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Fun Books, Audio, Visual & Interactive Language Learning Resources
In this feature we select are some useful language-learning games - but because there aren't that many for Arabic, we've also come up with ideas for making your own Arabic language-learning games.
Elsewhere we've reviewed other
language learning resources, including books, computer language learning programs, audio and audio downloads available online.
Classics are often the best - and you can't beat wood in my opinion! Even if children just build towers from the blocks, they will be gaining some familiarity with the shapes of the Arabic letters.
PLEASE READ SAFETY NOTE ABOUT THIS ARABIC LEARNING TOY!
The amazon description of the Soft Foam Play Mat With Pop-Out Arabic Symbols says that the mat is made from an easy to clean, non-toxic EVA foam.
I would like to be able to recommend this toy because it looks really useful - but I can't, on the basis of an amazon review which calls it 'a toxic product'. I cannot vouch for the accuracy of either of the reviewers involved in this debate on Amazon, but it would be reckless not to acknowledge them:
"According to tests made to this product it contains formamdaida and other toxic chemicals. Not suitable for children."
I am not qualified to comment on this point, but Mr. J. W. Brierley "Walker" (London)
"this review is incorrect - False - and mis-informed. these foam mats - playmats all comply with EU / CE standards EN71. which test for toxicity and harmful chemicals, of which none are present in these products. Anyone wishing to review the tests can do so on the product info / pdf test sheet."
My own comment about this disagreement is to note that: a) Mr. J. W. Brierley had previously given the product a 5-star rave-review, and b) this is the only product Mr. J. W. Brierley has ever reviewed on amazon. This makes me wonder if he has a personal connection with the product.
In conclusion, I would ask anyone who has bought - or considered buying - this product to assure themselves that the product is indeed safe before giving it to a child to play with. Also, if you have any further information I would be glad to hear from you
Sometimes you will see the perfect toy - or one which you think you can adapt. Other times you'll see a wonderful toy or game and the easiest thing to do is to 'borrow' the idea and make your own version from scratch . . . go for it!
Flashcards, pre-reading games and reading games designed for use in English are easily adapted to use with any other language.
Better still, adapt a game designed for learning another foreign language, such as "Snap Cards in French" by Linguaphone.
Orchard Toys have particularly entertaining games which lend themselves admirably to this kind of adaptation: Cherchons Le Mot, Les Courses a Faire or . They are original and fun - and because they are incredibly good value you won't mind sticking labels on them to create the Arabic words where necessary.
Even children who have not started reading yet can learn languages using games based on sound effects.
Crash, Bang, Wallop from Orchard Toys - has a fun cassette tape of household noises. You can adapt the game so that when a child identifies a sound they have to either speak the word in Arabic or pick out the correct word on a flashcard to 'earn' the picture card they need to build their house and get the key to the door.
Living & Learning: Soundtracks from Galt is an audio lotto game - again children listen to sound effects on tape cassette, so adapt it in the same way.
Snap, pelmansim, picture games and other 'matching' games such as Photo Puzzles are extremely adaptable as language learning games. They are useful because they allow children who have not started reading Arabic (or any other language) to start learning languages through pictures.
"Things that go together" is designed for pre-readers, but by writing the Arabic word on the back of each image, you create an attractive self-checking 'related pairs' game for older children.
FOOD GROUP SNAP would be easy to adapt. by putting a Arabic language sticker over the English food name on to the card. Unlike traditional snap, the aim of this game is to match food which are in the same food group, not two identical images. This gives older children more of a challeng (and might inspire you to find ways of adapting other 'babyish' games for an older audience). If you want to use Food Group Snap as a straightforward matching game - either to match the word to the picture, or as a traditional 'snap' 'match the pictures' game for younger children, just buy two packs and mix them. To match the word to the picture, take the second set of cards and write the Arabic word on the back. Use them for 'pelmanism' or snap - one word matches one picture. (For the snap version make sure one player is using the word-side up and the other is using the picture-side up).
Good themes for games include
time or shopping and
food. Often all you need to do is copy or print arabic words and sticking them on the game (or in a picture word book). The shopping list game is useful here - it comes with 'booster sets' of themed words - such as 'clothes'.
Vocabulary building games
Games using rhymes are usually unsuitable, unless they are designed in Arabic, but we haven't come across any which are. Many of the
DK games which are wonderful for English literacy fall into this category.
Phonics games which assemble parts of words into a whole word are seldom directly convertible to Arabic. However, by choosing an image-based phonics game and changing the concept (to use complete words instead of building up whole words from parts of words) you may be able to make use of an attractively designed, appealing (non-phonics) game. If a game breaks words down into sections based on a phonic rule, then you will need to ignore this aspect of the game and just replace the entire word, sticking Arabic labels over the English letter-groups.
Caveat: If you understand how an Arabic word can be 'broken down' then you may be able to adapt games to continue using the same phonics concept that the original game used, but that would require a high level of skill.
Games which require words to be assembled from individual letters - such as scrabble - are usually unsuitable unless they are designed in Arabic - but again, but we haven't found any such.
Sometimes you can write the Arabic words directly on to a game - but using stickers (either hand-written or printed) avoids the potential problem of making a mistake whilst copying.
It is usually easier to print your word as an image, because otherwise you may find that your computer / printer cannot support the Arabic font.
DIY GAMES - FINDING INSPIRATION:
Browsing at the games generally may inspire you to heights of creativity! Here are some ideas that occurred to me as I looked through some of the games available today.
I noticed that there were alphabet stampers for English letters but none for Arabic . . . and I began to wonder how easy it might be to cut the Arabic characters out of a potoato, for old fashioned potoato printing fun! These days you can also get easy-to cut chunky foam which you could stick on to blocks to make good printing shapes.
Use Blank Silver Engraving Art Scraper Foil Boards (copper and glow-in-the-dark boards are available too) or Blank 'Rainbow Underprint Boards' — or even home made multicoloured scraper-sheets (layers with wax crayon topped with a thick layer of black poster paint mixed with washing up liquid). Engrave your own designs by scraping out the shape of an Arabic character - or two, or even a whole word or phrase. You might make a door nameplate for each room - starting with the kitchen where everyone can admire your handiwork!
Inspired by EDX Education - 'First Words Lotto Shapes to Match in a Bag', you could cut out multiples of a few Arabic characters from
Foam sheets or MDF (medium density fibreboard), and put them into a big paper bag and shake. Then see if your child can find two matching characters by feel! You could invent other games to play with the shapes too.
'Blind Snap': Use your cut-out Arabic characters and a blindfold.
'Hide-and-Seek Challenge': Hide all the duplicate characters. Ask a child to find the matching letter. For vocabulary practise, repeat the game with a sequence of letters which spells out a word in Arabic, and challenge your child to discover the word. Later you can give the letters out of sequence, for a bigger challenge.
Similar to the EDX Education Alphabet Lacing Cards draw the Arabic letter shapes on cards and punch holes around the outside edge of the shapes ready for lacing.
To build vocabulary, paint Arabic characters onto big flattish 'beads' with threading holes. Your child can thread the characters on to a string to make up a word / words. Buying beads which are big enough to paint the arabic letter on could be tricky - so buy toy blocks and drill your own hole, or Polystyrene Cubes - again, add a hole.
Alternatively, make your own big flat beads from salt dough, Fimo or papier mache. Remember to make an oversized hole, as it will shrink during drying.
For hands on Arabic writing practise - or to help learn the Arabic alphabet - try drawing the letter shapes in a tray of sand — or be daring and write ion lipstick on the bathroom mirror (but only if you're willing to spend ages cleaning the mirror!).
Cleaner ways to make the shapes are Fimo or Playdough (or other dough) or plasticine
To the following, just add your own imagination:
CD-ROMS enabling you to learn Arabic are available for a variety of learning-styles, and for PCs and MACs.
We recommend some of the most reliable, creative and effective computer programs for language-learning. The renowned language specialist "Rosetta Stone" use a spectacularly effective total immersion system. It is used by universities and embassies the world over, and instruction is available for almost any language from Welsh to French, Tagalog, Chinese or Vietnamese. The price tag reflects the quality of their results!
Vocabulary Builder (flashcard-style learning for young beginners), "Talk Now!" (for beginners), "World Talk" (the next stage on), and "Tell Me more" for more advance language learners, is a series from Euro Talk Interactive which includes high quality interactive games, and even"TV Talk Show" style games. NEW for 2008 is their "Talk More DVD-Video Classical Arabic" to enrich your learning experience.
The Linguaphone Arabic learning system has a more traditional approach.
If you have a GPS system you can buy language learning software to use with it. GPS Language Guides can contain multiple bilingual dictionaries. If there is a voice text interface they also allow you to improve your pronunciation. Phrasebooks for iPods are also now appearing. However, there doesn't appear to be an Arabic version available for either GPS or iPod yet.
Essential Words and Phrases for Absolute Beginners
Newly revised and packaged with two DVDs with both audio and video exercises to accompany the introductory volume for the Al-Kitaab program course in Standard Arabic from Georgetown University.
Learn to recognize and produce both letters and sounds accurately through a variety of exercises designed to develop listening, reading, and writing skills.
These two DVDs includes 150 basic vocabulary words in authentic contexts, and video footage of an Arabic calligrapher, a large collection of street signs, social greetings, capsules on Arab culture, and an English-Arabic glossary.
Intended as a first reader in Egyptian-Arabic drama for European students, these five short one act plays are bi-lingual - transcribed in Roman characters. Each play has passages which are awkward to interpret, so explanatory footnotes are provided to help with passages which cannot be readily looked up in existing dictionaries.
The preface introduces the genre and includes bibliographical hints for further study.