Let me give you a scenario. If you’re a homeschooling mom, it’s likely a familiar one. A kid walks up to you with a book and says, mom, what does this word mean. You don’t know, but you Google it for him.
The next week, he comes back and says, “Mom, what does this word mean.” You look down into the book and it’s the same exact word. You remember the meaning of the word, but your kid doesn’t even remember asking about what the word meant.
If you’ve got kids that ask a lot of questions, you may have seen this scenario play out in your home. You’ve probably experienced something similar. You teach your child something and then *poof* it’s gone.
When these things happen, we don’t think, man, my kid’s never going to learn this, we just think, perhaps he wasn’t paying attention, maybe she needs me to explain it another way. We assume that our kids CAN and WILL learn. We assume this, because it’s true.
And the same thing is true for you.
So why does it often feel like your children can learn better and faster than you?
There are a lot of reasons for this.
Children learn differently. Not better.
I’m sure you’ve heard the term “like a sponge” used to describe how children learn. I think this is probably a very good way to describe children’s brains, but it doesn’t mean that they are better at learning than adults.
If children’s brains are like a sponge, adult brains are like a colander. Which one is better?
Well, that depends on what you’re trying to do.
Kids’ brains soak up everything. They can learn in chaos, they pick up habits quickly, and they imitate well. They also lose information fast. That’s why there are so many toys and games out there to help kids retain information. We expect that kids will forget and so we help them to remember.
Adult brains hold on to things well. They prefer to focus on a few things, they can hold on to new ideas easily and they can build on ideas systematically.
These are gross generalizations, but in general, it’s believed that children’s brains are more elastic and they tend to get less so over time. Research has shown that there are some areas of learning language for which children’s brains are better suited.
If you want to sound like a native speaker, you probably have missed your opportunity. Fortunately, there’s a lot more to learning Arabic than just sounding correct. As an adult, you actually have more context for what you are learning.
Once you learn all of the colors, shapes, and numbers in Arabic, the time will quickly come when you have to move on to forming complex sentences, learning emotions, and practicing other language tasks that you’ll be much better at than your kids.
For example, in Lesson 6, we learned the Arabic words for “tired” and “exhausted.” Your child might be able to memorize these words, but it will take a lot of time for him to really understand what the difference is. Most likely, he will use the words at the wrong times and you’ll have to be the one to correct him.
This is just one example, but in general, it’s good to remember that learning a new langue consists of a lot of different skills.
Kids do have an advantage in some areas. Adults have the advantage of being able to make connections and use their lived experience to understand complex parts of language.
You’re thinking too much.
Have you ever watched your child and thought, “Are you thinking about what you’re doing at all?” My daughter’s favorite way to greet her little brother is to slam herself on the ground in front of him, banging her knees into the marble floors every morning.
I have spoken to her about the importance of not ruining her knees, but when she sees him, it’s like autopilot, BAM, and she’s on the floor with her arms around him. She is my most impulsive child and she’s also the fastest to pick up new words and phrases. Why? Because she doesn’t think about them. If she sees a kid pick up a ball and say “Kura” she’s going to run after him, pick up a ball, and say “Kura.”
For adults, this kind of language acquisition is not so easy. We’re always looking for patterns and connections between words. I remember in one class, we learned the word for “rock” as “hajar.” A very bright adult student in the class raised her hand and said, “What kind of rock is that, is it like a boulder or can we use it for a pebble too.”
This is too much thinking. A child would have simply gone along her merry way picking up any sort of rock and exclaiming “HAJAR!”
Some research has shown that children’s memories are actually different. They perform different actions when learning. For example, if you show a child a picture of a cat and ask them to find all of the other cats, they will try to find pictures that look like the first picture. They won’t even know to think “tigers and lions are included?” They’ll just match the pictures.
You’re not having fun.
Have you ever told your kids that they play too much? To me, this is actually the secret weapon kids have that helps them seem to be learning faster than adults.
Think about it, what is studying? It’s focused repetition. What is play? It’s focused repetition.
STUDY = PLAY
So what’s the difference between study and play. Simple, play is focused repetition that you enjoy and feel invigorated by. Study is focused repetition that you may or may not like and which leaves you feeling like you need a family-sized snickers.
My kids favorite games include “Cooking,” “Selling,” and “Being Umi.” Play allows for opportunities to repeat skills learned throughout the day in an enjoyable way. If you want to learn Arabic, it only makes sense to use play.
Language learning is the perfect subject to be learned through play because it requires a great deal of repetition, making mistakes, and correcting mistakes.
Most people have some mixture of different learning styles and benefit from seeing, hearing, speaking, and interacting with words through daily activities.
It can be difficult for many people to incorporate Fusha Arabic into play because many of the words you learn are pretty serious words that don’t lend themselves to everyday life.
Depending on your learning style, play may actually be better than studying. If you’re a verbal or kinesthetic learner (someone who likes to learn by doing things), studying can leave you feeling frustrated and stuck.
That’s one of the reasons that at Fusha House, we focus on functional, everyday Arabic vocabulary. If you’re a beginner, I’d encourage you to do the same. If your goal is to be able to read the Qu’ran and the books of hadith and the scholars, don’t worry. The same words that you use in your daily life will be found in those texts.
Try to relax and get into the habit of just enjoying learning Arabic. You’ll find the journey much easier and more productive.
Try it out.
Hopefully, by now you’re convinced. The best way to learn a language is to learn it like a child.
If you’re still on the fence about whether you might have missed your language learning prime, here’s a challenge for you. Take 2 weeks and learn like a child.
Find an activity for kids online that teaches some part of Arabic that you don’t know. It could be animals, seasons, anything. You can use one of our lessons. Or, you can just google “____ in Arabic.”
Next, go ahead and learn it. Teach your child at the same time. Commit to doing everything your child does. Don’t think about it. Just have fun and do it.
If it’s a coloring page, color. If it’s a cut-out, cut. If it’s a song, sing it. Just enjoy the process and repeat everything as much as your child. At the end of the 2 weeks, I’m confident that you’ll know the new material far better than your child.
Because children are not better at learning.