Wednesday 11 November 2009

On the different Arabics

Bk1 (4.5 yrs) and BK2 (1.5yrs) are mesmerised. They are watching Winnie the Pooh in Arabic. Rather Egyptian Arabic. BK1 seems to understand a couple of words, BK2 probably nothing. To BK1's advantage, she knows the story as she has already watched the DVD in French and German many times.

I am not sure people realise how many Arabic dialects there are out there, on top of classical Arabic which is mostly used for reading, writing and news broadcasts. The funny thing is different Arabic-speaking people do not always understand each other. It is a bit like a Spanish speaking with a Portuguese. Sound similar, have the same origin, but still different. Note this is coming from someone who speaks neither Spanish nor Portuguese.

We are lucky to have close Algerian friends who live nearby. They have two children of roughly similar ages to ours. BK1 and her little 6-year old friend speak mostly arabic between them. However, they sometimes switch to English. We find ourselves insisting that they speak arabic instead. Some people can find this weird. However, I feel that we need to give our minority languages a chance, by encouraging the children to use them when appropriate.


  1. How interesting! I had no idea that there were so many different dialects. I totally agree with you. If my child is talking to an adult or child that speaks both Spanish and English, we insist that they speak Spanish. They need every opportunity possible to speak the minority language with as many people as possible.

  2. Thanks for your comment Adriana. Glad to see there are other multilingual parents who encourage their children to switch from the majority language to the minority language, at the risk of coming across as odd to monolingual parents.


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