A popular video being circulated on Facebook features a man asking Arab children what the names of certain animals and insects are. The children reply in English (owl, alligator, ladybug) and when asked to identify the animals in Arabic, they have no idea.
Sad, but not surprising.
About year ago, I went to Egypt, and one of my goals for that trip was to stalk all things Arabic for my young ones. It ended up being one of the most difficult tasks I went through.
I excitedly walked into a popular toy store and asked the happy-looking salesperson, who was trying to lure my toddler into purchasing some obnoxiously loud light-up creepy animal toy, to direct me to the Arabic games and puzzles.
He looked at me as if I had asked him something offensive, and half-laughed.
“No, no, we don’t have such things. Come here, though; I will show you where the Barbies are.”
I was so upset. Here I am in my home country, searching for authentic and fun Arabic material for my children, and I get shown a Barbie doll.
It was a hassle trying to find anything suitable, and I was thankful that my friends and relatives helped me with the search. I was lucky to score a handful of Arabic books, puzzles, and even stickers.
But why was it so difficult? And why were parents here speaking to their children in English all the time? Because it was cooler to say “Thanks” instead of “Shukran” and “Please” instead of “Min fadlek.”
Why weren’t they speaking their native language?
And God forbid, some words were never to be said in Arabic, as they were deemed “low class.”
Many times, Arab-American parents in America will speak to their children in English only, and unfortunately, the kids will grow up to be monolingual, rather than be blessed enough to be bilingual speakers, of which the benefits are many; research continues to prove this.
I understand that it’s challenging to find good Arabic material or good Arabic schools for children.
But it begins at home.
Exposing young children to rich Arabic vocabulary and resources is so important.
Authentic Arabic songs, videos, toys, books and communication are crucial in order to assist children in becoming fluent in Arabic.
Some of my favorite Arabic for children related websites and blogs are:
The Arabic language is beautiful. Let’s keep our native languages alive, and pass on the beautiful gift of bilingualism to our children.