Homelearning

Tentang Bahasa dan Keupayaan Berbilang Bahasa

 

Gunakan Bahasa Melayu Dengan Betul

Saya pernah menulis tentang pendirian saya (dan suami) tentang penggunaan bahasa dan pendekatan yang kami gunakan untuk Isa dalam pos yang lain sebelum ini: kami menekankan penggunaan Bahasa Melayu yang baik (semi-formal, penggunaan ayat penuh dan sebagainya) serta berusaha untuk tidak mencampur-adukkan bahasa Inggeris dan Melayu dalam satu ayat.

Sememangnya memerhatikan bagaimana kanak-kanak belajar bahasa memang mengujakan. Dalam banyak aspek perkembangan anak-anak, perkembangan kemahiran berbahasa mereka adalah satu aspek yang sangat suka saya perhatikan.

Baru-baru ini saya perhatikan ada beberapa perubahan pada kemahiran berbahasa Isa… semuanya gara-gara saluran Nick Jr (yang ada dalam langganan HyppTV) yang mula menyediakan pilihan alih suara/bahasa Melayu untuk siri-siri kegemarannya. Ada masanya Isa meminta untuk menonton dalam Bahasa Inggeris dan kadang-kadang dalam Bahasa Melayu.

Ada beberapa perkara yang boleh saya kesan, mungkin sekali merupakan akibat pilihan alih suara itu:

  1. Kesan paling jelas adalah Isa sudah boleh membezakan perkataan dalam kedua-dua bahasa tersebut, e.g. ‘Clock tu jam dalam bahasa Inggeris’.
  2. Kesan lain termasuklah Isa sudah mula bertutur dalam ayat bahasa Inggeris (penuh/separa penuh), dan kadang-kadang meminta saya untuk bercakap dalam Bahasa Inggeris. Selalu juga Isa bertanyakan maksud perkataan tertentu kepada saya.
  3. Isa juga menggunakan ayat bahasa Melayu yang hampir formal – alhamdulillah. Saya tidak risau akan hal ini. Biar lebih, asalkan jangan kurang. Kalaupun keformalan ini mungkin akan ‘cair’ apabila dia mula berinteraksi dengan lebih ramai orang, mudah-mudahan saki-bakinya masih ada. Tidak sesekali kami ketawakan keformalannya, walaupun kadang-kadang kedengaran agak janggal. Tak mengapa, kita biasakan yang betul.
  4. Kemahiran mendengar juga semakin baik. Kadang-kadang dia akan bertanya tentang apa yang didengarnya di radio. Kebelakangan ini apabila saya membaca terjemahan al Quran usai solat dan dia berada di sisi saya, dia akan bertanyakan maksud perkataan atau frasa tertentu: “‘Hikmah’ tu apa, mommy?”. Baru siang tadi, ketika kami sama-sama menasyidkan ‘Erti al-Fatihah’ Isa bertanya” Puji bagi Allah’ itu apa?’. Saya fikir kemampuannya untuk menangkap butir perkataan yang didengari meskipun tidak difahami sepenuhnya menunjukkan otaknya sedang berfungsi baik Alhamdulillah.

Saya fikir ini adalah satu perkembangan yang bagus. Saya dapat lihat usahanya untuk membina ayat bahasa Inggeris sendiri, bukan sekadar mengulang apa yang didengarinya di TV. Alhamdulillah. Kerja saya tinggal lagi membetulkan ayatnya dan menjadi rakan berbual yang baik dalam kedua-dua bahasa.

Kemudahan Alih Bahasa

Sebetulnya saya memang tidak menggemari kebanyakan rancangan kartun keluaran dalam negara, misalnya Upin & Ipin. Penggunaan bahasa yang kurang baik, butir percakapan yang tidak jelas, serta jalan cerita yang kelihatan agak kompleks (kanak-kanak seusia Isa atau yang lebih muda cuma mampu memahami jalan cerita yang ringkas). Yang paling saya tidak gemar tentulah watak Kak Ros yang sangat kasar. Hal-hal ini menyebabkan rancangan sebegini bukan pilihan di rumah kami.

Saya tidaklah merendahkan produk tempatan. Kekangan bajet tentulah tidak membenarkan kajian yang mendalam dan khusus sebagaimana yang dilakukan untuk rancangan TV Dora the Explorer misalnya. Dalam buku yang saya baca ada disebutkan bagaimana setiap episod Dora diuji terlebih dahulu kebolehfahamannya untuk kanak-kanak. Jalan cerita yang dipilih juga mengambil kira keupayaan kanak-kanak di setiap peringkat umur yang menjadi kumpulan sasaran. Pendapat pakar psikologi kanak-kanak diambil kira dalam setiap episod yang ditulis.

Saya lihat setakat ini dialog dalam rancangan yang telah dialihbahasa dari bahasa Inggeris  menggunakan bahasa Melayu yang jauh lebih baik. Sama ada di saluran Disney Jr. (Astro)  atau Nick Jr. (HyppTV) , kedua-duanya agak bagus menurut perhatian saya.

Mommy Pun Perlu Belajar Semula

Saya pernah sebutkan sebelum ini bahawa awal-awal dahulu saya membacakan buku-buku Isa dalam Bahasa Melayu, meskipun buku itu ditulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris. Saya berusaha menterjemahkan secara spontan dalam ayat yang penuh, sempurna dan formal (sehingga sekarang Isa boleh membezakan bahasa ‘buku’ dan bahasa ‘tidak formal’- kalau dibacakan buku dalam  bahasa semi-formal dia akan merungut si pembaca tidak pandai bacakan buku untuknya T.T ).

Memang bukan kerja senang. Sudah beberapa kali saya duduk termangu di depan laptop ketika cuba mengarang emel dalam Bahasa Melayu, sesuatu yang tidak pernah saya lakukan setelah sekian lama. Begitu lama masa yang diambil untuk menulis sepotong ayat. Lagi-lagi apabila sudah pulang ke Malaysia pun, komunikasi di tempat kerja masih memerlukan saya berbual, menulis, berfikir, dan membentang dalam Bahasa Inggeris. Bos saya sendiri tidak pandai berbahasa Melayu.

Tapi yang senang itu tak semestinya yang betul. Anak saya Melayu, dan dia mesti tahu, faham dan fasih berbahasa Melayu. Kalau ikutkan suami, dia mahu biasakan Isa dengan loghat-loghat negeri tertentu juga (setakat sekarang cuma faham loghat Utara sahaja).

Jadi saya sendiri mesti berusaha membiasakan yang betul, mesti kembali membaca dalam Bahasa Melayu. Kembali MENULIS dalam Bahasa Melayu. Kembali meneliti struktur-struktur ayat yang saya baca, bukan sekadar ‘reverse engineering’ ayat Bahasa Inggeris. Kembali menambah kosa kata seperti yang saya lakukan ketika sekolah dahulu. Dan kena cari semula Kamus Dewan.

Alah bisa tegal biasa.

 

p.s. Sejak kembali semula ke sekolah dan bertemu rakan-rakan sekelas dari generasi yang berbeza, saya memang selalu sakit kepala dengan bahasa. Kalau menulis dalam Bahasa Inggeris, berjam-berjam perlu dibetulkan tatabahasanya. Jika mengirim SMS dalam ‘bahasa Melayu’ sepuluh minit nak tafsirkan maksudnya. Ini cerita pelajar paswasiswazah, bukan budak sekolah menengah!

Isa’s Daily Chore Chart

Today is the second day of us utilising the Chore Chart for Isa. I have always thought that using the chore system is beneficial, but never think that I’d start using it this early. Anyway, I believe that the sense of responsibility and accountability can be inculcated early in our life.

Of course I am tempted to make a pretty chore chart (thanks to Pinterest), but for the time being I am happy with this one:

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Making the Chore Chart

First, I ran through a list of chores suggested for Isa’s age (he’s three this year Masha Allah). It is important to make sure that the activities listed are not too difficult or too easy for my child. In our list it is making the bed and cleaning up after meals.

Second, I listed down activities that are most challenging for me to get Isa doing them. That’s why you can see that taking shower is one of them, because God help me, he cries like nobody’s business if he has to stop playing to shower. Tidying up after playing and drinking (enough) water are in the list due to the same reason too.

Third, add an extra spot for bonus points – I call it ‘Do good’ item, so that all other positive actions he does during the day are acknowledged and rewarded. This is important because at the end of the day, his father a.k.a the sounding board a.k.a the rewarding body will listen to my report.

I googled for free chore chart printables/templates on the Internet, and found one which suits me and how I imagined it to be (but too lazy to design one myself), printed it on an A4 paper, and put it in an IKEA frame that is lying around. I am yet to hang it on the wall, as I am still finding the most strategic place to put it. I use a whiteboard marker to draw the star on the plastic sheet which comes with the frame. 

***

And now let me tell you how it went yesterday.

I explained to him each chore/activity that he needs to complete every day, and that there will be reward if he collects a lot of stars (I try not to reward him daily at this point). Isa is practically happy with the idea of getting stars for each of completed activity, and referred to the chart several times during the day. He welcomed the idea of getting his favourite Kinderjoy as a reward at first.

Getting him showered was still a struggle nevertheless. While initially he was so excited to collect the stars, when it came to taking shower things like ‘I don’t want stars’ ‘I don’t want Kinderjoy’ came out, though after he finished showering he immediately asked if he could get another star printed on the chart. *sigh*

As my husband reached home and he’s left with one more item to do, Isa requested for his father’s phone to watch ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ videos on Youtube (Have I told you that he is still very much obsessed with this nursery rhyme?). We agreed to letting him access the phone as a reward as screen time is purposely regulated in our house, if and only if he could put away all his toys.

He lit up to the thought, but funnily as he sat down to begin tidying up we heard a loud cream of ‘I am tired I don’t want to put my toys away’ which lasted for a long time. I didn’t know what happen next because I let my husband handled that (I have had too much melt down yesterday too face another one).

So as of yesterday, Isa missed one star.

*******

I am happy to report that the first activity Isa completed on the second day is… taking shower! 😀

I will update again at the end of this week, nevertheless, and see if this system works.

Children Toys: To Clean Up or Not Clean Up

At the very time I am writing this, my living room is a total mess. Just to illustrate it better, I am shamelessly putting a photo of it:

 
And at this very moment too, there is a little boy sitting in front of me having his breakfast, which means I can expect more mess soon.

There are days when I am a bit more productive than usual that before I go to bed I’d clear up my living room, and spare myself from the headache when I wake up in the morning. But it was not yesterday (most days, to be honest), when I was more keen on finishing the chapter I was reading.

Now that my little girl has started being mobile, and active I must add, she also contributes to this. Yes, my 5-month-old baby is now officially a proficient mess-making machine. Just the other day upon coming out of the kitchen I saw her pulling a small basket of toys of the toy shelf. In addition to that she now also pays much interest to what his brother is playing – which leads to his brother being annoyed and leaves whatever he’s playing just like that. In short, she contributes both directly and indirectly to the mess 😀

I am torn when it comes to messy play.

Sure, this is not even messy if you follow the ‘definition’ of messy play (which involves paints, sand, and perhaps all things gooey), which I know has enormous benefits to the children. Nevertheless, it still gives me some sort of headache though I am never an OCD person. Just the other day I could only stare at my wall helplessly; one blotted with a patch of pink homemade play-dough, and found myself making a silent promise that I would never make a new batch of play-dough.

I am torn because as much as I’d like to encourage creative play, how much responsibility should I give to my children when it comes to putting the toys away?

I could bark on Isa to put away the toys and blocks as soon as he finishes with them, but what if that stops him from, you know, developing further what he’s playing by leaving them overnight for instance? I remember the kind of play I was engaged in when I was smaller, and it didn’t happen only for one evening. Sometimes I’d take a break, but would like to come back to the scene without having to rebuild it, so there’s really no point of putting the toys away.

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When Isa was younger, the rule ‘take one out, put one away’ worked well. But his play is getting more intricate and elaborate, that to not mix up his train set with his Mega Blocks and wooden blocks, or his countless toy cars is just impossible. But allowing all of those to be taken out means it will be harder to get him to clean up. And would really like to NOT yell.

Not pushing him to tidy clean up however, I fear, would bring about the false sense of entitlement, that there’s always someone else (often be me) to sort up all the mess. But to keep on reciting the rule ‘Put them away’  may discourage him from playing at all, and I have seen it first hand with the Lego set we bought him. We got him a 1000-piece Lego set a few months back, and suddenly his mom (that’s me) became obsessed with the cute little bricks that she kept dictating how and where the bricks should be kept and organized over and over again. The outcome? Isa did not touch the set for more than two weeks. Well, it could be the fact that he was a bit frustrated after having some difficulties (after all the set is meant for 4+), but I suspect it was due to my irritating, over-controlling behaviour: ‘Too many rules I’d rather not play with it,’ I guess.  Since I changed my approach, apparently Isa has warmed up and found some pleasure in playing with the little bricks.

I have long came to yield to the belief that a house with kids could never be spotless, but anyone, seriously, how do you deal with this? Where’s the fine line between being too restrictive and too liberal as a parent?

Maybe I think a tad too much.

The Quest for Reason and Meaning


Isa has been in the ‘why’ phase for nearly a year now.

Being his parent, and now one who stays 24/7 with him, I can say this phase can be really tiring. I am ashamed to admit that there were regrettable moments when my responses to his endless questions were less then encouraging.

I love to answer his questions most of the times, because I know he really wants to find the answers. It keeps my brain working. Simplifying processes, information and knowledge that I know to make them comprehensible for a 3-year old is no easy feat, and as Einstein once said – it takes a genius to do it!

Nevertheless, the ‘why’ trail of questions can get too long. Sometimes just to check whether he’s just asking because it has become a habit I’d purposely ask him back: ‘Why what?’ and 99% of the times he can rephrase his questions, which means he is not merely saying ‘Why?’ meaninglessly.

There were many times I honestly want him to just shut up. Like when I requested him to keep silent because her sister is trying to sleep, or when I am just too exhausted that I need to nap.

“Please keep quiet, Abang Long.”

“Why?”

“Because mommy needs to sleep.”

“Why?”

“Because I’m tired.”

“Why?’

“Because I did a lot of work today.”

“Why? I don’t like you sleeping.” (Darn, have I raised a selfish human being here?)

“I need to sleep.”

“Why?” This will either accompanied by the annoying whining sound (God help me), or by another cycle of Q&A.

And by the time you get to that part of the conversation, the window for you to sleep will be gone forever because his sister has just woken up from her nap.

*sigh*

…………

I noticed that for the past month his curiosity has now expanded to finding the origins of things, which is kind of interesting for me. This conversation normally happens at the dining table, where he’d inquire (repeatedly, of course) on ‘What’s the chicken made of?’, ‘What’s the egg made of?’, ‘What’s the rice made of?’ etc. Well, there’s no point in me learning so much in my younger and single days if I could not find joy in imparting the knowledge to my offspring, isn’t it?

But more amazingly to me, very recently he’s moved on to asking the meaning of things he heard and learned before. We mainly converse in Malay, as I have written before, but these days Isa is exposed to English (through TV and books, which I now read to him in English and then translated to our mother toungue) that he picks up a number if nursery rhymes and becomes obsessed with them. He has also memorised a few Quranic verses in Arabic along the way. All those while I assumed that understanding what those words will come much later…

…until the other day, when he asked me to translate ‘London Bridge’ and ‘itsy bitstyspider’, mind you, word by word.

Just yesterday when I had to explain what Alhamdulillah means, and what each phrase in his favourite ‘Erti al Fatihah’ by Ummi means, I felt so glad and thanful I have spent my youth learning all those, that when such times come, I could explain, satisfyingly I hope, what ‘Allah Maha Pemurah’ and ‘Segala Puji’ means to my children.

But above all, I thank Allah for his inquisitive and curious mind. I pray that my weakness and my impatience won’t in anyway dampen his curiosity or worse, kill it.

After all, the world has enough memorisers and rote learners, that we have only a few who think – and perhaps that’s why the world is as it is now.
 

My Take on Homelearning

The other day I came to realise that I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for six months, masha Allah! Time does fly, and because the major purpose of me being at home is to actually spend more  QUALITY time with my children being their first teacher,  I had a reflection (perhaps you can call it KPI or performance review) on the past six months.

By the end of that I became anxious.

Have I done my best? When I decide to homeschool (or as I’d prefer to call it encouraging homelearning), I did have some principles I’d like to adhere to, as agreed with my husband, but seriously, looking at how other parents do it, you may become slightly less confident – am I doing enough?

I was heavily pregnant during the first two months at home, and the next two months were spent at my parents’ place as I was undergoing my post-partum confinement period. Even if I didn’t want to be too hard on myself, the transitional two months should be over by now, with the month of July here.

Of course, thinking of that I got agitated. Funnily, my immediate proposal to my husband was to purchase a colour printer! We already own a Laserjet black-and-white printer, but surely if I were to get serious, I need to have colour printer so that I could print those inviting worksheets for Isa, or so I thought.

Luckily, I got over the anxiety quite quickly.

After revising a few books and articles, I am reminded that Isa is only three. And as we parents are really keen on NOT being academic-oriented, I should not worry about those worksheets, or getting Isa to write or read. All he needs is PLAY, and that’s about it. And if that is the measuring stick we are to use, I think so far Isa is doing fine alhamdulillah.

And all I need to do better is to spend more quality time (no phone, no worrying about the house chores, no rush) playing with him.

My Homelearning Approach

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After reading a number of parenting and homeschooling/homelearning books, I figure out that I have found the most suitable approach for Isa.

One of the books I’ve read is the one shown in the photo above,and there are a few important take-home messages I get from it:

  1. More homeschooling parents move from being structured in their approach to being less structured;
  2. There is no one magical way to homeschool;
  3. Observe your child’s ability; plan activities which are not too easy nor too hard. Too easy – boring. Too hard – discouraging.
  4. Try out a few activities, and after that you may get some ideas on which activities that provide the least pleasure.
  5. Build on strengths and interests.
  6. Some homeschoolers allocate specific time for writing, reading, arithmetic, and ‘other i.e. the rest’. Some organise studies, for ‘the other i.e. the rest’ using unit study-approach, traditional (school-like) approach, history-based approach, interest-initiated approach, or combination of those. Decide which one is most effective for your family.
  7. The early years child requires very little by way of formal education, so I should not let caring a baby (along with a preschooler, in my case) stop me from homeschooling. Put the baby in close proximity, and soon she will become a toddler who isn’t going to be left out of anything. Twist the learning schedule around the baby’s.

I have attempted one-letter-a-week approach, a-theme-a-week approach (a continuation of Isa’s daycare’s method), and now I am comfortable with interest-initiated approach (see point #6 above).

Interest-initiated Approach

As far as my observation goes, I found that Isa is least interested in flashcards and letter tracing of any sorts. Hence I know that there is no way I could make him interested in doing worksheets at this stage.

Interest-initiated approach takes cue from the child current interests (If you have a child you know that he or she can be obsessed with certain things for a period of time). In my case, I can detect his interests (whether they are just passing interests, or something of his strength which can be developed) through the books he wants to read over and over again, the in-depth questions on specific things, songs he sing frequently, etc.

So what I do is just build on that. Go deeper. Because it is a subject of his interest, I know I won’t lose him mid way. Complement that with his usual favourites – LEGO, wooden blocks, train sets, role plays etc. I think we have enough things to do around here.

Thus far I have covered a few stuff – most of them indirectly woven in our daily lives. He borrowed a book from his cousin on clocks (and became obsessed with it for nearly a month) so I took the chance to teach him time-telling among other things. He currently fancies the ‘Itsy Bitsy Spider’ nursery rhyme for example, and I am finding things to do around that. I may document these later, but surely you can’t count on a busy mom to do it meticulously 😉 We’ve done trains, aeroplanes, ambulances… the typical interest subjects of a boy.

Pre-arithmetic, pre-writing and pre-reading skills are all indirectly instill in these activities – I know I would not have to resort on (boring, context-less) worksheets anytime soon. Well, partly that is because we don’t expect him to know how to read or write that soon.

Nevertheless, I still have a few things I need to work on: get ourselves outside more, instill the love of nature for him, teach him self-care, include him more in house chores, do a bit of gardening (phew!), get messy more often, and cook together more frequently.

So far, I’d stick to these, in addition to me being seen reading books and reciting the Holy Quran more frequently.

After all he’s just three for goodness’ sake!

 

 

 

Of Language and Multilingualism

I have never used the word multilingual to describe myself. Perhaps nobody has asked me that question ‘Are you multilingual’? before, and the last time I ever filled a form requiring me to list down languages I master was nearly five years ago.

I can speak, write and read at least two languages fluently, that is Malay (my mother tongue) and English. I used to be able to speak Arabic –  but lost the skill over time, reduced to reading and writing only. I have attempted Mandarin, spending nearly fifty pounds sterling (or so, but it was a huge amount for a poor student like myself) for a course I attended only a few times back when I was in Manchester.

For the time being, I have no drive to acquire another language. I am just refining my Arabic whenever I am presented with the opportunity nowadays.

Nevertheless, having Isa makes me think hard on this multilingual thing.

What language I’d like Isa to master? We can all find numerous articles on the net advocating for multilingualism, and if I look around here in Malaysia, every parents I  know strive to make English a language for their children to master at an early age.

I have not made my mind up. Initially, we tried to adopt one-parent-one-language  method (with me speaking English fully with Isa, and my husband in Malay), but that didn’t work out. I do not know if teaching different languages at the same time; mixing them up in one sentence is good or bad, but I personally cringe at bad grammar in English sentences. I don’t fancy Malaysian English much, and hope my children won’t acquire that ‘dialect’. I fear that mixing them up now when talking to Isa will result in just that.

Another reason for me not to being too stress out about Isa and my other children (hopefully, God willing) learning English intensively is the fact that I love Malay language. I think it is incredibly beautiful and it is really a part of heritage which makes a Malay a Malay. Jati diri. The sad part is that, I notice that my formal, written Malay is getting worse by day – and the last thing I’d want my children to be are Malays who could not even speak proper Malay  (Okay, it is ironic that I am writing this in English, I know!). If that happens, it could potentially mean that they are good at no language at all.

I have a feeling that maybe I should start teaching Isa proper English once he begins formal schooling, when he starts learning from the basic grammar and moves on from that. After all, research has shown that despite the widely-popular notion that the golden age, or the critical period for learning for children is from 0-3 years old, the window is actually longer. Children do learn languages better than adults, but it is not that after that child is 3 years old, the window snaps shut. It seems to stay open at least until puberty and under some scenarios, for a lifetime. 

In ‘Einstein Never Used Flashcards‘ this one professor, Professor Huttenlocher tells us that second-language teaching and musical training are likely to be more effective if started early, during the period of high plasticity, which includes the early school years (ages 5 to 10 years).

So I guess, there is really no rush for Isa. His formal English lesson will start when he enters primary school, so that is when we will ideally begin ours at home.

And another reason that makes me feel that this way is justified and might work is because that is how I have learnt English.

How I Learnt English as a Second Language

My mother can read and understand English at the basic level being a teacher , and my father speaks none whatsoever. When I was able to read at the age of 5, I read in Malay. I only learnt English in formal classroom setting when I started Standard One of primary school. Given that my primary schooling was in rural area, there was not any conversation in English happened during those days.

The only thing that made a huge difference in the mastery of the language is, as I am convinced, the fact that when I was 10-11 years old, I was enrolled in an English tuition which stressed on mastering the English grammar. We had the class once or twice a week, and the teacher put us under very intensive grammar practice, in the exam format of multiple answer question.

Only after a few months I could see a major improvement in my English. My vocabulary expanded. I remember being so amazed with myself that after just a few months, a Disney English story book that I struggled to read (having to check the dictionary for every other word) previously was then read without much hassle. It grew from that, I believe, and assisted very much by my love of reading, and for dictionaries, which lasted well into my secondary schooling years. Those were thing that gave me, perhaps, the A1 in my English 1119 i.e. GCE O-Level.

When it comes to conversing in English, however,  I didn’t get much practice even during my secondary schooling years. There were days where speaking English was a compulsory upon us students, but we’d always find a way not to. Only when I was doing my International Baccalaureate diploma that I was forced to speak English. Except for the subject Malay A1, I was forced to communicate in English for all other subjects, which entailed making presentations in that language many times a day. At that point in time I knew my written English was not far behind other students, but my spoken English lagged.

I was coerced even more to convey my thoughts in English verbally in a more fluent way when I was sent to the UK to further my study. When I look at it, writing in a blog (which I started doing in 2007) helped me a lot to structure my thoughts and consequently able to articulate my thoughts better and clearer verbally – a skill that is proven to be very useful as I entered my working life.

That is how I get my English to be where it is now, imperfect as it is, along with a lot of reading and fascination with dictionaries. I’m not at all apologetic about it being mediocre, after all, it is my second language.

How Isa is now

As with all toddlers, Isa started with learning names of objects, and that was when my husband and I came to this junction: some Malay words are too complicated, compared to the English word for that particular object. We chose the easy way out – we use the English terms when they are easier for Isa to pronounce, but most often interchangeably with ones in Malay. In my mind, what was important at that point was for Isa to be able to communicate his needs. Note that his aunties in the crèche were encouraged by other parents explicitly to use English whenever possible,  so despite him not getting much of his English words from us, he gets them elsewhere; the familiarisation does happen simultaneously for both English and Arabic, another language we are keen to have our children master God willing. I noticed that reading story books helps a lot with Isa’s vocabulary, and since I found that there are not many good story books in Malay language for Isa’s age (by good I mean suitable for his age, with excellent, imaginative illustrations) I buy English books but make the effort to translate them into Malay whenever I am reading those books to Isa.

However, we noticed that after a while, Isa could understand both languages well, manifested by him often saying things like ‘Car untuk kereta’, i.e. ‘Car means kereta,’  and ‘cat samalah dengan kucing’ i.e. ‘cat is the same as kucing‘. Though this ‘direct translation’ and consciousness (perhaps) of the different languages the words are (babies have the ability to differentiate languages, by the way), are still limited to words and not sentences, I am totally in awe with human capacity to learn and pick up things.

For the time being, we focus on speaking in correct, though informal, sentences in Malay and being careful not to mix both languages up (rojak is truly ugly, if you ask me). Isa being much of a talker now as many have noticed, is very much assisted by the fact that he loves to repeat our sentences and always insists on having his words pronounced correctly as both of us parents did (I hope this won’t make him end up with OCD, or being an annoying perfectionist though). He is now able to construct more sophisticated sentences with the coming of everyday, incorporating useful conjunctions like ‘sambil’ (“Isa makan sambil main” i.e. Isa eats while playing) etc. Alhamdulillah.

So that’s really what our take on language-learning for my children for the time being. I maybe wrong in my approach. Maybe others are doing it better, but for the time being, looking at the immediate outcomes, I think we are going to stick to this for our second child.

Allah definitely knows better.

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Some foods for thoughts:

1. How English language is holding children back (How spelling keep kids from learning)

2. Is bilingualism really an advantage?

For the Love of Learning

The other day I was clipping Isa’s fingernails. He is more cooperative these days to have his nails clipped and cleaned, so we could hold decent conversations that doesn’t include me screaming to have his movement restrained.

So I began talking to him, in Malay of course, but translated into this:

“Isa, when you are bigger, you can clip your nails yourself.”

“Isa is big,” he protested. He has been claiming to be all ‘grown-up’ since a few weeks ago, so I said:

“Okay, when you know how to do it later, you can clip them yourself.”

To which he responded:

“Isa (will) learn.”

I felt like crying in happiness straightaway.

All this while, if there’s anything, any lessons that I’d like him to embrace it would be for him to love learning. To keep learning. I’ve seen numerous instances in my short life where people just stop learning, and have no whatsoever desire and drive to learn – you are neglecting the God’s command for life long learning. You are stuck in the comfort zone – and that is the worst thing that could happen. You have no curiosity at all.

That is why hearing Isa says something that shows he has understood the fact that what stands between his current self (of not knowing) and knowing (how to clip his nails, in this case) is the process called ‘learning’, without me even mentioning it first, made me thankful and inspired enough to keep doing what I am doing.

O Allah, please instill the love and desire to learn in my children, so they can better themselves – to please You eventually. May Allah guide us.