first sentence said my mother, my mother laughed and said you loved drinking milk day and night.

She began her journey reading to me at night, in the morning, and every moment she had some time by articulating both pictures and print words. She used to start reading slowly the letters in each word aloud from right to left because this was Arabic language. I was around five or six years old when I learned reading and writing Arabic alphabets and numbers.

At age seven, I was able to read and write in two languages with composing sentences, but I didn’t know…

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Fathiya Barkadle, M.Ed.

High School English Teacher/ELD Instructional Lead & Freelance-Writer Blogger.