Children and Languages

Bismillah,

We have often heard stories about multi-lingual children who can speak 3-4 or even more languages simultaneously and each very fluently.  I watched this video awhile ago and was so inspired. Indeed, the language faculty of any human being is made to learn any language naturally given the fact he/she is exposed to that language from young age. Children have capacity to learn as many languages as parents choose them to expose to. They do not have to make extra effort to learn a 2nd or 3rd language the way that many adults struggle to learn a foreign language. I have a friend who can speak, read and write in 5 different languages; she has mastered all five so successfully. I can think of many Uzbeks in the UK who are fluent in at least 3 languages- Uzbek, Russian and English.

Anyway, I really hope our children grow up as being multi-lingual. They learn Uzbek, English, Arabic and Russian. I just wanted to update briefly on our approach teaching each of these languages.

Uzbek is everyone’s first language at home. We have always had “No English” policy at home in the hope that they grow up bi-lingual (Uzbek/English) from childhood. Alhamdulillah, they are very fluent in Uzbek. Sumayya can read many Uzbek books we have got at home (these are in Latin script). And occasionally we do write passages in Uzbek. It is our main means of communication between all family members so naturally they can speak in Uzbek very expressively and at times eloquently. Hence Uzbek language uses the same Latin alphabet, they can read and write if we continue in this manner inshaAllah. I have not taught how to read in Uzbek but once they master the English alphabet they can easily read any Uzbek books as it is pretty straightforward (Uzbek is very straightforward phonetical language, unlike English). The only thing they find difficult to understand when reading Uzbek stories is the Vocabulary. Our children’s Uzbek vocabulary is limited to kind of spoken Uzbek and do not always understand the literary synonyms of many words used in books. This is partly due to 1) We do not have good collection of Uzbek story books that we can read often 2) We hardly every watch children’s TV programme or a cartoon in Uzbek. They are just not easily available.

English is everyone else’s first language outside our household. As we live in an English speaking country, they are exposed to the language the minute we leave the house. It is the main means of communication amongst our friends and social groups. So they pick up spoken English naturally. They have learned how to read and write and currently English is their main means of communication in writing. They try to write poems, stories, letters and little passages in English. They read a lot of books in English and watch educational cartoons, movies or documentaries made for children. I have no concerns at all for their English, even though they do not go to school. Most textbooks/workbooks/supplementary materials and worksheets I use in our homeschooling are made in English. So, they are taught both in English and Uzbek but carry out their written tasks in English.

Arabic– is taught language for them as it is not spoken around them. They attend Arabic classes and plus teaching at home using books and materials from the web. My husband reads to them stories in Arabic and they watch lots of children’s cartoons and TV programmes in Arabic. Currently we use 2 textbooks- Madinah Arabic Reader 1, Gateway to Arabic 1 and 2. I do not stick to textbooks only as I try to vary the number of activities we do. It is good to use variety of books/materials/resources as children can easily get bored with monotonous set of exercises and activities that keep repeating when using a single textbook. Here is the list of websites I get our resources from for our Arabic language classes

TJ Arabic Studies

Learning Arabic

Arabic comes first

Yemeni Links

Madina Arabic

Rahmah Muslim Homeschool

Soft Arabic

36 Arabic Stories for Kids

A Muslim Child is born

Current progress.

Sumayya finished the first 5 lessons from Madinah Arabic book 1 and 8 lessons from Gateway to Arabic Book 2. She can read and write. She does copywork for her handwriting and we do spelling test with most 3-4 letter Arabic words she has learned off by heart. I am not quite sure how many words she has learned in Arabic, could be as many as 200. She knows most words (nouns) based on the following topics/themes: Family; Body Parts; Colours; Shapes; Animals; Fruits; Vegetables; Household Items; and the last time I checked she was learning descriptive adjectives in her Arabic classes.

Safiyya has just started reading. She uses Gateway to Arabic Book 1 and she is currently on page 24-25. We also use the flashcards to help her reading. She loves them. She uses Arabic Handwriting Book 2 for her handwriting as she has finished Arabic Handwriting Book 1 twice. She has learned most vocab words the same as her sister: Body Parts; Shapes; Colours; Animals; Fruits and Vegetables but does not know as many words as her sister.

They both have Arabic classes daily Monday- Thursday, alhamdulillah.

Russian- is taught language, just like Arabic. But, we do not teach it as often or as much as Arabic. They are exposed to language in a sense 1)They watch cartoons in Russian 2) Read lots of Russian books for children- short stories, fables, longer chapter books etc. Alhamdulillah, we have a lot of Russian books to read

Although I have found local Russian school, I was always reluctant as it runs on Saturdays. Saturday is mainly family day/socializing day for us. We have always got something planned for most Saturdays. If we are not going out then most likely we have visitors that day. Also, we go to the library on Saturday mornings where kids join in the story time followed by arts/crafts session. So, they have never been able to go to Russian school in Bradford.

I ordered some Russian teaching materials and books for beginners last year from Uzbekistan. We have started using them recently with Sumayya. Alhamdulillah, she has learned the Russian Alphabet very easily and has just started reading simple words (not books yet)

Russian Handwriting Book

Inside

We are using Azbuka and Bukvar to help Sumayya read and build on vocabulary.

Azbuka flashcards that she can read now and learn the words on them.

That is it for now. I hope to teach Russian more regularly in the future and Arabic more constructively inshaAllah.

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7 thoughts on “Children and Languages

  1. ummjumana says:

    As salamu alejkum, u started to tech different alphabets at a very young age. Did not they got confused? How is there Russian? My kids speak both Russian and Arabic ( native ) Russian not so good, but I’m trying to speak Russian and my husband Arabic. But idint teach the russiand alpabet yet, my daugther is 6 and she just started to read arabic( we just started to homeschool,, she was in a kindergarten for 3 years and learned the arabic alpabet there) You have also Uzbek and English, how u manage all of it? I would like to introduce English as a foreign language now. How would it be better to start? And what is the best way to teach letters? My 3 years old started to be interested. He likes apps, but is it good?

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    • Waleykumussalam wa rahmatullah. Sister I have not been able to teach Russian consistently though kids ask me all the time. We seem not to have enough time. Inshalla your comment gave me a push and I will try to do Russian once a week on Sundays.
      Coming back to your question children are born with innate nature to learn any language they are exposed to. Their capability to aquire any 2nd or 3rd language as native language starts to diminish at about 12 years of age. There are 2major areas of development in language learning. Development of receptive skills includes listening and reading. Development of productive skills includes speaking and writing. One should focus on listening and speaking before teaching reading and writing. Therefore I suggest that you first teach lots of topic based vocab in English to your kids first. I assume you live in non English speaking country. If this is the case try to incorporate some English into your daily life such as giving commands “put your shoes on” giving instructions “first press this button then open” etc. One-two phrase a day. Don’t start with English alphabet if they have not been exposed to English language before. The alphabet at this point means nothing to them. I read books to kids in Russian from young age, literally from when they were babies. They have always watched cartoons in Russian. Also we mix a lot of Russian vocab with our uzbek. That’s why they beg me to teach them Russian. My eldest learnt the alphabet in a matter of days but we have not been able to progress any further.
      When you think your kids can understand a little bit of English and can say some words themselves then teach them alphabet. You can do sight reading with montessori 3set cards until then inshalla

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  2. Fouzia says:

    Assalamualikum, i would like to teach my son arabic but dont speak the lagnuage. i tried the above two books, but i just know teh arabic alphabets. i dont know hw to go about teaching grammar abnd everything else. is there any other resource you could help me out with as i am a non arabioc speaker.

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    • wa alaykum assalam,
      Sister, you do not have to know much Arabic in order to teach it to your son at young age. I am non Arab, too. and I do not know any Arabic grammar. The books teach you lots of topic based vocabulary and some high-frequency word/phrases in basic spoken Arabic. I am learning it alongside my children and inshaAllah hope to send them to a specialist Arabic teacher, preferably native Arabic speak when they are older. But, I feel confident teaching them at this point (age 6 and 4) and especially since I am using the textbooks/workbooks everything is organized and I just have to learn it first and deliver it. Hope that helps sis.

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  3. JazakhAllah khair for your post and mashaAllah kids are growing fast.
    Bizda Ibrohim rosa tillarga qiziqib qolgan hayron qolaman. Ayam hamma narsani oqita oladi deb har hil tillarni o’rgatishimi soreydi. Men 2-3 oy umuman bolalar bilan shug’ullana olmadim. 3-4 oylardan beri 2ta buvilari bilan yurishibdi. Geografiyani qiziqib o’rganib chiqqandan keyin , mustaqil mamlakatlarni va dunyo tarihini o’rganib chiqdi, son’g har hil tillarni organishga qiziqishi oshdi. Eng asosiylari: ruscha, fransuzcha, ispancha va hitoycha. Rus tilini buvisi ozgina shu yerdaligida o’rgatdi. Lekin asosiysi rus va fransuz tillarini google translate’da va boshqa online website’lardan , youtube darslardan o’rgandi mashaAllah. Endi biz ham u bilan har hil tillarni organyapti. Lekin arab tilini unchalik o’rganmaydi, Sarah arab tilini eng yahshi korgan tili. Hajjga borganimizda arab tilini bilseng oson, qulay buladi desam Ibrohim ozgina organaman lekin u yerlardayam fransuz tilida gapiradigan musulmon birodarlarni topvolib yuraman deydi subhanAllah.
    Hullas, bolada qiziqish qancha kuchli busa uni o’rgatish ham shuncha oson va tez bolarkan.
    Alloh sizlargayam osonlik, foydalik ilm bersin, doimo davomli bolsin.

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    • mashaAllah, oqib rosa hursand buldim, mustaqil organib yuribdi deng. To’g’ri aytasiz, bolada avval har qanday narsaga qiziqish uygotish kerak ekan, nimadandur stimulate bolib keyin qiziqishi kuchayib aaaancha ko’p narsa organib olar ekan. Sumayya rosa rus tiliga qiziqadi, doim rus tili gapiring, orgating deydi. Arab tili har kuni oz-ozdan takrorlab, har-harda yangi mavzular otib turibmiz. Bugun Madina Arabicni vocab larini online revise qilishdi. Arab tilida Al-Baraem degan bolalar TV show si bor, shuni korib rosa qiziqadi bollar. ancha muncha narsani tushunib qoldi, menga tarjima qilib turishadi. Al baraem yana paygambarlar qissalarini koradi Arab tilida. kup eshitgan sari quloq organib tushunib qolaverar ekan bola.
      Buvilari bilan mazzaku. Bizniyam bitta buvimiz Ibrohim tugilgandan beri shuyetta, mazza qizlarga doim hikoyalar aytib beradi uzbekiston to’g’risida. Kattalar bilan o’sgani yaxshida bolani, qari bilganni pari bilmas degandek : )

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