Introduce yourself and your family.
My name is Ayesha Siddiqua. I am an Indian expat in Saudi Arabia. I’ve lived here all my life and now we’re raising our own little expats here. I have three children – aged 6, 7 and 12 years old. I blog at Jeddah Mom about Positive Parenting, Kids Activities and Expat life in Saudi Arabia.
What languages do you speak ?
My husband and I can read, write and speak English, Urdu, Hindi and Arabic fluently. Being from India, we have many regional languages there. I understand a bit of Kannada, Telugu, Punjabi and Gujarati but my children, they are born and brought up here and hardly been to India, so they speak English, Urdu, Arabic and French (which they are learning at school).
How many and which ones do you speak on a daily basis ?
We speak English, Urdu and Arabic at home. Since Hindi is not much different and we are Indians, you will find us watching Indian news in Hindi. 🙂
Are you teaching your children these languages ?
My children learn English, Arabic and French at school. So through the year, I help them practice these at home. But they attend an International School that does not teach our culture so when we get our holidays, (we get almost four months of summer holidays here in Saudi Arabia), I take that as an opportunity to teach my children Urdu and Hindi along with the Indian Social Studies subjects.
Do you homeschool, if so, how do you incorporate the languages into learning ?
We homeschool through the summer. I help my children study the Indian School syllabus because we are expats and if we have to go back home, they will need to know our syllabus too. We chose to send our children to an Arab- American curriculum school here because they have a good Islamic foundation and Arabic. The children study Islamic history, which to be honest, we never studied growing up. Also, I prefer the American way of education more than our Indian system. They focus more on a child led learning. So it is a good mix. The only drawback is that the children don’t learn Indian History, Hindi or any of the Indian regional languages. So to compensate, I make use of the summer break.
If not, do your children attend a bilingual or multi-language school ?
My children attend a Multilingual – Multicultural school. They have children from all over the world and speaking many languages. At school though, only English, Arabic and French is taught.
What have been challenges so far ?
My biggest challenge is that I am teaching my children Urdu, Arabic and Hindi. Urdu and Arabic are written very similarly. While Urdu and Hindi sound the same! As Urdu is our mother tongue, I want my children to read and write Urdu but they are already learning Arabic at school (ever since they were at Kindergarten). At first, I found that starting Urdu writing early was difficult because they were getting confused with the spellings of words (which are quite different!). So I started Hindi. But then came the problem with pronunciation of words. I also found that there are certain words in Hindi, Urdu and Arabic that sound quite similar but different meanings. So my kids, you know… they were using one word for the other. Sometimes it was quite funny… other times it was confusing. What can I say, it is an adventure!
Tell us about some of your successes.
I count my biggest success that my children can speak four languages and read and write three or so. They also take interest in learning Spanish from friends so you can say, I feel pretty pleased that am growing children who love learning new languages. Another thing that I have noticed, is that my children from a very young age accept and understand that it is normal for people to speak more than one language. If they find that someone does not understand them, they will quickly switch to one or other language they know. This is really interesting for me to see what impact languages can have on a child’s ability to differentiate and accept people.
What is some advice you would like to offer to other multilingual families ? Also what advice would you give to parents of older multilingual children ?
I have heard so many new parents ask if they should speak one language or the other. My advice is that they should start with their mother tongue first. Give preference to your own culture because it definitely makes a world of difference to how they grow up when they speak their own language. They learn acceptance, cultural pride and resilience. This is something I have seen in my own family.
For those with older children, my advice is that never underestimate the power of reading as a family. Just because your child is older now and capable of reading by themselves, it doesn’t mean that they don’t need you to read. Reading with children at least 15 minutes helps them improve their reading skills, listening as well as pronunciation and accent. It also opens up dialogues and conversations on important topics.
Name up to 3 resources you find useful for your family.
I believe we are a lucky generation at that we are growing children in today’s times. We have the internet and resources just a click away! I love using YouTube for practicing almost all of their languages. They learn through song and play. We as such don’t use any apps at the moment. But I let them watch local TV and regional cartoons. It helps them speak clearer Arabic. When we go to India, I let them watch Indian channels. Lastly, I always bring back children’s magazines in Urdu and Hindi. It helps our children learn the culture as well as language.
Which language would you recommend someone to learn and why ?
Arabic because I am a Muslim and it is the language of the Quran. I studied Arabic almost all of my school life and how again as an adult I am still attending classes. It is so beautiful to be able to understand the Quran as it is read or heard. No translation can replace that SubhanAllah.
Jeddah Mom, Ayesha Siddiqua, who writes under the pen name of Aysh Siddiqua, helps Muslim mothers find joy in motherhood while still being creative, confident and uniquely themselves. She writes about parenting positively, saving time and then using that time to do what you love doing
Website Address: www.JeddahMom.Com