children, Urdu

The toddler’s education in Urdu (more)

I showed Raihana a spider yesterday and called it “makree” (in Urdu). Because I was trying to occupy her and keep her in the high chair for a meal, I had a brief conversation with her about the makree. In part this was because the makree gave me the heebie-jeebies something awful: this was no beloved daddylonglegs. This had the crab-like appearance of the bad ones, and the very solid torso and the defined legs, as it sat in the middle of its web – which was clearly outlined in the middle of the glass door. We had abbu kill the spider, because after all, in Georgia we have heard of some local spiders being so venomous that they have caused someone’s mother’s face to become partially paralyzed for life.

Anyway, today I was keeping her occupied at breakfast (an unsuccessful attempt: she docilely accepted food but kept it accumulated like nuts in a squirrel’s mouth). So the makree came up again as a topic of conversation in my sleepy mind. Raihana immediately turned to look at the glass door.

One mention of the spider, a new word, and she had retained it. (Good Lord, I’d better stop using the bad words when she drives me out of my mind.) She really is a sponge right now (as her Montessori teacher mentioned today). Her teacher at school told me that Raihana said “lunch is ready” (in garbled toddler style) on seeing the lunch-lady.

Until now I’ve been focusing on babytalk and providing a limited number of essential small words: milk, food, come, etc. Now I’ve changed my strategy and am having sentence-long conversations with her (all in Urdu) because I do believe she’s gone beyond (in terms of reception) babytalk. She may not be producing much language right now, but she’s processing it. This is an exciting time.

And as I said in my last post, there is so much lost potential in terms of educational materials – I mean for URDU. She can watch Little Bear on DVD (in English), she can play with foam letters (in English), she can read an array of books (in English), she can hear songs (in English – except when she hears my old Indian and Pakistani songs). Where is all the material we need in Urdu? The British and American immigrants from Pakistan (of the 60s) are already having grandchildren, and we are still so far behind. Arabic, of course, there is some more of.

But somebody point me in the direction of Urdu foam letters, blocks with Urdu letters, Urdu board books–and not the bilingual board books which have English in bold script and Urdu below in smaller script; even these (the “Elmer” books, for instance) often feature indifferent translations, as I complained to one publisher (Milet) recently.

As for the materials produced in Pakistan, to date all I have are the alphabet qaa’idas. Most of them are not board books, and bound to be ripped apart by a moderately determined toddler. The storybooks I’ve seen so far are not great, and are also made of flimsy material, though I hope to see better stuff soon.

I brought home a tape of “tot-batot” songs (poems for children by the poet Sufi Tabassum), but sadly the production value is not really great. The music and rhythm are not attractive or catchy for a child – in fact they seem more grownup-like than anything else.

If anyone has anything better, please let me know.

13 thoughts on “The toddler’s education in Urdu (more)”

  1. I’ve been using the stuff put out by mantralingua publishers. It’s not board books, but it’s good translations of Eric Carle books. Cheapest distributors in the US are Also got, through them, a board book in Gujarati, Head and Shoulders, Knees and Toes. No metrical retention at all, but all the words are there.

  2. I had someone bring me Urdu dubbed cartoon DVDs from Pakistan. They came out to be a rip off as most were only captioned and that too in Chinese. They did bring some very colorful story books and they do help. I had forgotten that a swan is called a ‘Rajhuns’

  3. You could always try approaching an E2L specialist in education (via email) in the UK, who supports bilingual approaches. Eve Gregory is meant to be a really nice person, I’ve been told. And being a prof academic means that, unlike the riff raff, you’ll almost certainly get your email answered! 🙂

  4. aadaab arz hai!

    Sorry, totally unrelated, but I was wondering if I can cross-post your article I am a walking religion at our group blog

    It is a post that I totally identify with and I am sure many others would. We would obviously provide full acknowledgment and a link back to your blog.

    Please let me know if this works for you.

    Thanks a lot,

  5. ah! yeah, i am asking my mom to look into board books and other such kid-friendly leaning tools for urdu and arabic. musa now says “dudhu” (usually while pulling my hijab up from my chest in public), “aajo” and “anda”, his total urdu vocabulary, which with me as a mom is pretty impressive 🙂 oh and today he heard me calling my mom “ammi” on the phone and he said it too! which of course put her over the moon 🙂
    it IS an exciting time. except i have to tell usman not to say “nurse” when he’s antsy in the car, because he knows the word and will immediately start wailing to nurse while strapped in his carseat…

  6. I saw, on ebay once, plastic magnetic script characters. They probably look really bad, as in not very accurate, but I thought they were neat. Of course, my husband saw no need for me to purchase them. Long back I found a site that had kids’ books in different languages. I’ll try and find it again. A book I bought for my granddaughter is called HAIR by Kate Petty. While it’s English, it’s valuable in that it teaches very young children the wonder of different cultures, via hairstyles (which is a subject which appeals to young kids very early.) Ally loved the book, and it was lost in moving, so I have to replace it for her. Check it out.

  7. Unicef has these cartoons i think they’re called maina ki kahaani but they’re mainly to raise awareness about social issues amongst children.
    But once she’s older, shafeeq ur rehman’s afsaanay, esp. nanaanway not out and chacha chakkan are highly recommended!

  8. My daughter now 2, is doing pretty good with urdu so far. She enjoys Jhoolnay by soofi tabassum and urdu qaida, offcourse its not zaeef for her yet just budhay baba. We have just been talking in urdu at home and she has been picking up.

  9. I’m born and Bred in UK, but Fluent in Urdu. I am a Lecturer of IT and English and also Teach Urdu.

    I Create and sell Personalised materials for English, IT and Urdu.

    So if anyone requires them, Do get in touch.

    The materials are personalised and I carter for people on individual bases.

    My learners or their parents, carers contact me, tell me their age and level (if any) and i design materials according to that.

    Before i prepare the materials, I usually take a short test with learners who have Basic or strong Urdu so i can assess their Urdu.


  10. My daughter is a year old and she is part Pakistani and part white. I’ve been searching for a while for some kind of DVD or CD’s that will teach her Urdu. I tend to steer away from books because I don’t speak Urdu myself. If anyone knows where I can get something to teach her and I both how to at least speak Urdu that would be great. Ideally I’d like her to be able to read and write in Urdu as well. I find plenty of tools for Arabic which I plan on introducing to her soon. Anyone know of anything?

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