Teaching children Arabic is an obstacle course!
Does your child spend hours a week studying Arabic but isn’t progressing? Even worse: is your little one unable to hold a basic conversation in Arabic despite years of weekly Arabic lessons?
The observation is real: there is indeed a dysfunction in the pedagogy for teaching Arabic to children. The didactic strategies used are often obsolete and ineffective.
It’s the dream of many parents to see their child speak Modern Standard Arabic, or Moroccan, Algerian, Tunisian, Egyptian or Syrian-Lebanese dialects.
And yes, imagine…
Imagine your little boy or girl being able to speak, read and write Arabic? It is an invaluable passport to the riches of the Eastern and Arab-Muslim culture that you will have offered them. And, believe me, they’ll thank you profusely once they’re grown up!
But… therein lies the problem.
How do you put all the opportunities of success on your child’s side? How can we best help them assimilate the language of the Qur’an, and develop linguistic skills in Arabic?
In this article, you will discover 3 great tips that will massively help your child improve their Arabic acquisition. These 3 educational approaches that you will see in a moment have been scientifically proven, and are based on years of linguistic research!
1- Teach Children Arabic through Immersion
Immersion is a magical approach to transmitting Arabic to your child because it will allow them to acquire the language of Ishmael effortlessly while having fun!
But that’s not all:
Your little one will also develop a deep and lasting command of Arabic. Yes, learning through immersion will push your child’s brain to process information the same way a native would.
How is it possible?
The answer comes from observing babies! So, there you have it: immersion is an educational approach inspired by the way a child learns their mother tongue. They do it naturally and subconsciously.
Imagine what a new-born goes through. They are like Noddy who suddenly ends up at Hogwarts! Everything is new, confusing and so fantastic at the same time. A child observes, listens and marvels. They don’t understand everything, but they use their innate abilities to deduce meaning according to context, voice intonation and body language. They assimilate linguistic structures and phonetics without any conscious effort on their part. And, the icing on the cake: it naturally enriches their vocabulary.
The process of acquiring one’s mother tongue begins with its spontaneous practice, before ending with the conscious mastery of its grammar and verbal forms.
Why is the immersive approach SO important to teaching your little one Arabic, you say?
The reason is simple:
This is because acquiring the Arabic language is not knowing it theoretically, but living it.
The more your child bathes in an Arabic-speaking environment, the faster and more efficient their acquisition of the language will be. The key word here is exposure time. This will allow your child’s brain to absorb Arabic.
The end result: they will develop language skills in a natural and intricate way!
2- Teach Arabic to the Little Ones While Playing
Games have a real educational value when it comes to teaching Arabic.
It is a formidably effective approach, with multiple cognitive and motivational benefits that are often underestimated.
Having fun learning Arabic will make teaching the language a positive activity for your child. I’m sure you’d agree that preparing your child for Arabic school is often an obstacle course, with all the panoply of tears, crying and non-stop negotiations…
This isn’t surprising. Here’s why:
Learning takes effort and motivation. Yet, for a child aged 4 to 11, learning Arabic in and of itself is not a main motivational factor.
But… There is a solution!
And those are fun workshops. They create this motivation to learn Arabic in the child, and will allow them to maintain their efforts and interest in the long term.
Educational games will help your child memorise quickly and effectively. Here’s why: playing creates a context in which language is useful and makes sense. Your child will live the language. They will let themselves be carried away by the rhythm of the rhyme, or laugh out loud while listening to the adventures of Joha, this half-mad, half-wise famous hero in the East.
This context and these emotions will allow your child’s brain to anchor new vocabulary words in an easy and lasting way. Your child is no longer struggling to remember a long list of words that they’ll forget right away.
And that’s not all:
The use of playful activities creates a relaxed atmosphere free from performance anxiety. This type of environment improves your child’s retention. This is not surprising since stress is known to interfere with memory and cause learning difficulties.
And even better:
Playing will allow your child to develop a deep and detailed understanding of Arabic. Yers, it is one thing to memorise vocabulary, but the child often does not know how to use it properly. Fun activities will allow your child to learn words in a specific context.
The end result:
Your child will know how to reuse this new vocabulary, and his ability to communicate in Arabic will improve greatly. Yes, learning Arabic while playing prompts the child to use the language instead of thinking about how to retain the correct form of a linguistic structure.
So now, you’ve understood that: playing is the key!
3- Teaching Arabic to Children in an Active Way
Learning is not about being a passive spectator.
Your child will acquire poor Arabic if their learning is all about listening to their teacher talk for hours, and regurgitating ready-made answers. Have you also noticed that many students are unable to communicate easily in Arabic despite years of studying the language?
It’s terrible, right?
As distressing as this may be, not that there are solutions!
The active learning strategy will encourage your child to use the information they receive to make it their own. The watchword here is action! Your child has to produce something to actually assimilate the knowledge imparted to them.
An interesting example:
Reading a story in Arabic to your child is great, but you can still do better. Why not ask them quick questions as you go to encourage them to speak up?
- What do they think of the main character?
- Do they have any idea what will happen next in the story?
- Why did this situation make them laugh so much?
And correct them if they make mistakes.
This interactive approach will provide a space for your child where they will be able to think and manipulate the language. In short, they will practice, practice and practice again! And, you guessed it, the result will be irrevocable and the progress vertiginous.
There is a subtlety to keep in mind.
Here it is:
Active learning doesn’t have to mean introducing physical activity. It is a method that prompts the brain to be active, not necessarily the body.
Here’s why this is important:
Perhaps you have already experienced a situation where you had to express yourself in English, but you just couldn’t find the words? And, it is all the more annoying that you know these words very well, since you understand them very well when you read a text. Yet when it comes time to speak, it is an abyssal void! Well, active learning helps to overcome this problem.
How is it possible?
Here’s the secret:
When your child learns information, new neural connections are formed. These connections look like a pattern that will be created in your child’s brain. And each diagram corresponds to a piece of information. For example, a specific pattern will match a certain vocabulary word.
And this is where it gets interesting:
To be able to reuse this learned information (for example, this vocabulary word), your child will have to store this diagram in the multiple drawers of their brain. But that’s not enough. Your child should also be able to find this information in the many drawers of their brain when they need it. It’s great mental gymnastics!
This gymnastics is important. Otherwise, your child will have the unpleasant feeling that they have the word on the tip of their tongue all the time. And above all, what is the point of memorising a long list of vocabulary words by heart if you are unable to reuse them in conversations?
In other words:
The more your child practices the Arabic language, the more their brain will get used to these mental gymnastics. And like a muscle that gains strength while playing sports, your child’s brain will become more efficient in the Arabic language through practice. Awesome, right?
So now, you see that: active learning is imperative!
Teaching Arabic to Children: What to Remember
- Immersion will allow your child to assimilate Arabic in a natural, lasting way and without conscious efforts on their part.
- Games have many cognitive and motivational benefits for teaching Arabic to children.
- Active learning will help your little one appropriate the language through abundant practice of Arabic. This method will train your child’s brain in mental gymnastics which is essential to help them develop their language skills.
Now it’s your turn!
- Which method speaks to you the most?
- What approach do you use?
Tell us in the comments! Your testimony will help many parents who, like you, are eager to help their child learn Arabic.