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Multilingual Family Interview | British French Family in Saudia Arabia

by Adrienne
Multilingual Family Interviews

Info : Each month we will share an interview of a multilingual family around the world. The interview will share their story as well as their challenges, successes, tips and advice. If you would like your family to participate in an interview, please contact us here.

Introduce yourself and your family.

My name is Raheema Umm Ibraheem. I am French from Normandy and my husband is British from Devon we met while I was living in London before our conversion to Islaam. We have 2 children aged 4.5 and 2.5.
We live now in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

What languages do you speak in your household?

We mainly speak English at home as my husband doesnt speak French. Both of us are learning arabic so we try to include Arabic in our daily life.

Which ones on a daily basis?

We speak English, Arabic and a bit of French.

Are you teaching your children these languages? If so, how are you teaching them?

I homeschool my kids in English, since they are British nationals I try to follow the british curriculum. My kids go three mornings a week to an arabic school for non-arabs where I go myself to learn arabic,  they are exposed to the language through their teachers. I try at home to focus on reading arabic, vocabulary and common sayings..
I haven’t been teaching them French formally but we read books, visit French friends in Riyadh and make sure to call my family abroad.They have more knowledge in Arabic than in French but inshaaAllah I am hoping to make more efforts in teaching them French.

What have been challenges so far?

Consistency!  We were first in London when we had our first child, all my friends were English speakers so I hardly spoke my mother tongue around my first child. I have to constantly remind myself to speak French to them but I find it difficult at times.

Tell us about one of your successes.

I love how my eldest constantly ask  me “how do you say this word in Arabic/how do you say this word in French”. One thing that really makes me happy to hear is my son  making simple sentences in Arabic.

What are some other ways besides just speaking the language that have exposed your children to language learning, (example: cultural events, food, travel, etc.)?

Living in Saudi Arabia makes it easier to expose our kids to the arabic language;  visit our arab neighbours, local shops, libraries,   and one of the most amazing blessings is to be able to hear the recitation of the Quran from our house.  I wouldn’t say we are in total immersion as the expat community is huge but we are very close to it.

What is some advice you would like to offer to other multilingual families?

Make a plan and stick to it, work as a team with your spouse encourage each other remind each other about what you initially planned and dont give up. Make sure to make learning fun and creative.
Thats an advice for myself too.

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