The other night, I was reading التمساح الأناني in its dual-language edition to all three of the boys. (I’m not sure the two-month-old was paying attention, but the others were.)
Sometimes we do read the English side, or sometimes the seven-year-old has read the English side to the three-year-old. But usually I prefer to read the Arabic side, since if it’s a choice between Arabic and English, I choose Arabic. After all, so many other forces are pushing English.
It made me wonder: What are dual-language editions good for?
I am a writer, not a teacher, so I searched around and found Multilingual Education in Practice, ed. Sandra Schecter and Jim Cummins. They noted:
The dual-language books would permit students to access prior knowledge through their L1 (first language), thereby providing a framework for transfer of this prior knowledge to English.
Um, okay. Here, obviously, the educators are prioritizing English, which I would not. But later they featured a classroom project on dual-language books, and I was charmed and convinced. The teacher wrote about bringing dual-language books into the classroom from the local library, and noted, “My students were fascinated by them.”
The teacher then had the children write their own dual-language books.
The top mother tongue in this teacher’s community was Arabic. And:
One parent, Mrs. Ismail, acted as the Arabic word processor expert for some of the students in the class. She also created wonderful props to assist in the telling of a story in Arabic…
Cheers to Mrs. Ismail! My seven-year-old did make a dual-language birthday card (for Al-Balsam Bookstore’s first birthday), and also seemed quite delighted by the process. It would be something indeed if English and Arabic teachers in our schools could collaborate on a storytelling project.
Looking for dual-language Arabic-English books? We have some suggestions here.