JEDDAH: It is not uncommon these days to see Saudi parents speaking English to their children especially in front of people in public places and in the presence of their friends. Another growing phenomenon is to incorporate some English words while speaking Arabic.
As with everything, there are pros and cons of talking in English to your offspring. However, parents often see only one side of the issue: While a number of them think that teaching English at an early age will enable them to learn other languages easily, others believe that children should first learn to speak Arabic properly and take English courses if needed once they’ve grown up. The second group believes that speaking English in front of people is not more than a lifestyle, but those who support talking in English believe it is very important that their children learn both languages.
Arab News interviewed several Arab parents, some of whom speak English to their youngsters.
“We are a civilized family and I consider it a freedom of choice to speak English to my kids, so I do not understand why people criticize me for it. The future is not for Arabic-only speakers,” said Eman Al-Kadi, a Saudi mother of three. She believes that learning English early in childhood will give her children the means to learn other languages in just a few years. Al-Kadi also said she expected the Arabic language to disappear sooner or later; hence there is no need to make an effort to learn it well.
“I speak to my children in English a lot, because they are studying at an international school and have English as their first language. I do not think they will use Arabic in the future very much, because English has become more important and allows them to communicate with the world.”
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