Monday, 5 August 2013

Making it Happen

Being mixed race a lot of people assume I speak another language apart from English. After all, my dad speaks Gujarati as well as English and so do most of my relatives. 

Being married to a Puerto Rican, getting an A in GCSE, visiting Spain and having a half Puerto Rican baby you would have thought I'd know a little Spanish at least....

As a 'hijabi' I have been been spoken to in Arabic several times - the other person obviously assuming I'm Arab or speak the language... or at least some of it. Having studied the language in Morocco for 4 months and interacted with the local people in their language you would think I would be able to speak some... by now... since that was 5 years ago so I should have had time to get the point of holding a basic conversation by now... right???

Sadly very very wrong. Alas! My Arabic is terrible and my Spanish is worse. Yet I lament my lack of language skills on an almost weekly basis, I wish I'd grown up speaking Gujarati, I wish I'd done Spanish at A-level, I wish I'd kept up my Arabic after Morocco, I wish I'd taken advantage of maternity leave and practised another language while I didn't have work to preoccupy me....

Alhamdulillah my husband and I are sponsoring a child in Gaza. However him and his family don't speak any English.

We also, praise be to God, have a beautiful 7 month old little boy who is just starting to babble, starting to learn to speak...

As a Muslim I believe it is very important to be able to understand (at least in part) the Book that we are supposed to base our lives on, not just read it like a robot, at least, that's what I'm always telling people...

I also just re-wrote my C.V. and paused when I got to the part that said in my spare time I am 'interested in languages, particularly Arabic and Spanish'... it make me think... am I really?? Why do I keep wishing I could do things an saying I want to but not actually doing it?? The only phrase I can clearly remember in Arabic is how to say 'I want to learn Arabic' because I said it so many times. 

I think I need to do one of two things. Give up on my goals and stop whining, accept that I only speak English and I will never speak anything else, accept that I'm obviously not interested deep down in ever speaking anything else or I would have done it by now (I'm 28 for heaven's sake!).

OR, stop whining and being so lazy, stop being a hypocrite and actually make some damn effort to achieve my goals and give credit to my words. I'm always telling my students to make more effort to achieve their goals... I'm always telling my baby when I see him trying to do something for the first time 'don't give up! you can do it if you try!!'

The other day my husband shared a video with me, which really inspired me. This gentleman has only been Muslim since 1998, he converted as an adult yet by 2008 he has memorised the entire Qur'an and you can see from the video that he's pretty fluent in Arabic (as far as I can tell!). Obviously I don't expect to be able to move to another country and study Arabic intensively like he did, and I'm going to have to leave Gujurati as a regret that the time to change has passed, but who do I want to be? 

An inspiration and a role model to Isa? Do I want him to have the chance of growing up speaking more than one language, growing up understanding and learning from what he's saying in his salaah instead of just carrying out a set of exercises 5 times a day? Do I want him to be able to communicate with his great grandma in the same language? Or do I want their conversations to be limited to single works. Do I want him to ask me why he needs to bother learning another language or trying hard at anything for that matter when his own mum couldn't even make the effort to do it?

That shouldn't even be a question.

If anyone else has learnt another language as an adult or has taught their children another language (or simply achieved a big goal in your life that required a lot of effort) and has any tips or experiences to share please leave me a comment below. I need a plan to follow and some goals to set but I'm not sure where to start. Thanks in advance for any support! I need to follow my own advice - I can do it if I try!!!

above - I need to stop being the first two people!!


  1. ur blog is beautiful mashaAllaah, im currently learning french (studied at a level), arabic and dendi (african language) its hard me and my husband are trying 10 mins a day doesnt always happen but still trying, he's trying to learn punjabi (my mother tongue) sometimes feel like its just too many languages lol and we still gotta teach Elyassa all of them too, just taking each day as it comes, we should meet and discuss language learning options :)

    1. thanks Iffat. How come you're learning Dendi? Which language are you doing 10 minutes a day or do you alternate? Do you think it's a good idea to learn more than one language at once? I find I easily get mixed up between arabic and spanish even though they are so different! we should definitely meet and discuss this further!

  2. AGree with you sis 100%. I never bothered to learn Arabic before, I was not interested, but only interested in the last 2-3 years. Regret it so much, now it is so hard. Alhamdulillah I can carry a basic conversation and get by in Morocco and understand a lot, read and write. But, rather child like :P I to hope to get kick started and learn Fus-ha so i can understadn the Quran 100% without an aid. In Sha Allah khier

    1. Were you not brought up speaking it Salwa? How are you planning to learn fus-ha?

  3. Fatimah Ghadeer5 August 2013 at 16:15

    Long ago I've read that it's easy for kids to learn (at least) 2 languages if you start with them at early age, there's only one condition for this to work:one parent speaks with the baby in ONE language only and the other speaks with him the other desired language. In your case, I suppose you could speak to Isa in English and your husband can do Spanish (just make sure you don't mix it, like if Juan Carlos decides to speak to him in Spanish he should stick to it for the first few years then when Isa is a little older, like 5 or 6 your husband can speak both languages with him). I think it's worth it. It actually saves so much efforts\time and money! And then when he becomes 7 or something he could start learning Arabic! (remember, the book said they can learn AT LEAST 2 languages), which I suppose an outer source would be teaching him Arabic in your case.
    I do agree that languages are very important, especially in the islamic tradition where we know most of the significant scholars were not Arabs and learnt Arabic and wrote their books and works in Arabic! Actually the most important and famous Arabic linguistic was not an Arab! Also you hafsa are not too old to get back to learning Arabic! Though I agree it takes more efforts when you get older (Turkish is not that difficult for me but I need to continue learning and dedicate myself to it otherwise it'll go away and now I'm worrying what to do in order to improve my Turkish since I finished my advance course 3 months ago.
    As for Hebrew, I can tell you, if you were here you'd have learnt it very easily and fast given the current circumstances, maybe it's the only one advantage of the occupation?
    And as for English, let me just tell you that most people here don't speak it and find it hard even though we start learning English from 10, the curriculum is just rubbish!
    I admit, it is also a matter of interest and skill after all..
    Actually, you do know that even though my English typing is fine but when it comes to speaking it gets harder for me because I don't speak English to anyone here! Although I've studied English since I was 10..
    I think you should focus with Isa on English and Spanish at the moment and don't lose the opportunity to teach him otherwise you'll always regret it, especially that so many countries speak Spanish as their first\second language, it's really worth it.
    And as for yourself, alhamdullilah I graduate in 2 months, so I'll have free time to do Arabic sessions with you if you want,we could do it on a weekly basis or something.. let me know!

    1. Aw thanks for the essay Fatimah lol I don't often get comments on my blog!

      Hmm the problem is Juan isn't fluent in Spanish so it's going to be difficult for him to speak only Spanish to Isa as it's not natural for him for speak it. I hope that if I learn some too and we both speak to him as much as we can, and Juan speaks more Spanish to him since obviously he knows more, iA that will help him learn some at least! There's a baby spanish class here that he can start once a week when he's about 1 year old so I'm planning to take him there too inshaAllah.

      Who was the most famous and important Arabic linguist?

      Lol only advantage of the occupation! maybe! What are you planning to do to keep up your Turkish? That's my problem, I need some sort of structure or goals to meet otherwise I'll never do it, I can't just learn it randomly. I could do classes but I can't afford to at the moment, especially with Isa it's difficult as I couldn't really take him to class with me!

      mashaAllah your English is really good for someone who doesn't get to practise speaking much. Thanks for your offer of help with Arabic, what shall we do though, again we need some sort of structure of else we'll just end up speaking English and chatting and I won't learn anything! I'm thinking that maybe for now I should focus on understanding the Qur'an rather than speaking every day Arabic because it might get confusing to try to learn Spanish at the same time?

  4. Fatimah Ghadeer5 August 2013 at 16:21

    Also check out this program, I think it's really good!

    1. I wish I could have stayed for a year and finished the whole book but it was too expensive unfortunately :(