6 Tips For Non-Arabic Speaking Parents
Monday, October 31 2022
You don’t speak Arabic and you want your child to learn this language, for cultural or religious reasons, or perhaps both. But you don’t know where to start, or if that’s even possible.
It can feel overwhelming and intimidating, especially if your mother tongue is very different from Arabic. But we have good news for you: not only is it possible to teach your child Arabic as a non-native speaker, but it can actually be a great way to increase family bonding, curiosity and religious understanding, God willing! Here are 6 tips to help you get started!
Tip #1: Be clear on your goal and realistic with your expectations.
This might sound obvious, but we often lose sight of that in the process. Before you actually start teaching your child Arabic, ask yourself why you want to in the first place. Is it for them to learn a foreign language? Be exposed to a different culture? Because your in-laws speak Arabic, and you want them to connect? Do you want them to understand the Quran?
Depending on your answer (and it’s okay to have multiple goals as well – just make sure you keep them in mind as you move forward), your strategy and tools might look different. For instance, communicating with Arabic-speaking family members might mean that your child needs to learn a specific dialect, not just “standard Arabic”.
If it is for religious purposes, they will need specific Quranic vocabulary, which is not the spoken Arabic you will hear in the streets of Cairo, etc. As for your expectations, be prepared to accept that your child might not have the same desire to learn the language, or that things might not go as fast as you had wished. It is good to hold yourself accountable for the teaching process, but avoid putting too much pressure on yourself, your child or other family members.
Tip #2: Consider taking Arabic classes yourself
Consider taking Arabic classes yourself or finding reliable resources (there are so many out there and for FREE!) if you do not understand any Arabic at all to bring up your own comfort and confidence levels. This is not a necessity as you could very well just learn along with your child (just be aware that they might learn faster than you!), but for many parents, we know that there can be a need to know just a little more than their child so that they feel comfortable enough teaching their child. Actively learning Arabic yourself can also pique your child’s interest, as children naturally want to mimic their parents.
Tip #3: Use play-based learning!
This is especially true for younger children. So make sure to include a lot of activities and games, rather than lecture-style time which might turn off your child’s interest in the language. Remember that a language is something that is alive and the best way to learn is by living it
Tip #4: Immerse yourself at home!
Going to live in an Arabic-speaking country for a few weeks or more is probably the best way for you or your child to learn the language, but not many people can afford doing this. So the next best way is to try and bring that immersion to your home! Be creative: label house items (a chair, a table, a door, etc.) with their Arabic names, switch your devices to the Arabic language (kuddos to you if your child is 3+ and still doesn’t use any of your devices, masha’Allah!), invest in Arabic children’s books (and some for yourself as well), try Arabic TV channels, podcasts and cartoons, put up some posters with Arabic words such as your family’s routine chart translated in Arabic, etc. Think of anything that will bring more Arabic into your home so that your child will be exposed to the language as much as possible. Check out this blog article with 8 Ways Of Surrounding Yourself With Arabic!
Tip #5: Find yourself a community.
The Arabic language is one of the top languages in the world, and the trend is growing. So chances are, you will find a group or community in your area that shares the same interest as you – or perhaps even native speakers! Check with your local mosque, university (if they teach Arabic there, they will probably have some suggestions), or even the school district (more and more public schools are integrating Arabic in their course offerings nowadays). If you really can’t find anything, you could think about starting your own local group, or you can find this type of community online very easily, on social media or through a basic Google search.
Tip #6: Don’t give up!
There will be ups and downs in the process, some days will be fun and enriching, others will feel like a chore and the whole family might want to ditch the language altogether. When that’s the case, keep calm and go back to your “why”. It is so worth it!
– This article was originally published in our Studio Arabiya Times magazine (Spring 2022).