This past week, we have had our new Arabic-speaking babysitter everyday for a total of 12 hours all week. From day one, she told me the girls understand her 100%, which we know already, it is just their speaking Arabic that has been problematic. In case you missed it, I talked all about that in “All I Want For Christmas is Perfectly Bilingual Children.”
I have been totally unsure of my kids’ reaction to having another person in their day-to-day life that speaks Arabic. While my hope is that it spurs their own Arabic-language development, I really don’t know what will transpire. Initially, I couldn’t get much of a feel for their progress or interest. I guess I was also secretly hoping that all they needed was some added Arabic stimuli in the environment to unlock the abyss of Arabic words waiting to roll off their tongues. The babysitter told me from day one that they said words to her in Arabic, a lot of words, but it didn’t sound like she meant full sentences.
Then today, something changed. When I walked in, Jasmin, my almost five-year-old, exclaimed, “I want to speak Arabic!” She began to name every animal in Arabic, followed by telling me in Arabic what she was doing (“drinking water!” “getting milk.”) She proceeded to list off all the people with whom she could speak Arabic. (A big incentive, besides her Moroccan family, seemed to be the babysitter’s kids whom she has not yet met. She explained to me that they don’t speak English yet so she will have to speak to them in Arabic. It’s fascinating the effect that other children have on language development, something I have noticed with my kids’ interest in French, but that’s a post for another day!) So here’s the first proof that the Arabic babysitter is indeed having a positive impact:
And in case you aren’t an expert in deciphering kid-speech-over-three-year-old-singing, Jasmin says, “I want someone to teach me Arabic everyday!”
Stephanie is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of InCultureParent. She has two Moroccan-American daughters (ages 4 and 6), whom she is raising, together with her husband, bilingual in Arabic and English at home. After many moves worldwide, she currently lives in Berkeley, California.