>So, I met a lovely lady recently whom I have known on-line for about 6 months but had not previously met in real life. We were chatting and she mentioned this “unusual” problem she was having with her son. It is not, however, an unusual problem at all. Her problem is that her son, who was raised for art of his upbringing in the US and then moved here has a challenge. His Arabic skills are not terribly good. No that isn’t the problem. The problem is that his English is heavily accented and perhaps not as strong as she would like. I was able to tell her, in no uncertain terms, that this problem isn’t unusual at all.
Now, in some ways I’m blessed. The Beans’ English skills are at age level, their accent is impeccable (unless speaking to their Arabic-speaking classmates), and their vocab is excellent. That’s the blessing. However, Arabic is a struggle. While we live in a place where Arabic is the community language, our little home-community language is still English. So the kids, whose Arabic is improving dramatically, are still behind. And this highlights the two scenarios that I’ve seen…
First you have families like ours who retain English in all ways and struggle with Arabic. Then I see alot of families who get very good Arabic skills, but their English suffers. At times, it feels like true bilingualism is a myth. I know it isn’t, but sometimes it feels like it is. Very few families seem to be truly able to make it work. Which brings me back to my new friend. Part of me wonders if her approach isn’t why the English is slipping.
Let me explain, the Beans (as mentioned above) tend to speak to their friends who are native Arabic speakers in heavily accented English. Basically, they sound just like their friends. Their grammar is still correct, but their accent is very pronounced. Each and every time, I correct them. I’m that mean Mom you see out in the world. When my kids start speaking with an accent, I stop them and make them repeat whatever they wee saying properly. I also remind them that their friends will be better helped if they work with them on gaining a better accent instead. These days I don’t even have to tell them what they’re doing wrong. I simply say “accent please” and they repeat whatever they had just said properly.
I only wish that Arabic were so easy to fix. I have started trying to let them hear me trying to speak Arabic more. I figure if they know that Mommy is trying, they are more likely to. I figure modeling good behavior is always a plus, right? At any rate, I think this oft-experienced problem is very interesting. Anyone else with thoughts on it?