September 20, 2011

First Tears of the Year

School has been in progress for 2 weeks now, and the first Arabic homework has come home. The result: total meltdown in our household. A girl in tears over her inability to decipher 12 lines of probably the most boring dialogue ever between Jad and Dounia.

What is it with the classical Arabic program in this country that makes it so difficult and unappealing to learn? Her Arabic teachers say she needs a tutor, since her parents won’t help her with her Arabic homework. I’ll be darned if I get a tutor for an 8-year old. I though the teaching of Arabic was the teacher’s job. It seems it is taken for granted that at home the parents teach as well. And if they do not, then the child is shipped off into the ‘Arabic for foreigners’ program, a road my 17 year old has gone, but which prohibits him to become a lawyer, an officer or take up any government position. Well, nothing lost there, you may think, but taken that the job of ‘President of Lebanon‘ is also out of his reach because he’s got the wrong religion, we’re developing here something akin to a caste system. Only if you have the right religion and only if your parents taught you Arabic at home.
Hmmmm, me thinks I should go out in the country this weekend, for a more positively inspired post. My hike to Jebel el-Sheikh was canceled because someone got blown up by a landmine there. Not fatally, but you know, if you go for a nature hike, you want the landscape to blow your mind, not the mines.

Anyone any ideas?


Shane Gilchrist said...

dont want to be rude here but I am Irish living in Amsterdam - if I send my kid to a Dutch "basisschool", I would never dream of leaving the teaching of Dutch to the teachers there - I would teach the kid the Dutch language. Even if he goes to an international school here where they teach in English, I would still teach him Dutch.

You use Dutch or English with your two kids?

Either way, I think your kids are gorgeous :D youre blessed to have them!


p.s. wrong religion: ur kids Christian or Mulism? Oh, the President of Lebanon has to be a Maronite?

Sietske said...

@ Shane;
The President needs to be a maronite. My son’s not.
I agree on the Dutch, but then again, Dutch is the spoken and written version, used in daily life by everyone. The Arabic she’s learning in school is the classical, a language these children do not encounter in daily life. Her colloquial Arabic is okay, but that has no written version. She needs to learn the classical Arabic as if it is a foreign language, since it is the Arabic that is used in official documents and conversation, i.e. in newspapers and court documents, in books, and in a court of law, but not when you are at the grocery store and are looking for the soap.
And yes, thank you, they can be quite lovely. Sometimes.

skana said...

As a half-breed Lebanese myself, I feel your daughter's pain. I've been there, and it feels like you're trying to decipher hieroglyphics. And pointless ones at that. My mom did eventually get me a tutor, and I did have to go to summer school one year, but the thing that helped me the most was my own determination to kick Arabic's @$$. At about 12 years old, I was tired of having the other kids (and the teacher) laugh at me when I was asked to read aloud in class, so I brought some books home from the library and started read them on my own. It was painful. Very, very painful. Jules Verne was not meant to be read in Arabic...
But I forced myself to do it and by the time I took the BacII exams, I got the highest grade in class. As awful as it is, she needs to immerse herself in the language, reading/writing as much as possible if she wants it to ever make sense to her and avoid the ridicule and jokes that will follow her if she doesn't.

And you should thank your lucky stars that the Lebanese parent has the right chromosome, or like my mom, you would have to apply for a RESIDENCY PERMIT for them to live there with you, let alone be president of that backward country.

Anonymous said...

Grew up in an arab-speaking home with arab-speaking friends and family... studied at an arabic school (granted, it's lebanese-style arabic, not legitimate arabic), and at 25, I still despise the arabic language with every fiber of my being. They just don't teach it well!

Raffi said...

Despite the fact that the Armenians are considered to do poorly in Arabic language, however, some have achieved to be TV stars on Arabic channels: Zaven, Nishan, Carla, Mariam Nour(kidding)...

Understanding how the language works and practicing, practicing, practicing can help a lot.

I've had several Arabic language teachers, but only one helped me love Arabic.

Note: some languages do not have feminine/masculine differentiations in the verb. Did you know that the sun is a female, and the moon is male?

Nour K said...

I had the exact same problem when I first came from Canada to Lebanon at 10 years old. Sure I knew a bit of colloquial Arabic but it wasn't the same as the stupid standard Arabic we had to learn at school. I tried to keep up with the class at school but I was hopeless, and in fear of failing the Brevet because of it, I got an Arabic exemption and never touched it again (not even in university). Yes I suck at standard Arabic right now, but working and interacting with people in Arabic over the past two years had incredibly boosted my command of the Arabic language. My advice is to keep her, as hard as it may be, in the program until at least 9th grade when you can decide if she's strong enough to take the official exams or not. Again, it's all about interacting with the language. Practice Practice Practice... and like me and Skana, she may reach a point where she just gets sick of letting it get the best of her, that she too kick's Arabic's @$$ and rocks it! Encourage her! :-)