Reimagining Language Learning

Core teacher Mahmoud leads his class in an Arabic lesson  

As a teacher who grew up attending public schools, I saw first-hand how other children struggled with the Arabic language, and how much they did not enjoy the language as a result. For me, however, Arabic always came easy. As a result, I feel it is my responsibility to not just teach the children the alphabet and the basics of language but to spark in them a desire to truly learn and absorb themselves in the language- to one-day become expert readers, writers, and thinkers.

Over the course of the 12 week Core Child Program, children 4 and 5 years old will learn the Arabic alphabet- which is 28 letters. Each week students are introduced to two new letters (adding a few extra letters the last few weeks!). Children must be able to identify the letters visually, know the name of all of the letters, and identify simple vocabulary associated with each of the letters. According to a language pre-assessment administered by TYO's Psychosocial Program Manager, nearly 100% of students started this session without being able to identify any letters. While we've seen significant progress over the last 7 weeks, with 90% of children now able to identify 14 letters and sounds, further testing will need to be conducted to determine how much of this information has been truly rooted with the children.

It is very important to ensure children learn the letters correctly as this is foundational knowledge for their formal schooling. As with all programs at TYO, the Arabic class empahsizes the importance of learning through play. 'Play gives opportunities for children to learn language from each other and practice what they have learned elsewhere.' Learning through play is the best way for the kids to connect feelings and happiness while they are learning. Studies have shown that particularly through role-play, children can 'interact in a far wider range of verbal styles and genre than are available to them in adult-child contexts.'

When children have a positive experience with language early, it helps to build confidence, which will benefit them for the rest of their lives. Education in the Middle East focuses on rote memorization of facts, rather than creative thinking, whereas by definition language gives children the tools to express themselves. If we are able to foster this kind of development at a young age we can create a true revolution in the way education taught.

 -Core Child Teacher, Mahmoud