Teaching your child Arabic while living in a non-Arabic speaking country is a challenge, especially when you are competing with another dominant language spoken at school, on the playground, and even at home. For some (super) moms and dads, the challenge is even greater: teaching kids a language that is not your native tongue.
How do they do it? What’s their biggest challenge? And what tools do they use to help them? We asked a few non-native Arabic speaking moms and here’s some of what they had to say.
Naz, who is the cofounder of the inspirational book series JannahJewels and a homeschooling mom living in Canada says,“learning another language when it is not your first one can be intimidating!” She shares some resources that she enjoys using with her children, including Arabic alphabet blocks, Arabic board books from Maktabatee and some from her local library.
Naz always finds creative ways to bring Arabic to life in her homeschooling paradise (or at least that’s what it looks like to us!): “Combining Mixed Media Art while learning Arabic words related to their everyday life is really fun and working out well for my little ones.”
Emilie Ummu Meriem, a French mom living in Canada, finds that the biggest struggle is “finding quality resources that are made for non-native speakers.” She says, “in the beginning, I bought a lot of books and other resources designed with Arabic-speaking parents in mind. But since then, I have learned to check if the resource has these special features that make it easier for non-native speakers: easy-to-read Arabic font, Arabic text with accent marks (to make pronunciation easier), and translation within the text if possible. It's great when these resources include vocabulary that I can use in my daily life rather than distant topics not relevant to my child.” As she learns from this journey, she has developed some great Arabic resources that are easily downloadable for parents everywhere on her blog, ArabicSeeds.com.
For Abeda, a homeschooling mom from London who grew up speaking Gujarati and English, starting an “Arabic playgroup for moms and toddlers with lots of crafts, games, singing, and reading” helped a group of kids and their parents learn Arabic together. Concentrating on a “word of the week” and “phrases of the week” also helped with the kids’ Arabic vocabulary. Teaching her daughter Ezzah through play--both with crafts and creative activities has helped her on her journey of teaching, and learning Arabic.
Aspiring bilinguist, Gambian Mommy, also seconds the incorporation of short phrases and sentences and believes this helps her daughters understand “snippets of Arabic conversations here and there.” Emilie Ummu Meriem also emphasized the importance of starting these conversations and phrases early in the child’s life. She notes that she began teaching Arabic to her now four year old daughter when she was a baby, reading “Arabic children's books out loud, listening to Arabic audio books, watching Arabic cartoons, and practicing writing in Arabic.”
Abeda and Emilie both noted how learning the language with their children has made the process easier and more enjoyable than learning it alone. Abeda says she’s more motivated and focused on learning with her daughter than when she “was attending courses and learning the language formally." Emilie also found support from her husband, who has helped her improve her own Arabic by only speaking to their daughter in Arabic.
Our advice to parents teaching their kids a language not native to them is summed up in Emilie and Abeda’s advice. Emilie says “don't be afraid of speaking Arabic, take action, start little by little, you will improve as you go and as you practice, repeat and persevere! When I start a new Arabic book with my child or watch a new cartoon in Arabic with her, I don't understand every word or sentence, and it is ok! I know that my brain is working on it!"
Abeda agrees that the more you converse, the more you learn. And one day, your hard work will pay off when you see your child putting their Arabic to use, like Abeda says of her daughter, "we often hear her teaching her grandparents or aunties Arabic words!”
If you are teaching your little one Arabic as a non-native speaker, let us know what your experience is like, and if you have any other tips to share! Don't forget to check out our older blog posts with a variety of tips on how to bring Arabic into your child's life through reading, crafts, and so much more!