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The many benefits of raising a truly bilingual child

by Bryony

Green Grass Nursery (GGN) is a British boutique nursery that welcomes children from one year to five years; KHDA-approved early learning centers with more than ten years of experience in the education field. At GGN, the children are provided with both English and Arabic education on a daily basis, with lessons in each language daily. Education UAE spoke with Arwa Naccho, the CEO and Co-founder of GGN, about the importance of children learning a second language from an early age and the ways in which this can benefit them both now and later in life.

EdUAE: GGN is a fully bilingual nursery. Can you tell us a little about how this is implemented?

Arwa Naccho: Certainly! At GGN, we have implemented a fully bilingual programme that provides equal exposure to both English and Arabic languages. Our bilingual approach is integrated into all aspects of our curriculum, including our daily routines, activities, and the children’s engagement.

We are delighted to be able to introduce this unique programme from the early years and to be the first early years center that has this structured programme. This is a unique programme in Dubai and one that we believe will appeal not only to local Emirati and Arabic-speaking families but also to expat families wanting their young children to understand the Arabic language and culture. The programme will also be enriched by UAE and Arab customs, traditions, and heritage and will include Classical Arabic language arts, music, story-telling and lots more.

Green Grass Nursery is a truly bilingual nursery with daily lessons in both English and Arabic

We have qualified bilingual staff who are fluent in both English and Arabic and use a range of teaching strategies to support children’s development in both languages. We use a variety of resources, such as books, songs, and Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS) themes in both languages to create a rich learning environment. Our curriculum is designed to foster language development in both languages, and we regularly assess children’s language skills to ensure that they are making progress. We also encourage parents to speak to their children in their home language to support their children’s language development. Overall, our fully bilingual programme provides children with a strong foundation in both English and Arabic, preparing them for success in a globalised world.

EdUAE: What are the main benefits of learning Arabic alongside English?

AN: Learning Arabic alongside English in the UAE has numerous benefits for children in their early years of education. Firstly, it allows children to have a deeper understanding of the local culture and heritage, which is a key aspect of the “Understanding the World” area of development in the EYFS. By learning Arabic, children can connect with the local community, understand the customs and traditions, and appreciate the diversity of the UAE. Moreover, being bilingual enhances cognitive development, communication skills, and problem-solving abilities. It also provides children with a competitive advantage in the global job market, as Arabic is the fifth most spoken language in the world. Learning Arabic also promotes respect, tolerance, and understanding of other cultures and helps children to become more open-minded individuals.

EdUAE: What are the educational benefits to children learning a second language at an early age?

AN: Learning a second language alongside English in the early years has many benefits, such as promoting cognitive development, enhancing cultural awareness, and providing opportunities for bilingualism. It can also support language acquisition, improve communication skills, and provide a competitive advantage in future academic and professional settings.

EdUAE: How can parents support children in learning a second language?

AN: Parents can support their child in learning a second language by starting them in this from an early age. A child’s brain is ready and open to learning more than five languages. Exposing them to the new language as much as possible through reading books, watching educational programmes, and speaking with them in the language is beneficial. They can also enrol their children in language classes or find language exchange programmes. Consistency is key in language learning, so incorporating the language into everyday routines and activities can also be helpful.

Whether your child is learning one language or more, remember that the key to language learning is to talk to your child. The rate of children’s vocabulary development is influenced by the amount of talk they are exposed to. The more speech is addressed to a toddler, the more rapidly they will learn new words!

Too often hear parents say: “But she can’t speak yet! What’s the point of speaking to her so much?” It always amazes me when I hear that — and I hear it from even teachers and highly educated people sometimes. Clearly, the basic principle in child language acquisition remains that input equals output. That means the more language the infant is exposed to, the richer the language and the number of languages, the more the infant will learn because infants are very, very clever, and they are programmed to hear.

EdUAE: How can being truly bilingual positively impact someone when it comes to entering the workplace?

AN: Being truly bilingual from an early age can have a positive impact in several ways. Firstly, it can open up a wider range of job opportunities, particularly in industries where bilingualism is highly valued, such as international trade, hospitality, and customer service. Personally, When I receive a resume from someone bilingual, I will be very interested in meeting that candidate.

Secondly, it can enhance communication and collaboration skills, essential in the workplace, and increase cultural awareness and sensitivity, making it easier to work with people from diverse backgrounds.

EdUAE: How does being bilingual benefit children socially?

AN: There are so many social benefits to a child being bilingual. Firstly, it allows them to communicate with a wider range of people, which can help them to form new friendships and relationships in school. It can also help them understand and appreciate different cultures, especially where they live in UAE, fostering empathy and tolerance. Bilingual children may also have better communication and problem-solving skills, which can improve their ability to negotiate and resolve conflicts with others, as well as positively impacting a child’s social development and interactions.

Learning a second language from an early age has countless benefits for a child, both now and in the future

EdUAE: Are there any books or other resources supporting children’s home learning?

AN: Yes, there are many; I am delighted that there are many new early years young writers, such as Dardasha, Amal al Alami, and Maitha al Khayat, who are writing fantastic books that are extremely interactive and have great illustrations, all of which we have in our nursery library.

Unfortunately, we can’t yet compare Arabic resources to English resources; therefore, we’re doing our best to produce some Arabic resources using English as a starting point. We also use the Arabee application for the foundation stage 1 and stage 2 classes as a tool to support the use of technology at an early age.

Arwa Naccho is an educator and a mother of three. She has a genuine passion for building the first steps in a child’s educational journey. After more than ten years of dedication to Green Grass Nursery, first as a nursery teacher, and then as a nursery supervisor, Arwa moved into the role of nursery manager and CEO. Her aim is to provide a supportive learning journey for children in a place that feels like a home away from home.

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