Five Ways to Infuse Arabic into Your Child’s Life
When it comes to teaching our children another language, the benefits are known, but the struggle is real. That has been my experience as a mother of two young boys, ages 3 and 5. When my parents immigrated to the suburbs of Washington, D.C., they feared that we would lose touch with the Arabic language. So they did everything in their power to maintain it. They enrolled my sisters and I in Arabic schools, they took us back to the Middle East every summer, and they spoke to us every day in Arabic. For them, it was natural but still challenging, as they were competing against everyone else in our lives who spoke English. Their hard work and good schooling paid off with my sisters and I learning to read, write, and speak in Arabic.
Today, as a parent myself, I have an added layer of difficulty-- getting myself to speak enough Arabic with my children since it doesn’t come as naturally to me as it did to my own parents. It’s an uphill battle, but one that I’m determined to take head on.
How? With a lot of personal effort and a little help from the Internet. There’s no question that the resources we have at our disposal today are beyond anything our own parents could have imagined. Don’t know the name of a particular animal in Arabic? Google translate will help. Looking for Arabic alphabet tracing worksheets? Pinterest to the rescue. Want to play an Arabic cartoon for the kids? YouTube videos galore.
But don't let that overwhelm you! Here are my top five tips for bringing more Arabic into your child’s everyday life:
1. SPEAK IT.
You might not be perfect at it, you might not speak classical Arabic, but if you can speak Arabic, try to do it as much as possible with your children. If you are like me, you may have other languages spoken at home. Don’t let that stop you from trying to speak to your child in Arabic as much as possible. English comes so naturally to me, so it takes a significant awareness for me to tell myself to speak in Arabic when I am with my kids. Don’t be discouraged if you go off track! Even a few sentences a day here and there will help your child.
2. READ IT.
Who doesn’t love to snuggle up with a parent and read a good book?
Books will introduce words that your children may not hear from you regularly or on a daily basis but are important in adding to their vocabulary. Don’t underestimate a child’s ability to understand unfamiliar words using images on the book or context clues. I’m always surprised that my children understand some words that I don’t use often. Hearing a book character speak in Arabic makes the language much more relatable and memorable for children. And seeing the Arabic word in the book will help as they move on to reading and writing the language themselves. We've handpicked our favorite Arabic books for you so you don't have to do all the work!
3. PLAY WITH IT.
Children learn with all their senses. Adding a tactile element to your toolbox of Arabic learning is important. Today, we have a whole new set of learning products that children can interact with. From alphabet blocks to flashcards to puzzles and moveable alphabets, give your child a new way of experiencing the Arabic language. Use play dough to make the letters of the alphabet, paint them, or practice the letters in a sandbox (more ideas here).
4. DISPLAY IT. The beauty of the Arabic script is undeniable. Most Arab homes will have some if not many decor items that include beautiful Arabic calligraphy. Children may not be able to read or recognize fancy script, but they will learn to appreciate it. You can also add kids themed Arabic art (check Etsy) or display the kids’ own Arabic arts and crafts prominently around the house. (More tips in our Arabic Around the House blog post).
5. LISTEN TO IT.
Songs, apps, and short videos will help your child grasp how words sound, help them develop the pronunciation of letters, all while engaging them in a fun way. Pop an Arabic sing-a-long CD in during your car ride and your kids will be repeating it in no time! Audiobooks are another great way to "listen" to Arabic in a fun way.
And on the days when mama or baba can’t get a break, get YouTube’s help. One of our favorite shows, the newly produced “Iftah ya Simsim” has sing-alongs, narrated books and important lessons that your children will enjoy.
What do you do to help your children learn and maintain their Arabic language? Share your best tips with us!
How do i teach my child arabic, i myself donno how to speak arabic
Umm Meriem, thanks so much for your input. It’s great to hear all the different experiences and combinations of multilingual parenting! We will be checking your arabicseeds.com for more useful info!
ANMB- those are wonderful resources, will definitely check them out! Thank you for sharing :)
These are some nice suggestions. If you want more, the two following books have more tips and ways to teach parents to teach and/or help their children learn another language:
The Bilingual Edge: Why, When, and How to Teach Your Child a Second Language
by Kendall King PhD, Alison Mackey PhD
Family Language Learning: Learn Another Language, Raise Bilingual Children
Author: Christine Jernigan
Assalamu 3alaykum, barakallahufik for this useful post Tuqa!
I am a French mum mostly raising my child in classical Arabic from her baby age in a non Arabic speaking country and what you advice is what I do.
The result: it boosted my own Arabic learning (I am now “fluent” in Arabic daily life topics) and it became the first language of my bilingual child alhamdulillahi ta3ala! And it’s so beneficial intellectually and of course, for our religion!
Practicing the 4 skills of the language is so important: reading, writing(even when you write in front of your young children, it’s beneficial for their future writing skills; you can for example label or tag everything in the house and their drawings also), listening and speaking.
The speaking skill is often forgotten but give it a try! At the beginning, it’s always efforts and perseverence but then it become easy alhamdulillah!
Of course the fact that my husband speaks with our child only in Arabic is very helpful. So if you are not a native speaker is good that you meet native speakers (it can be during playgroups for example, or a member of your family) and ask them to speak only in Arabic to your child.
Arabic Cartoons help a lot. I download Arabic cartoons with quality Arabic speech from here: http://way2allah.com/var-group-57.htm
I also started the “Arabic Seeds” project with a blog to encourage other parents and tell them:
" yes it’s possible, you can learn classical Arabic if you are not a native speaker and yes, you can use it in your daily life with your kids bi’idhnillah!"
@Haneen— you can check out our selection by clicking the books link at the top of the page. We only list books that we have reviewed and our children enjoy!
@Fawzia— thank you for your kind words, and for your effort in passing on the Arabic language to your sons! I’m sure it’s difficult to see your grandchildren not picking it up as fast, but we are seeing a growing trend of bringing Arabic back into schools, even public schools, and homes of course. We hope our tools will help other parents who are also struggling! Please do share your post with us whenever it’s done!
tons of thanks Tuqa. I will share your post and write a post for my five sons and five daughters in law. I, like your parents, struggled so hard to teach my children Arabic without being able to visit the Middle East to practice. I am proud of my sons who speeck Arabic. Nevertheless I feel disappointed and sad seeing my grand children speeck English all the time. Your efforts are great and I appreciate your work. Your bilingual children will be very proud of you. May Allah reward you.
Do you have Arabic books you recommend? We struggle finding good children’s lit in arabic