Expat Kids: Learning Arabic in the UAE

When we came to Dubai in 2007 from Japan, our then three year old daughter Pristine only spoke Japanese. You can talk to her in English and she’ll be able to understand but she will reply to you only in Japanese. It was quite frustrating and I thought I’m wasting away our money by buying English books in Japan which is costly there.

But the most amazing thing is that kids are like sponges. They absorb everything. They adjust to the new environment, language and culture included faster than adults. I underestimated the learning power of children because only a few weeks after attending an international school here, she has adopted the English language very quickly and even sleep talks in English. It’s like she has kept a special corner for English in her brain after all those years of hearing me speak in English to her while in Japan and knew when to use it when really needed! It’s amazing.

Then came Arabic – which is a subject compulsory to learn here. Look how far she’s come!

She’s in Year 3 right now and it was only a year ago when the school has put more emphasis in Arabic language. She brings home homework and I could not help her with it at all (because I don’t speak, read or write Arabic!) so she does it all by herself.

I am always awed when she reads or speaks Arabic and more so when she writes it! It’s like a secret code only she knows – I bet my father had the same feeling when he saw me doing my homework (in Japanese writing) which I brought from Japan many years ago.

19 thoughts on “Expat Kids: Learning Arabic in the UAE

  1. I loved watching your little girl reading in Arabic. It really is amazing how fast they learn. One of my own experiences was with our adopted son, who was 6 when we brought him to the US from Brazil. All he could speak was Portuguese. We put him in ESL classes, but he wasn’t speaking English at home for months, not a word. We were really wondering what was wrong. Then one day, six months later, he said a couple of words. Then within a few days, less than a week, he was “instantly” fluent!

    He’d soaked it all up, saved it for when he was just going to “do it” and bingo, there it all came pouring out. It was amazing.

    You girl is so lucky to learn all these languages. The challenge will be to keep her Japanese, but I expect you’re speaking it at home and maybe have other Japanese friends with kids.


    • Sorry – that was rude for me for not replying to your comment!

      First, I am honored you are here reading my blog, thank you very much! I am amazed with your son’s “instant” fluency in English. Kids are amazing! As for my daughter, yes the challenge is to keep her Japanese. I have been playing comfy and speaking to her in English or my own native language from the Philippines (which she has picked up too!).

      I don’t want her to lose her Japanese language skills so we have made a plan to revive and improve it!


  2. It is scientifically proven that children 10 years and younger I believe pick up things more quickly, like languages. When I was in 3rd grade (probably the equivalent of where Pristine is now) they had us taking Spanish classes!

    Looking back, what I learned in those classes stayed with me throughout all of high school.

    I’m quite envious of kids that way-I’d LOVE to learn many (MANY) languages ^.^


    • Definitely younger children learn things more quickly. Do you still remember your Spanish now? Are you still using it?

      When I was in university in Japan and speaking Japanese day in and day out and went back to the Philippines for a month long vacation, I was horrified to see that I have forgotten some Japanese words! Language is like a muscle, if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it, they say!


  3. That’s amazing. I can’t imagine learning a language like Arabic or Japanese. The characters and sounds are so different than English. We took some Russian lessons a few years ago before we traveled to Russia (We visited the small village where my grandmother was born.) It was just enough that we could ask simple questions and interpret the answer, but we certainly couldn’t follow a conversation. Next year we are going to China, I’d better get started soon!


  4. I agree with your that kids could easily adapt the cultures and languages most especially i they stay on that place. In fact, kids could easily learn other languages. So, that is why I enroll my kids to learn other languages.


  5. Oh Great Pristine! I am really wondering about the kids talent but one thing is that kids are always very fast to learn any thing because there brains are fresh then all of us.


  6. Love her English accent. Is so smooth.
    And her Arabic is great also.
    Living in Dubai, you must definitely learn Arabic.

    Congrats, you have a lovely kid.


  7. I love her accent and her control of the language. Children are very amazing. I hope she will live to remember all these languages.


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