This article has been contributed by Tarek Rabie, founder of Hekayatona, a digital platform committed to encouraging children to read and learn Arabic. For more help and advice on how you can best support your child’s Arabic learning journey you can visit their Facebook page and follow them on Twitter.
One of the biggest challenges facing Arab parents living abroad is how to teach Arabic to their children, and whether the focus should be on the standard Arabic or on their local dialect spoken at home.
Arabic has tens of dialectics that can be very different from each other. They tend to differ from one country to another. In some countries, they even differ from one city to another.
Dialects in the Levant region are close and a Syrian will have no problem understanding a Jordanian, for example. However, it could be difficult for a Jordanian to understand a conversation between two Moroccans.
Those dialects are relatively different from classic Arabic – the language used for writing, reading, news and all official dealings; which explains the commonly asked question asked by Arabic language learners “which Arabic shall I learn?”. It is also a question for Arab parents who live abroad and want to teach their children Arabic.
Parents don’t actually have to choose one over the other. Children can learn both their parent’s dialect and classic Arabic simultaneously – exactly in the same manner their parents did. In the typical Arabic household, no one uses classic Arabic in conversation. Children learn it from books, cartoons, learning materials (e.g. educational toys and games), TV and finally they perfect it at school.
While parents living away from home cannot always expect their children to speak their dialect fluently, using it at home will get children acquainted with the language of the parents. They will be able to understand it and to speak it, as long as they hear it often and from an early age.
When it comes to the classic Arabic the sky is the limit. If parents put enough effort into it, the children can develop excellent Arabic skills. In today’s world, it is very easy to surround children with all kinds of Arabic materials to help them master the language.
Books and children’s stories should be on the top of the list. Parents should have Arabic books for different stages of learning, and they should invest time to read with their children.
There are also great tools like websites and apps that are designed to teach Arabic to children. From interactive e-books to games, technology can be a great way to make learning Arabic fun for the child.
Parents can also order learning toys and materials which use visual learning methods to teach the alphabet or new vocabularies among other things. Examples of those tools could be found through this link.
There is also very easy access to Arabic cartoons and other children’s programs on the internet.
There will be a point in the child’s development where direct teaching is necessary, specially to bring him/her to the proficiency levels. Search your local area for Arabic language institutes or for private teachers who specialize in teaching Arabic to children to give an extra boost for your child’s Arabic learning journey.
While it is natural that parents want their children to learn their dialect, there should also be a focus on learning the standard classic Arabic. By being able to communicate with hundreds of millions of Arabic speakers, your child will have an edge in his or her future career. If you also aim at preserving your culture, standard Arabic is what they need. Everything from the holy Quran, to the great literature throughout the centuries, in addition to news, are all written in classic Arabic.
Thank you so much for this helpful article, Tarek!