Thursday, January 19, 2012

Teaching your child the Arabic Alphabet

Whether you have plans for your children to read the Quran or if you have a more ambitious goal like having them understand or even speak Arabic, then the first place you are going to need to start is teaching them the Arabic alphabet.  This is something I’ve done successfully with both of my sons and have a program that I think can be applied to any child even those with parents who do not speak Arabic.

The first hurdle:  Can you pronounce the Arabic letters properly yourself? Normally Arabs and non-Arabs alike have two issues with the Arabic alphabet.  One; pronouncing the letters incorrectly, such as   ض ع غ ق ح ه خ  or Two; not differentiating between similar sounding letters such as ع and أ , ص and س , or د  and ض .
If this isn’t a problem for you excellent, if it is then try to find someone to help you out as it is important that you give your children the best start with proper pronunciation. This will not only benefit you in your reading of the Quran, it will remove this small obstacle to helping your children learn as well and save them a whole lot of trouble later on down the road. 
When do you start? 
Every so often once your child is speaking you can test to see if they are ready.  You will need a set flash cards of the Arabic alphabet (the ones we use are featured above) and you will start with three separate flash cards.  The best three to start with are 
ب   أ  and  ح  as each three are distinct from each other in their sounds, the part of the mouth used in pronunciation, and their written appearance.   If your child can recognize all three letters separately than he or she is ready to start.

Step 1: Teach your child أ  and ب  .  You can do this in multiple ways.  First show your child أ   pronounce it for him / her, repeat this several times.  Then ask your child while pointing at the card “What is this” if you child responds  أ then move on, and repeat this process with ب . 

Step 2: Once your child can recognize أ  and  ب  separately you want to test them together.  Now rotate between the cards أ  and  بwhile pronouncing each one and pointing to each card.  Then flip through them one at a time asking your child, “what’s this?” when you show each letter.  If your child responds correctly then you’re ready to continue.   Another activity you can do is ask your child to hand you one of the letters, and then the other to test his/her recognition. 
Step 3: The real test is when you add the third letter ح .  This is going to show if your child can differentiate between the letters.    Start again from the beginning  Show your child the   أ  card, and pronounce it while pointing to it, then repeat for  ب ,  and then  ح .  Now point to each card asking your child what it is and God willing they will respond correctly and you can move on, otherwise wait and come back to it next week.

Why all this redundancy of checking?  You don’t want to push your child, especially if you are a really motivated parent hoping to give your child an early start.  Doing so can put too much pressure on the child, disappoint yourself, even allow you to become frustrated and put your child off from future attempts even when they are finally ready.  So just take your time.

Final Sequence: Now that they can differentiate between those three letters.  I would highly suggest that you follow the following pattern.   Although it is tempting to follow alphabetical order, when teaching any alphabet you want to avoid teaching similar letters one after another as to not confuse the child and or deal a blow to their motivation.  In Arabic, there are lots of letters that either A. sound just like another letter, and or B. are written exactly the same as another letter with a variation of a small dot or two or three.   Although it may be obvious to you or me it can be real problematic for a young child who just doesn’t see the difference between ت  ب  and ث , or can't hear the difference between ق  and ك . 

I always teach two new letters at a time. In the same manner as presented above I will introduce two new letters ر  and س for example, and once my son recognizes them I will add them to the group of already memorized letters ( ب  أ  and ح ) and order them in alphabetical orders, and review them in alphabetical order.  This allows for the child after recognizing each letter separately to slowly memorize them again in order without the confusion of similar sounds and shapes during the initial learning curve.

Follow this sequence in your introducing the Arabic letters two at a time after the first three letters (first row, then second, then third, two at a time, left to right) 
    ح   ب    أ
ل   ص   د    و   ن    م   ك   ف   ع   ط   س   ر
ظ    ز  ض  ت   خ   ش  غ    ق   ج   ث   ه    ي

Each day before I start a new lesson I review all of the letters that my child has previously memorized, then I teach the two new letters before adding them to the group of memorized letters.  Finally I go through the letters one last time.  It's important to note that at any time you feel like your child is struggling than it is a good idea to stop and review what you have covered until it seems strong enough to continue. 

There are two videos that I think are beneficial that will help you during this process and are good for your children to listen to.  They will not only help your child with the correct pronunciation of the letters but will also help in their memorization of the alphabetical order.

please note in this first video they seemed to have forgetten the letter  ط  in their intro.

This is another good video which just focuses on the alphabet and is good for anyone who wants to memorize the alphabetical order