Adventures in Arabic Playgroup – The First Month

teach kids arabic

So, what is Arabic Playgroup?

It’s really just a fancy name Saadia came up with for getting a friend of hers – a native Arab speaker – to come over and play with the kids once a week for an hour or so. ZB is 28 months old, my nephew (Ibs) is 25 months and little Numi is 7 months. The idea was for us to set up fun activities like play dough, water play etc. and all the while we all speak Arabic (well in our case, attempt to).
What follows are little snippets of our ‘adventures’ because honestly, we have no idea what to expect!

The First Month:
Day 1: We pick up said friend and she starts speaking Arabic to ZB immediately. He looks at her like she’s nuts.

We get to Saadia’s place. General excitement as always when the boys see each other (before they start fighting that is). Meanwhile we discuss what our action plan will be. We decide that the boys will refer to their new ‘friend’ as Khaltu Yasmeen –  plain Yasmeen sounds disrespectful and Aunty Yasmeen didn’t quite work either. We also form a rough schedule for the morning that includes playdough, snack, reading/circle time and outdoor play.

The boys reaction to a foreign language suddenly being thrust upon them was fascinating to say the least. Half way into it, Ibs decided that he just wasn’t going to bother with any of us and began to do his own thing. ZB was a little more excited, he started talking gibberish at one point, I assume because he thought that’s what we were doing. When we would say “hadhihi najma”, he would say ‘no, that’s a star”. Haha, poor confused children.

They both absolutely refused to sit down and listen to a story. Outdoor play didn’t work either because the added noise made it hard to hear any language being spoken. Towards the end, they were being toddler-ish and Yasmeen looked at Numi and said she was the easiest to deal with.

Conclusion of the day: Forget structure! We’re just going to roll with it.

Day 2 -4: We’ve fallen into a rhythm of sorts. Yasmeen divides her attention between the two easily and the laissez-faire approach seems to be working out. The boys play with us and repeat words sometimes but towards the end of the hour they generally meander off and we’re ok with that. My sister and I then use the opportunity to pester Yasmeen with tonnes of questions.

What we’re learning:

There tends to be somewhat of a theme each day, for instance when we were outside drawing with sidewalk chalk, the new words revolve around drawing, chalk, how to say: ‘i draw’, ‘you’re drawing’ etc. At the end of each session Yasmeen writes a short list of words we used and it’s up to us to use them during the rest of the week.

We’re focusing on present tense for now. Yasmeen does bring up the other tenses, but we’ll focus on them in due course.

There’s a lot of  ‘ma hadha’ and ‘ma hadhihi’, in short, nouns and more nouns. We’re also learning to make short sentences such as: “What do you want to eat?”, “Do you want to go to..”Come inside”, “Not now”, “Let’s read a book”, “Let’s play with a ball”, “Let’s go home” etc.

We’ve brought out old picture books and started to point and name things in Arabic. Yasmeen also brought along a few books that are written in both English and Arabic.

The best part about the playgroup is the spontaneity of it and the fact we’re learning what applies to us. Overall it’s just been SO much fun Alhamdullilah. It’s a safe place for us to practice, make mistakes and laugh about it. Learning a new language rocks and inshaAllah with the right intention, it’s a good deed too.

Wow moments:

– ZB went outside with my husband and stretched out his hands and said “samaa'”, my husband asked, ‘do you mean “light”?’ and ZB said, “Sky”. subhanAllah! I’ve only done the gesturing, and I’ve never once associated the English word, but his little brain made the connection.

– I pointed to my head and said “ra’s” and pointed to my shoulder and couldn’t remember the word. ZB noticed I was struggling to remember and filled it in for me: “katifayn”. Clearly, I’m going to need to put in a lot more effort to keep up with him.


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