Friday, 23 January 2015

Intoducing new languages

I just wanted to update those that are multilingual or teaching their kids more than one language. Like I blogged previously, I introduced my girls to the Arabic writing system.  Alhumdulillah it’s going better than expected. Like I explained, they know their Arabic alphabets orally, but they are now learning to connect the sounds with the symbol.
For those who are teaching Arabic to their kids, and know Arabic, they would know that Arabic letters when on their own look different to when joined up to form words. And my eldest amazed me a few days back, by actually recognising Arabic letters in joined up writing(words).
I was reading the Qur’an to them , and she pointed out the letters alif and ba in different places on the page. I have actually not taught her how those letters look when joined. On one of my prayer mats, it has the sentence Allahu Akbar written in Arabic, and she pointed out all the alifs and the baa in this sentence. I must say as a linguist I am surprised, obviously I was about her age when I started learning Arabic, and I cannot remember whether I knew how the letters would look if joint or not, but I am very excited about this discovery. I am actually buzzing about discussing this linguists or Arabic speakers to see how this happens. Is this some process of cognitive linguistics? Obviously, she knows the difference between roman alphabets, Arabic and numbers, she knows they are all different and can identify new letters(symbols) and put them in the right box.
Furthermore, like I previously said i would introduce them to connecting the write symbol for numbers in Arabic, French and English, and so far they can recognise the same symbol standing for the same thing with same meaning in different languages.
If anyone is interested in teaching their children different languages this is the right time. A multilingual child’s mind works harder, as they are processing more information. This is an excellent exercise for the brain, studies have shown that the more language a person knows, the easier their brain find to process information. The younger  a child is, the more native like his language acquisition will be. In linguistics, there is a term for this period of time where language acquisition is at the best, it’s known as the critical period hypothesis. Although not proven, many linguists believe the best time for a child to acquire a language successful is between birth up to the age of 8 or puberty.  So, make the most of it.When a child speak more than one language, you may find that they actually start talking a bit later compared to monolingual children, but that’s absolutely normal, and they sometimes mix up the languages, do not worry, it’s all normal, the key to it is keep trying, by the time they are a bit older, and have  a bigger vocabulary, they will put things together by themselves. And you will find, they will normally use the right language with teh appropriate adult they are talking to, but sometimes one word would slip from another language.

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