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Children Learning Arabic Are Actually Learning Two Languages

Parenting talk reveals strategies for supporting a child’s language development


Children acquiring Arabic language are actually learning two languages, according to Dr. Heidi Alaskary, a certified speech-language pathologist.

Speaking at the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation parenting talk ‘Language Learning Basics: Supporting Your Child in Learning Multiple Languages,’ Dr. Alaskary explained that informal Arabic language spoken with friends and at home, otherwise known as Lehja, is different from the Modern Standard form – a formal and mainly written language which is taught in schools.

“For children, the Arabic language spoken at home is the regular form and the formal Arabic learned at school or even at nursery is akin to the Shakespearean form,” explained Dr. Alaskary. “Children acquire both languages through formal and informal social contexts in their early years.”

With the cognitive processing involved in learning the two Arabic language forms being similar to a child learning two different languages such as English and Mandarin or English and French, Dr. Alaskary urged parents to understand the inner workings of the process.

Dr. Heidi-Alaskary
Dr. Heidi-Alaskary

“To best support their children in learning Arabic, parents need to be patient, repetitive, and consistence in their communication because the most important phase of language development is the experience phase – children learn through constant interaction and exposure to language,” she added. “This is particularly critical with the acquisition of Arabic which is a very complex language.”

Relying on the latest child development research, a panel of experts—including Dr. Alaskary, Amna Al Yahal, Vice Principal at Atfal Abu Dhabi Kindergarten, and Birgit Ertl, founder and director at The Children’s Garden Dubai—presented practical information and tips for supporting a young child’s language development. The trio also answered questions related to normal early language learning, multiple language acquisition, and language delays.

The following Parenting Talk, ‘Raising Children Who Care About Others and Their Communities’, took place earlier this week on March 14 at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Cultural District in Abu Dhabi.

“The March talk was the first installment of a two part series entitled ‘Ethical and Moral Development in Young Children’ which explored research about children’s social, emotional, and ethical development and outlined the core skills that contribute to children’s success in relationships, school and life,” said Sheikha Shamsa bint Mohammed Al Nahyan, leader and patron of the Foundation’s Early Childhood Development program.

“Experts presented strategies for building empathy, encouraging perspective-taking, and helping children be more caring and compassionate in their everyday interactions.”

The second installment of the series and the final session in this season’s Parenting Talks, ‘Bullying Prevention Begins in Early Childhood’, will explore the roots of mean or aggressive behavior in young children and offer useful advice for teaching children to treat others with kindness and respect.  This session will take place on May 2.

 The talk will also include the Children’s Workshop activities at Studio 2 in Manarat Saadiyat, where parents can get their children involved in art activities. All sessions are free and open to the public. Interested attendees can register by emailing at

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One comment

  1. New research shows speaking at least two languages may slow dementia, Alzheimer in the aging brains. A very interesting article appeared in National Geographic. If anyone is interested, here is the link:

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