But Mommy, Why Do I Have to Speak In Arabic?!

Today’s was JuniorBean’s class celebration of grandparents.  Pretty much every detail that we could get wrong, I did.  This would be, of course, because I was reading the form in Arabic to TetaBean.  So, the food they should bring is not something they made.  Moms (and Granddads) should come.  But the one thing I did get was that JuniorBean should practice reciting his Thank You Speech to TetaBean.  Excellent… well, except… JuniorBean was selected to say Thank You in Arabic.  The problem is not, as you might be imagining, that he is uncomfortable in Arabic.  It’s not even that he wanted to say it in English.  It’s more like he’s offended that with all the languages they will be using (French, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, English, etc.) HE gets stuck with boring, old Arabic.  How funny is that?  And, it’s only the literal words, Thank You.  Everything else was said in Arabic by everyone.

JuniorBean is a walking contradiction, mind you.  I suspect they picked him for Arabic because it makes such a nice picture…  Here’s this little blond-haired, blue-eyed American kid who speaks unaccented Arabic.  It’s one of those you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it kind of experiences.  It frankly cracked me up.  After his little thank you, several parents came up to express how surprised they were t how good his Arabic is.  He did a superb job (much better than many of his classmates who are native speakers).  We practiced a few times so that he could say it naturally.  The only thing that threw him was the word they used for especially.  They didn’t use khasoosan or khasatan.  They used something else (I can’t remember just now because it’s not a word I know).  So, he kept stumbling over that word.  We worked on saying it without the paper and he was likely ready for that.  However everyone in his class read from the paper, which was likely better.

I have to say that this is one area that I think education here (at least at my kids’ schools) far surpasses American education.  They get them comfortable and confident about speaking in front of crowds quite early.  JujuBean did a French play for her class performance (they had English, Arabic, and French. With all of the kids in the class, not one was too shy to say her part.  Not one.  Today at the grandparent’s day, there was only one boy who didn’t manage to say his (the other class memorized and he forgot and then was too embarrassed to go on).  That’s really something.  These kids were speaking in front of crowds of parents (and grandparents).  In each case, there were at least 60 people in the audience.  That’s really intimidating, especially for the kids doing plays in a non-native language.  It’s something I really value as it makes these wonderful kids better spoken and more confident.

The change that this practice has brought in ButterBean has been really noticeable.  She started first grade shy and unable to greet new people.  Now, she walks right up, holds out her hand and greets all of the various “aunties”, and “ammos”, and “tetas”.  She’s no longer scared or shy or uncomfortable.  And I thank the school for this.  Oh, and I’m thrilled with the fact that they had ButterBean do the Arabic play this year.  I gather she chose it, but regardless, it was forward movement for us… even if her English teacher was disappointed not to have the only native speaker in her play ;).  Kudos to the school for yet another fun and excellent developmental exercise!

Happy performance anxiety!

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