There are so many benefits of having a second language in your pocket; for employment, for communicating when travelling, for accessing the literature etc, the list is endless. And there are so many benefits of teaching a second language to children from young age. Their brain will become more receptive to a new information, their ears will get used to various different sounds in different languages and a child who knows 2 or more languages find it very easy to learn a new language. When we were at school we learned about the 12th century Central Asian scholars like Mahmud Qoshg’ariy who could speak, read and write in as many as 9 languages very fluently. Most scholars of the region were multi-lingual having Turkish, Farsi, Arabic as their language of communication, language of reading and writing.
As a language teacher, I was very interested in experimenting SLA theories with my kids. Their first language is Uzbek but obviously because we live in England, they speak English the minute they leave the house. Although they are bilingual, I would say at this point their way of expressing themselves is far better in Uzbek than in English. But they read more books in English due to shortage of good story books in Uzbek. So, their Uzbek is very much limited to conversational Uzbek rather than stylistic literature.
I was so inspired by sister Umm Ibrahim bint Milton over at Talibiddeen Jr being able to homeschool 9 children in English and Arabic. I used to read her posts back in 2007 where she said you don’t need to be a fluent Arabic speaker or reader in order to teach your children Arabic. Because I always had this fear that unless I am not confident in a language I can not teach it. MashAllah, time has proved that I can learn alongside with my children. I dont have vast amount of knowledge of Arabic. Although it would have definitely been of benefit if I was taught Arabic as a child, not knowing the language should not hold me back from giving the chance to kids. Especially at this day and age where you can find plenty of free resources online be it interactive websites, printables, books and games.
So, our children are bilingual- Uzbek and English. And we have started teaching them Arabic from early age, starting from Arabic alphabet then building on the vocabulary, as well as memorizing the surah from the Qur’an, which is in Arabic. Currently my daughters go to Sunday school organized for children of Arab families living in our area. Also they watch Educational Cartoons in Arabic about 20-30 minutes daily on youtube. Alhamdulillah, they are motivated to learn Arabic because they know it is the language of the Qur’an, the language of the prophet Muhammad (saw) and the language of jannah.
Sumayya just started reading in Arabic recently. She reads from her Reading Book given by Arabic school, she reads the vocabulary worksheets from Arabic comes first, and she could read the small surahs on Qur’an centred word workbooks. She copies sentences from her Uhibby Deeni book given by school for her handwriting.
Safiyya alhamdulillah has learned all the letters of the Arabic Alphabet and currently learning new vocabulary through her reading and vocab books given by Arabic School. She does lots of Arabic Alphabet tracing worksheets to improve her handwriting too.
Recently I have been thinking of adding Russian to our list of languages to be learnt and researching where to start teaching Cyrillic alphabet. And I know inshaAllah it will not be a burden on the girls as both are very interested in Russian. We read Russian books and they get to watch educational cartoon series in Russian called Luntik. They know how to count 0-10, and names of animals etc. They dont know the Russian alphabet, but when they see something in Cyrillic they recognize it immediately being in Russian language. I always have the feeling that if I make the effort, they pick up very quick on this. We even found local Russian school that runs on Saturday mornings for children of Russian families who live in our city. But at the moment it clashes with our Saturday’s circle that we do in our house for Sumayya’s friends.
I really need some inspiration to start with Russian. I can imagine my multi-lingual children speaking in Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian in a couple of years- it doesn’t hurt being ambitious right lol…inshaAllah perhaps they will if I make the effort. It is not the case that children get confused between several different languages, NO, it is just the case of me finding the resources needed and making the effort.