As a father and an Arabic language teacher, I have come across the many challenges of teaching Arabic language to children. It is more than just imparting knowledge to the young mind of the child. There has to be a plan and strategy behind it; the delivery and execution has to be deliberate. Over the years, I have come to realize that there are a few crucial factors we need to take care of to help the child develop interest in Arabic and foster learning. I have determined these factors and summarised them into what I call the ‘4 Cs’.
Content: seek knowledge
The home is the child’s first school, and the parents their first teachers. Therefore, as parents, we need to equip ourselves with the necessary knowledge and skill to be able to aid the child at home as they learn the language. Ideally, we learn and then teach what we learn. It helps for us to understand Arabic so we can better appreciate the Surahs and prayers we recite along with the little ones.
However, if we cannot afford the time and do not have the ability to learn and teach, does that mean our children should also be denied of learning Arabic too? Of course not! We have seen how a 4-year old, Bella Devyatkina, from Russia, is able to speak 7 languages when her mum only knows one. She achieved this by having different teachers for each language. So, if we cannot teach them ourselves, the least we can do is to seek teachers for them.
Commitment: have specific goals
We must always begin any endeavour with the right intention. Set short and long term targets. Let me share some of our daughter, Nayla’s journey in learning Arabic. We started with songs and dance to expose her to Arabic literacy and by 18 months she could recite them all. Concurrently, we had basic conversations on a daily basis and by 24 months, she could already reply in Arabic. We also did vocabulary-building through the use of flashcards and puzzles, and by 36 months, her word bank has become extensive. Mashaa-Allah.
This experience is consistent with studies that say a child’s brain comes pre-wired to pick up languages. Thus, early exposure to a language will help them to master the language faster even if they were to properly learn it much later in their life, Insha Allah.
Creavity: entice, engage, enrich.
I cannot stress enough the importance of playing for children and how playing can further stimulate and facilitate the learning of a new language, especially for one as ‘difficult’ as Arabic. Previously, I have shown examples of the activities Nayla did at home and in class at As-Souq. We used different learning tools, such as simple games, speech and drama, and also competitions between Nayla and me. We utilised play cards, magnets, sandpaper art, hijaaiyyah tiles. All this helped to spur her interest to learn the language and gave her motivation. When learning becomes fun, I assure you, the child will never want it to stop.
Consistency: have a routine, big or small.
The last, but of course, most important ‘C’ would be consistency. It is not effective to binge learn a language and plan different activities if the effort is not consistent. Start small. If you have seen our Surah recitation sessions before every night before bedtime. You will see how Nayla herself became excited and even wanted to pick the next Surah to read. It started with simple daily Duas before we eat, and before we sleep, and then we moved on to short Surahs.
Teach your child a new word or sentence every day or week. You decide, as parents, what is within your means to do. The important thing is to do it. Start somewhere. Start small. Be consistent. Insha Allah, the seed you sow today, will grow into a beautiful tree tomorrow.
There you have the 4 Cs to support the learning and grow the love of Arabic. May it be of benefit to you and your children. That said, if you are all motivated and geared up to embark on this wonderful journey to learn Arabic but still feel a bit unsure or are unable to begin it yourself, let As-Souq assist you.