Perhaps more important than helping ma physically cope is helping her finally get to grips with the way the english language uses ‘he’ and ‘she’. Neither Finnish nor Karelian have those words and ma often mixes them up. I think the real problem is the way they work as pronouns (look – ‘he’ definition – up). Ma tells lots of stories about lots of people and in her first languages every person would have a special pronoun after the first mention. In english you use he or she, and if there are lots of them and you just use he or she the story becomes impossible to follow.

Ma was quite surprised when I managed to make her understand this, but she thought about it and was then shocked at just how hard some of her stories were to follow.