This is the first of a series of posts I am writing to inspire more thoughts around Arab parents who speak English or French to their children, while they themselves (both mom and dad) speak perfect Arabic! I am still trying to digest this rapidly increasing phenomenon and figure out why a parent would ask his 10-year old boy to “speak in Arabic please”, when the very same sentence could be said: in Arabic.
First, children will eventually acquire their second (and maybe third) language. How? From their friends and school and others (especially in countries with a lot of expats and international communities). And yes, the world is going towards English as a common language in many ways. I do not doubt that most parents do what they think is best for the future of their sons and daughters. The compelling question remains: Do we really need the parents too, to speak a foreign language to the child all the time? What will happen to the native language acquisition and the future of the language itself?
Many parents say, “The Arabic teacher is not as interesting as the English one. Even the relevant textbooks are not as happy or cool.” So is it a problem of publishing houses and authors? Is it a problem of training and development of teachers, commonly known as CPD or continuous professional development? The Arabic Teacher on the other hand replies, “How do you expect me to teach your kid to perfect their Arabic conversations and writing (or even more ambitiously their spelling), when you – as a parent – do not ever speak one word to the child in Arabic (except maybe their name, if they had an Arabic name in the first place)?
The cycle of Arabic vs. Foreign Language “blame game” is endless. We can continue to ask many questions and wait “for Godot” to find answers. Or we can move on proactively by holding shared accountability among parents, teachers, and all stakeholders to teach our language like it is the best language on Earth! One thing I know for sure is we all have an obligation towards preserving our beautiful Arabic language. And yes, it starts with how the little ones acquire their mother-toungue Arabic language. I, Jana, who have taught different subjects in English for more than12 years, want to teach Arabic in the best methodologies and resources – by showing its miracles and beauty, hidden meanings and embellished structures. For kids, for grown ups, for professionals. For all.
Imagine what happens if we put the same level of love, freshness, colors, and pride we take in teaching foreign languages into Arabic! Imagine the critical age for native language acquisition was not 12, but 21! Just like having a “driving license” or the “right to vote” in some countries, you need to be an adult to speak your native language like a native.
BUT, the critical age of acquiring and speaking any language like a native is 12! #Fact. So let’s act upon this fact and embrace a different set of behaviors towards Arabic by: 1) Communicating in Arabic with our children 2) Speaking Arabic with pride (and full Arabic sentences, not Arabic mumbles mixed with other languages) 3) Promoting it like it’s the “coolest brand” AND so it will be.
By, Dr. Jana Boureslan, Director @ Elite Training, Speaker & Poet