How important is it for children to learn the parents' native language?
I often get students who have Arabic origins but never learnt Arabic from their parents because they were brought up in Europe. As they grow up to become adults, they feel a gap in their education and culture, and the need for speaking and understanding their native language grows with them. At some point in their lives, they decide to follow an Arabic course. That's of course a great choice, however, learning the language as an adult is much more challenging and doesn't produce the same results as learning it as a child and growing up with it. Let's say that you were born from Iraqi parents, who both speak Arabic with you. You move to England, to go to university. At some point, you marry a British man, and you get children. Of course, you would love your children to have a close relationship with your family back home, who aside from Arabic, can speak a bit of English. Do you think they can actually achieve that by communicating in English with them? If you want your children to speak and understand your native language, the most important step to take is, starting at childhood, consistently speak and read nice stories to them in your native language.
Let me tell you my story: I am born and raised Lebanese. During my adolescence, we immigrated to Canada. There I met and married a Dutchman, and we moved to the Netherlands. My children, Hugo and Yara, were born and raised in Holland. Since their birth, I started speaking, singing, and reading to them in Arabic. When they became old enough to speak, I realized, to my greatest disappointment, that they would only answer me in Dutch. At that point, I was about to give up speaking Arabic. My husband kept encouraging me and insisting that if they answer in Dutch, it means that they understood what I said in Arabic! "Don't give up!" he kept repeating. "Speak Arabic to them!", I kept on hearing, and I did... You wanna know what happened next? Well, it's a story with a happy twist. When we started going on holiday to Lebanon and to Canada, where my family still lived, to my complete delight, I heard my children finally answering in Arabic! I guess this is when they realized that speaking Arabic was quite useful. Now, Hugo and Yara have grown up to become adults who fluently and proudly speak Arabic (as well as Dutch and English). They call up my mother and my sisters and they have long conversations with them in Arabic! They even teach their Dutch friends (bad) Arabic words. How grateful and proud I am now for not giving up on them.
Do your children the favour of learning your native language. Speak and read to them and with them!
I often get asked where can I buy Arabic children books?
Well, I have a great address for you: bukiboek.nl. At bukiboek, not only can you find children books in Arabic, but in 11 other languages as well, including Chinese, Spanish, Surinam, Hindi, Turkish and many more, as well as bilingual books! Now, let's suppose that you visit bukiboek.nl in search for a particular book or language and you don't find it within the selection. Guess what, you can fill in the contact sheet on the website and they will get it for you! Their goal is to make a book in his/her mother tongue available to every child, that's why they are going to keep adding more languages to their selection.
We need to keep the tradition of reading books to children alive. Children nowadays are bombarded by digital data. It is our responsibility as parents to encourage reading with them. Good habits are formed at an early stage. This is why it's so important for your children to develop healthy habits from an early age.
Follow bukiboek on instagram and Facebook: @bukiboek.
Follow us on social media: