When Niahra was one, Mama would say, “Aya akpeb usem mi ke mamadi ufok.” She would speak in the home language because she figured it was better to teach little Niahra so she would know it when they went back home. After all, she was but a babbling baby and why not have her child babble in the language of home? So little Niahra—nothing but a babbling baby—would listen attentively and baby babble back to her Mama as if to say, “Afon Ma. Nya kpep usem manotodo nsem me afit owo ke mamadi ufok.”
But soon Niahra grew from a babbling baby to a one year old who could sound out words. And Mama realized that they had not gone back home yet. What words will she speak now? She thought. And soon she began translating home language into English. She would try and say the exact same words. But certain meanings the home language carried was not transferrable. She would try her best. She would tell Niahra, “We’re going to go home soon.” But Mama knew better. Every time she would say this phrase she could feel all the meaning drip out. It’s like eating fufu with no soup. Mama thought. I’m feeding my child fufu with no soup. How bland is that?
But Niahra was listening. And she took in more than Mama realized. Even though she was sounding out words in English she used her home language to translate. Niahra would respond to her Mama as if to say, “Yes mama. I’ll learn the language and when I’m home I can speak to everybody.”
Mama didn’t know. But those were the same words Niahra would try and baby babble when speaking the home language. And that's what she's been trying to say ever since. And that’s why occasionally you’ll hear hints of another voice when she’s speaking. It’s because she still has those phrases of the home language floating in her head.
Mama hears it sometimes. When Mama hears this she sucks her teeth and begins clicking her tongue. She clicks her tongue to keep up with Niahra's speaking. Now Niahra is older. Old enough to speak in full sentences. She babbles but at least it’s not in that baby babble jibberish. Mama clicks her tongue even faster. She clicks her tongue and fills in the spaces where Niahra takes a breath.
Mama thinks. She thinks a whole lot of things in between the spaces of her little one rambling. This child is smart…Did she really just say that?…I’ll have to ask her why she thinks that, this could be a problem later…She’s beautiful…ooh!...I just heard a bit of myself in her. Mama stops clicking her tongue and feels her lips smile. She looks upon her rambling child. She’s still not satisfied. It’s like eating fufu with not enough soup. She thinks. Fufu with not enough soup. Mama resumes clicking her tongue to fill in Niahra’s spaces.