How I raised my child in Arabic as a non-native speaker

How I raised my child in Arabic as a non-native speaker

!اَلسَّلامُ عَلَيْكُمْ/ مَرْحَباً

 I know how it can feel challenging to learn Arabic, the ups and downs periods (especially as busy moms), the difficulty to enhance your learning while living in a non-Arabic-speaking country, the additional pressure when you want to support your own children in learning this language…

With my own modest experience, I want to tell you: “It is possible, you can learn Arabic and use it in your daily life with your family!”

1) My first steps in learning Arabic :

I learnt how to read Arabic by myself and with the support of my Arabic-speaking husband. I remember, at the beginning, I was reading only one page in around half an hour!

Perseverance, efforts and daily practice are the keys!

After learning how to read, I started to learn Arabic with the book 1 of Al-Madina method. I think this method is great to get the essential basics of the Arabic grammar and to improve our reading and writing skills.

But I noticed something: since I was not practicing in my daily life what I was learning, I was forgetting it little by little…

2) Raising my child in Arabic boosted my own learning and fluency :

      Then, I discovered a great method: “al arabiyyatu bayna yadayk” (“Arabic between your hands”). This method that includes audios and focuses on daily life topics, really boosted my learning. It was exactly what I needed after the Al-Madina book!

        At the same time, my child was becoming a toddler and I started to directly practice with her what I was learning : speaking Arabic as much as possible (starting with very simple descriptive sentences and increasing as I was learning), reading aloud Arabic children books every day, playing in Arabic, listening to Arabic through audiobooks and cartoons.

Quick tip: to remind me of some vocabulary or sentences structures, I was placing notes in every room of our home and even taking a note in my pocket for vocabulary at the park, in the street or at the grocery stores.

I was learning new words and expressions from my textbook. Then, I was finding them in my child’s books. Then, I was listening to them in a cartoon. And finally, I was using them when talking to my child in our daily life.

In my brain, it was like a “puzzle” that was being completed. It made me really understand the importance of practicing the 4 skills of the language to effectively acquire it : reading, writing, listening and speaking.

 Use Arabic in your every day life as much as you can! Don’t let it just in your notebook after your Arabic lesson/class!

3) It is just the beginning of a journey :

Now, my child is 4 years old and she is a French-Arabic bilingual, experiencing a third language acquisition since we moved to an English-speaking country. We speak two languages (French and Arabic) at home and it became natural.

She speaks Arabic to my husband (who speaks Arabic to her) and her Arabic-speaking relatives and she speaks French to her French relatives. She is able to differentiate both languages. Since I mix French and Arabic when I talk to her, she also talks with me in both languages, sometimes in the same sentence! But this is not a problem: here are answers to some concerns that are commonly expressed by parents and child care professionals about bilingual acquisition in early childhood.

I can speak Arabic in my daily life with my daughter. I am able to understand simple texts and children books without the vowels (“harakats”) if I already know the vocabulary.

It’s bigger than I expected when I started my Arabic learning several years ago – alhamdulillAh!

But, that’s just the beginning of a journey. I still have some periods in which I don’t really learn new Arabic but, at least, I have my daughter that always makes me use Arabic daily and improve what I previously learnt.

I have to pursue my efforts since my daughter is growing up, wanting to discover more and more and since she is developing her language skills.

4) UPDATE 2020: 

Our child is almost 9 years old (grade 3) and we have been homeschooling since grade 1. One of our main reasons for homeschooling is the preservation of her Arabic in shaa Allah. We try to balance our 3 languages (Arabic, French, English) but I have accepted that there is no perfect balance and that’s ok. Our main instruction language is English (major language of our current residential province) and we integrate Arabic in our homeschool’s daily routine through reading stories, copywriting, audio stories, composition and dictations. She also helps us creating content and record videos and audios for Arabic Seeds, which maintains a good level of practice alhamdulillah.

Alhamdulillah we were blessed with a second child this year – maa shaa Allah, Allahi baarik – and I am happily doing it all over again (and now he has a big sister who speaks Arabic with him as well): talking as much as possible in Arabic to him, reading Arabic children books, playing in Arabic, repeating rhymes to him. 

Now it’s your turn!

Don’t wait until your kids reach the school age to make them live and learn Arabic!

Don’t know where to start ? Read our Home-educator Guide for tips and suggestions and discover our membership!

Arabic Seeds membership - resources to learn Arabic, read write speak listen printables audios videos and games

Feel free to comment below, to ask me questions, or to share your own testimony in order to encourage others!



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17 thoughts on “How I raised my child in Arabic as a non-native speaker”

  1. Very meaningful. Because my kid is still young, I don’t know how to help him learn foreign languages in the best and easiest way. Thank you for sharing how you bring language into your daily life with your child. I think it is very receptive and easy to implement and it will certainly be effective in any other language as well.

  2. Ma shaa Allah! Thank you so much for this sis. But I’m a bit confused on how to teach 21 month old the three languages, our native language, Arabic and English (the official language in our country). I decided to speak both Arabic and our native language to her then little English. But go proper into English learning when she’s about 4 years old. Hopefully she’ll be really good with her native and Arabic language by then. Please is this a good approach?

    1. You’re very welcome, Ummu Hanaan! And thank you for your comment!
      Each family situation is different and the approach(es) you can use depend on the environment (what language is major/minor) and the language abilities of the parents.
      Our experience with a 3rd language for our child is the following one: our eldest started to get exposed to English from 4 years old (when we emigrated to an English speaking country) and we decided to let her attend a part-time preschool until 6 years old (kindergarten). It was enough for her to learn the right pronunciation and to learn to read and write. Since then we have been homeschooling (4th year of homeschool this year) with English as a core language and her English is excellent.
      I was personally not comfortable enough with my English and we used what was easily accessible around us to give a great start in English to our child.
      Depending on your own level, abilities and resources available, you can try other strategies, including taking charge yourself of your child’s English exposure and learning. You can also get help from friends or family members that speaks the language. There are different approaches and you can mix and match different approaches or adapt an approach if your situation changes as well.
      I recommend you to check out the website where you will find lots of helpful advice from experts and testimonies from parents who are raising multilingual children using different approaches and strategies.
      Hoping this help,
      I wish you all the success in your family’s multilingual journey bi’idhnillAH!
      – Emilie, founder.

  3. Salaam Emilie,
    Thank you for sharing with us how you learned Arabic and how you incorporate it into your daily life with your daughter. Your journey is very inspiring.

  4. Pingback: Daily Tips to practice Arabic with your Kids - part 3 - Arabic Seeds

  5. As salâmou 3alayki w ra7matullahi w barakâtuhu ukhty umm Meriem
    La3alaki bi khayrin in châ-a llah
    je voulais te demander bi idhnillah, étant moi même en apprentissage de l’arabe et seule avec mon fils qui est encore petit -quoi que lol 21 mois hafidhahoullah- mais que j’aimerais vraiment habituer à l’arabe fusha,
    toi comment as-tu acquis ton vocabulaire ?
    En effet si je veux l’enseigner je dois déjà l’apprendre ^^
    As-tu des “listes” de voc exemple par thème? si oui, où puis-je en trouver? J’ai commencé à me faire des fiches pour moi même mais parfois c’est difficile de trouver par ex les pluriels etc.
    Alors un peu d’aide ou de conseils seraient les bienvenus!
    Et des dou3as aussi lol
    Jazâkillahou kheyran,
    Allahumma zidna 3ilman nafi3an

    1. Emilie (Arabic Seeds)

      wa 3alaykum salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu Umm Saâd! je te remercie pour ton commentaire, très bonne question!
      – j’ai acquis pas mal de vocabulaire du quotidien avec les méthodes “al madinah” et “al arabiyyatu bayna yadayk” que je conseille dans l’article.
      – j’ai aussi beaucoup appris en lisant des livres en Arabe à ma fille chaque jour avant la sieste ou le coucher du soir; surtout au début avec les imagiers pour les petits (j’ai commencé comme toi quand ma fille était bébé) et ensuite en lisant des livres pour enfant avec des phrases simples (même si je ne comprenais pas tout au début, je cherchais dans le dictionnaire). le fait de lire plusieurs fois les mêmes livres (les petits aiment ça c’est l’avantage.) aide beaucoup. j’ai écris mes conseils expérimentés pour bien choisir ses livres arabes en tant que non arabophone (j’ai acheté tellement de livres qui n’étaient pas adaptés…) dans ce blogpost (c’est en anglais, j’espère que ça ira pour toi quand même):
      – le dictionnaire en ligne que j’utilise est ici:
      Pour avoir le pluriel des mots, je vais dans le dictionnaire arabe-arabe:, je tape le mot en Arabe dont je cherche le pluriel et je regarde à “الجمع” (“al jam3u” le pluriel)
      – il y a ce site très bien qui rassemble du vocabulaire imagé, essaie de voir s’il marche parce que je viens d’y aller et de mon côté il ne marchait plus…
      – les dessins animés aident beaucoup à mémoriser parce que tu entends en plus. (même si tu ne comprends pas tout, ce n’est pas grave, c’est de l’immersion ^^), j’ai mis le lien vers mon site préféré pour télécharger des dessins animés adéquats dans ce blogpost:
      Pour mémoriser tout ça, je me faisais des petites fiches de vocabulaire que je collais (patafix) dans les endroits de la maison correspondants (par exemple, pour les objets de la salle de bain, je collais une petite fiche dans la salle de bain etc…). J’avais même une petite fiche pour dehors que je prenais dans ma poche et je décrivais à ma fille ce que l’on voyait dans la rue ou au parc avec des phrases simples.
      Il faut pratiquer le vocabulaire que tu apprends avec ta fille en lui parlant en décrivant ce que tu fais tout simplement, en faisant des petits jeux de son âge en Arabe; juste quelques mots au début ensuite tu rallongeras en phrases simples à mesure que tu apprends.
      Qu’Allah te facilite et te récompense ukhty! Persévérance, patience, du3a!

  6. Can you tell me more about “Arabic at your hands” method. I live in an Arab country (Dubai) and we intentionally choose a predominantly Arab school for our girl. Since then my vocabulary in Arabic has drastically increased. Yet I’m still struggling to piece together sentences particularly involving verbs. And that’s despite doing Nahw and serf, madina Arabic books. I’m able to read children’s school books but speaking Arabic is like doing calculus mentally

    1. May Allah help you and reward you for your efforts sister!
      Yes, at the beginning it requests big efforts (you said “like doing calculus mentally”) but little by little you improve and it becomes natural. Even for my husband whom language at school was Arabic, it requested some efforts at the beginning to use it with our daughter in the daily life.
      Keep reading books to your children even if you don’t understand every sentence, it’s really important. Now, when I read again some first books of my daughter I understand more and more. Be aware of choosing quality books because unfortunately some Arabic books have grammatical mistakes or have a mix of dialect and classical Arabic; that’s a reason why I create my own stories at Arabic Seeds.
      “Arabic at your hands” is from Arabic for All a non-profit program based in KSA. It is also named: “Al-Arabiyyah Bayna Yadayk” (transliteration). They sell the method on their website but the shipping price can be high depending where you live. They have resellers around the world alhamdulillah (I bought mine from an online store when I was in France).
      The method is only in Arabic but I was understanding the first chapters. Then I used the videos from this teacher on YouTube.
      Hope this help inshaAllah.

    2. Assalaamu alaikum Umm Rehma, I’m also in Dubai 🙂
      I’ve also raised my kids in Arabic and have learned speak it as well, alhamdolillah. I highly recommend one-on-one classes with Studio Arabiya: — they use Al Arabiyya Bayna Yadayk for which you can obtain PDFs online (they send you the file or link), and since you are forced to converse purely in fosha, you will make great progress. A one hour class two or three times a week will be a great investment for you, and it’s very affordable at about $10 usd/hour.

  7. As salaamu alaykum ya ukhtee Umm Meriem.
    Jazaki Allaahu Khairan for your article.
    The foundation is extremely important and you have mentioned all what it takes to get this foundation going strong and steady.
    Maa shaa Allaah! May Allaah bless you and your family.
    Your sister,
    Umm Abdur-Rahman

    1. Wa 3alaykumu salamu wa rahmatullahi wa barakatuhu sister Umm Abdur-Rahman!
      Ameen, wa laki khayru al jaza’!
      Thank you for your kindness and your supportive comment!
      May Allah bless you and your family too!
      Wassalamu 3alaykum wa rahmatullah,
      Ummu Meriem.

  8. Baarakallaahu feekum. This has inspired me more in my struggle of learning the classical Arabic and hope to teach it to my kids in shaa’ Allaah.
    Jazaakumullaahu khayran

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