When Mom And Kid Learn Cyrillic, Guess Who Succeeds Faster?

As I alluded to last week in Expat Confessional – I am barely literate… I am learning Cyrillic, or at least trying to, for the sake of my daughter.

When Danica was 2 1/2, I was determined to make sure she would be “kindergarten ready,” and spent many stressful hours teaching her to write her letters. I started with her name.

Once we were through the Latin alphabet, I had the brilliant idea to show her how to write in Cyrillic.

I know, I know, I’m still operating on the American “push to succeed.” Few other parents here are as actively worried about their child’s academic development. There’s more of a “you’re only a kid once,” and “what kid doesn’t know how to read?”–type of attitude.

First Foray into Cyrillic

She was three when I started on her name in Cyrillic. The first letter, D, is: Д. When I showed it to her, my daughter immediately screamed, “That. is. a. TRIANGLE! That is not my letter,” and stormed off.

It’s a trapezoid, I wanted to say, but knew well enough not to argue.

Two years have passed, and I haven’t pushed the issue further. Now, at Danica’s preschool, they are learning their Cyrillic letters, and within the context of school or from any mommy besides her mommy, she’s fine with learning the Serbian alphabet.

In fact, she now knows how to write her name (in only all caps, hey, you can’t have everything) in both Latin and Cyrillic letters. It’s no easy feat, take a look:



Okay, it’s not sooo different, but notice that you have “N” in Latin and then backwards “N” is an “i” sound, and is written as И in Cyrillic. Luckily, Danica learned her right from her left fairly early so, the “slide” (diagonal line) in N faces right and the “slide” in И faces left.

If all of this is making your head spin, just skip it. I did … going on three years, and I live here.

The Perils of the Mother-Daughter Relationship

One afternoon, Danica’s preschool teacher and I were chatting about home schooling. Because I’m a masochist Just for fun, I asked my daughter, “Would you like to be home schooled? I could be your teacher.” Danica had no words.

Ignoring me, she looked at her teacher and rolled her eyes, as if to say, “Can you believe this shit?” and finally turned to me and simply shook her head, “no.” And that was the end of that.

And so, I’m slowly learning my Cyrillic letters, and I’m looking forward to the day when both Danica and I can read Cyrillic.

That’s the beauty of the completely phonetic aspect of the Serbian language. Whereas in English, a child has to learn the name of the letter, the sound it makes (“A” says aaaa, etc.), and then deal with all of the “exceptions to the rules.” In Cyrillic, once you recognize all your letter-sounds, reading is pretty much a done-deal.

Although, by that time I’m sure Danica is going to be correcting me, as she already does with spoken Serbian. Good times.

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Laura Dennis

About Laura Dennis

Laura Dennis was adopted and raised on the East Coast of the United States. A professionally trained dancer, Laura gave up aches and pains and bloody feet in her mid-twenties to become a sales director at a biotech startup. Then with two children under the age of three, she and her husband sought to simplify their lifestyle and in 2010 they escaped to his hometown, Belgrade. While the children learned Serbian in their cozy preschool, Laura recovered from sleep deprivation and wrote Adopted Reality, A Memoir. She blogs at Expat (Adoptee) Mommy