To Tashkeel or Not to Tashkeel…

Recently, a friend of mine posted on the Shorouk Kids (Dar el Shorouk) Facebook page, asking why the publisher had foregone tashkeel in a number of their books.

It makes it quite challenging to guess which of the many alternatives the word will be, and, like for example, in the savannah [The Savannah Animals] book, leaves one at a complete loss as to how the names are pronounced (eg. the nu, naw, no type of bull, the arabic text is just نو).

Shorouk responded:

In books for very young readers who are starting to read (ages 3 to 6 or 7), we make sure to add the “tashkeel” to all the words. However, in books for older kids we tend to decrease the tashkeel, because the child by now is more capable of reading (they would read comic strips like Mickey for example without needing the tashkeel).

Moreover, we have books for 6+ children that is specifically designed as readers, i.e. books that teach reading in Arabic. These books ha[ve] full tashkeel because this is what they are used for.

My friend’s query made me go back through a number of books, and I couldn’t quite predict when tashkeel would be used. Yes, they tend to be for the younger ones. And no tashkeel in the comic books. But in some books for the 0-3 set, such as BQFP’s الصواريخ الحمراء وجيلي القوس قزح, and other beginner books, such as Paradise Books’ حيوانات ألمزرعه, I found no tashkeel. Perhaps publishers intend for parents to read these books to children, but easy books are also a good way to start kids reading on their own (or, better yet, to a younger sibling).

My friend managed to get the last word:

Tashkeel, in my humble opinion and experience, not only helps you read but it lends meaning and grammatical significance to the words, and as arabic nahw is… a complex one, tashkeel is in no way something to be dismissed, it is not an embellishment, it is part and parcel of the language.

[I]t makes no sense to me, in all honesty, that you say it is not used for seasoned readers, cause these, especially, need the tashkeel to eliminate guess work and hesitancy in their reading—which, being proficient should be devoid of these, thanks to… tashkeel!

I’d be interested in your thoughts. When are tashkeel useful in children’s books? Should children graduate away from them? When/how?

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3 Responses to To Tashkeel or Not to Tashkeel…

  1. Bernadette says:

    Well, when reading\writing in Egyptian Arabic, you definitely need the tashkeel! 😉

    And I personally think they should be included in all children’s books because, while some children may learn to read fluently by age 6, there are plenty who don’t and who would benefit from the additional cues tashkeel provide, especially since they are reading a language that they don’t necessarily speak\hear on a daily basis.

    Adults learning Arabic also appreciate tashkeel. The adults that my husband teaches won’t even attempt to read an Arabic book without tashkeel.

  2. Andy says:

    BQFP use light tashkeel and we try to maintain a balance between what will help the child to read the text in as close a form as possible to the spoken form, without ending up with too many markings on the page. We believe that a book that is designed to be read for pleasure should not look like it’s aiming to teach grammar. Reading for pleasure, whether for children or adults, is an end in itself. It’s not a vehicle for teaching complex language. We hope we have got the level of tashkeel right and we would love to hear feedback from parents and teachers who have tried our books out with children!

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