How I Introduced Arabic to My Children?

The minaret of Jami Qurtuba, Spain (2014)

When Uthman was born, we decided that I would speak English to him and my husband would speak Sindhi. English would obviously be the family language. I never really thought about teaching him Arabic as we were living in Saudi then and I had convinced myself that he would pick it up in school just like me when he starts Arabic school. Fast forward to us now, we left Saudi for good a few months ago and I suddenly realised that i am the only one who can teach him Arabic for the time being. The only thing is, my Arabic is super rusty. I haven’t spoken it properly since I finished school ten years ago and when I am forced to speak it, the words and sentences feel heavy and unnatural.

I put it off for about three months, but then Uthman turned three and I decided to just bite the bullet and start. I told Uthman that we’ll start speaking Arabic for two hours a day before bedtime and he was enthralled. When I started that day at 5, he stopped me after almost every word to ask me what it means. With a combination of a million hand gestures and a lot of repetition (I was ready to give up after half an hour) he said when asked if he’s finished his hot chocolate “ماما خيصت”. I nearly cried.

Since that first day, he is the one who reminds me every single day as it starts getting dark that it’s time to speak Arabic. I found that it gives him this boost of energy and renewed enthusiasm until bed time. Before we started our Arabic routine, the one or two hours before bedtime are generally hard because he’s sleepy and wants to be entertained. This way, his mind is engaged as he’s learning something new and his entertainment becomes asking me the names of things around the house in Arabic. For the two Arabic hours, he insists on calling me ماما ‘because it means mummy in Arabic!’. Abu becomes بابا too.

It’s only been about three weeks, but he can already say things like “ماما أبغا موية من فضلك” and “أنا حكحك” (he has eczema and is frequently itchy so I taught him جسمي يحكني but this is his own version). Today he said “ماما أبغا شوكولاتة ساخنة من فضلك” and I just melted.

Alhamdulillah for taking the first step.

Update: This is about two months later.

I had been trying for months to get Uthman started with his Iqra’ (its a series of 6 books that teaches the child how to read the Qura’n/Arabic) but he was never interested. Then I read somewhere that before you teach a child the alphabet of any language he should be able to speak it, so I stopped trying. Soon after we started our Arabic routine he picked up book 1 and asked if we could do it together! The rest is history and we’re now on book 2 alhamdulillah. As of today, Uthman can now read to his baby sister in Arabic. Today he said his longest yet Arabic sentence “أخاف عالية تطلع الحليب” when I asked him to feed Aalia some milk.