This is the third part of my “daily tips to practice Arabic with your kids”, where I share the tips and resources I used/use to practice Arabic with my young child from baby age; for older children, I think you can adapt and use them too.
This time I will give you my tips to practice our Arabic writing and speaking skills.
Remember, to acquire a language, it is essential to practice its four inter-dependent skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If you missed the first two parts of this serie, you can read them here: the part 1 was about tips for your Arabic reading practice (particularly, with precious tips to choose your Arabic children books/resources as a non native speaker! …tips from an non native speaker who bought so many non adapted resources and learnt from this…); and the part 2 was about tips and great resources to practice your Arabic listening skill with your kids.
1) Daily tips to practice Arabic writing:
Young children start to develop their writing skills before they write by themselves, just by seeing others writing in front of them or by being exposed to the script in their daily life at home and when they go out (in the streets, at the store etc…). For example, our 4 year old started to take objects or books/magazines at home and to copy by herself what its written on them. This is the same for reading; when children are at the stage of their development allowing them to start reading, it is common to see them trying to read by themselves what’s around them. The environment influences their learning.
So if you live in a non-Arabic speaking country and wants your kids to be naturally interested in Arabic, YOU have to integrate more Arabic at home, the only space you can really improve.
Tip 1: Write in Arabic in front of your young kids:
You are the model of your kids, show them the value and the utility of Arabic by writing in Arabic (or bilingually: Arabic/your other language) as much as you can in your daily life. For example:
– write your grocery list in Arabic (or bilingual).
– label your kids’ drawings in Arabic. If they are very young, they won’t tell you what they drew because what interest them is the act of drawing, you can at least write their name. When they grow up, they will tell you what they drew and what to write.
– write simple and short stories in Arabic with your kids. It can be basic describing sentences. Our 4 year old daughter likes to invent “stories” or to create “books”: she draws on several pages, we assemble them and then she tells us what to write on each page.
If you are a non-native speaker, ask a native speaker or an Arabic teacher to correct your sentences. If you don’t know someone who can correct you, fill our contact form here with your short and vocalized Arabic text (you can type it with a visual keyboard on your computer screen or with this free online Arabic keyboard ; what a good writing practice for you!).
Tip 2: Add objects labelled in Arabic in your home:
In their development, children are influenced by what’s around them. So adding objects labelled in Arabic in your home is essential if you want they naturally find an interest in Arabic.
You can simply do it yourself by taping a label with the world in Arabic (shown on the picture below). An other example: for Eid, I made an “Eid mubarak” banner in Arabic with my daughter. She was glad to see it on our wall and she even “read” it. Then, she drew about Eid and wrote by herself “Eid mubaraak” in Arabic without the model in front of her!
Tip 3: Softly encourage your young kids to write:
The first two tips are ways to naturally infuse an interest in writing Arabic in young kids and to develop their pre-writing skills. Continue to use them as your kids grow up!
- When you notice your kid is ready to write, kindly encourage him/her to trace (on dots for example) and then, copy letters and words in Arabic. You can start by her/his name in Arabic on her/his drawings or crafts. It doesn’t have to be a perfect writing of course! She/he will gradually improve her/his writing as she/he grows up. I think that practicing writing through meaningful and attractive resources motivates more the kid:
Note: you can find the explanations of the spring craft (at the top left on the picture) in our Nature Unit on the blog here; and buy the worksheets “I introduce myself in Arabic” here (at the bottom left).
How I notice my child is ready for writing? Since each child is different, I suggest you observe your child. For my daughter, as I said above, I noticed she was copying words by herself after 4 year old. Before that, from time to time, I was providing her some writing exercises and I was observing if she was interested or not in completing them. If not, I was waiting several weeks and trying again.
- Another important thing to do: at home, let your young kids access easily to various writing supplies every day. At the beginning, show them how to use them. It can be sheets of paper (white, colored, lined), notebooks, pen, crayons, pencils, paint and brushes. I do this for my daughter, and yes we accumulate a lot of drawings, but it really enhances her fine motors skills and her interest in scribbling, then tracing, drawing and writing. As soon as she started to draw little details on her daily drawings, I noticed an improvement in her Arabic writing (you know that the Arabic scripts is composed by small details like dots under or above letters or small vowels).
- Our experienced Arabic Teacher in our team designed “TarkEasy“, a new visual resource to teach the Arabic alphabet and how to connect letters to build words (“tark” stands for “at-tarkeeb” meaning “connecting” in Arabic). Children often struggle to learn 3 shapes (beginning, middle, end) for 1 letter. It can be hard to understand. In fact, they don’t have to learn this. Take a look at this innovative resource! (I will personally use it for my daughter ^^)
2) Daily tips to practice Arabic Speaking:
A language can’t be acquired without speaking it. I recommend you speak it regularly with your child even if you are a non-native speaker and even if your child don’t already speak (being exposed to two languages from baby age is not a problem and it is a common situation). Of course, practicing your Arabic reading, listening and writing skills helps a lot for the speaking (particularly to memorize the vocabulary and structures you will use when speaking).
Like for the other skills, don’t expect to speak perfectly Arabic (if you are a non native speaker) and don’t expect it from your children. It is normal and you will improve as you practice and persevere.
Tip 1: Practice Arabic in your daily life:
Like I said previously in “Raising my child in Arabic boosted my own learning”, I really started to acquire Arabic (and stopped to forget the vocabulary and grammatical structures I was learning) when I started to speak it with my baby. Yes, it demands efforts but, believe me, it is possible and it becomes natural if you practice daily. With kids, we repeat a lot and it is beneficial to acquire a new language ^^.
I started with words and basic describing sentences. For daily vocabulary, a great help comes from pictures/words books and describing books. I was sticking small post-its of vocabulary in the different rooms of the house with the relevant vocabulary. I was even going out with a small sheet about vocabulary of the street, playground and park in my pocket.
After a while, your kids will be able to remind you Arabic words you forgot and to help you in your daily learning! If you have several children, it is good to encourage them to help each other like a team.
Tip 2: Play, sing, pretend play in Arabic:
- Playing simple games in Arabic is a fantastic way to teach Arabic to young children. That’s why, we integrate speaking games in our teaching units (along with reading, writing and listening activities). I used a lots of matching games and flashcards with my daughter (matching colors, matching weather and clothes etc…).
You can also transform everyday-life activities into Arabic games. For example, when I was doing my laundry in front of my toddler, we were speaking about the names of the clothes and their colors (it particularly helped me to acquire the feminine forms of the colors I was struggling to learn from my student book).
- Singing nursery rhymes and songs are also great to learn vocabulary, particularly because they stimulate both sides of your children’s brain. I invented some rhymes (very basic rhymes with an invented melody ^^) for my baby about the letters of the alphabet or with some “you are my lovely daughter, I love you…” in Arabic.
- Finally, pretend play and acting basic dialogues are a must. Preschool-aged children, particularly, are very imaginative and like to pretend play. Shy kids may prefer to wear a mask or to use a puppet in order to feel more confident in speaking a new language. You can, for example, wear a cat mask and re-act the basic dialogue between the 2 kittens of our free Arabic story with your child.
Tip 3: Go to playgroups and meet native-speakers:
One fact that helped my daughter to become fluent in Arabic is that her father decided to only speak Arabic with her (while I use both French and Arabic with her). So ask help from family members or friends fluent in Arabic.
You can also create and/or go to playgroups with an Arabic-speaking purpose. It’s a good opportunity to meet other parents in your situation, to stay motivated, to exchange tips and resources and to practice your speaking with them. During the playgroup, you can organize games and storytelling exposing kids to Arabic!
Read the following article to find more ways to practice Arabic speaking with your children from Baby age to Teen age!
Further useful reading about bilingual parenting:
I love to get tips and encouragements from the great lady at Multilingual Parenting. I often find answers to my questions and concerns as a parent raising a multilingual child. So take particularly a look at these articles:
Have a happy Arabic learning with your kids!
Emilie, cofounder of Arabic Seeds.