Keeping the Arabic language alive for the next generation

Keeping the Arabic language alive for the next generation

Mama Baba, iza bit reedo (Mummy Daddy, Please) is Sirine Demachkie’s first Lebanese-Arabic children’s book, and the response has been phenomenal.

Having worked widely across the media in both Australia and Dubai for over ten years, Sirine developed a great appreciation of being bilingual and aspires to share this love of language with the next generation of multicultural Australians, starting with her young daughter Elyssa.

Sirine’s book is helping Lebanese families share their language with their young children in order to keep the culture alive across diaspora in countries including Australia, France, Canada and USA.

From generation to generation, there’s almost a gradual relinquishing of our mother tongues.

“I’ve had close friends of mine who I’ve shared the book with and one in particular said it has ignited her daughter’s interest in the language, where she’s now wanting to speak it more at home and asking what certain Arabic words mean,” Sirine explained.

“My friend doesn’t read or write in Arabic so the book has opened up a door for her as a parent to be able to share that language with her children.”

Sirine is one of 28 per cent of Australians born overseas, according to the 2016 national census, and she said she feels extremely fortunate to be able to call two countries home.

“When I’m in Beirut, I’m home, and when I’m here in Australia I’m home, and I get to ebb and flow between the two countries,” she said.

Speaking the language, eating the cuisine, being part of those family traditions and celebrations throughout the year, and being constantly aware of what’s going on in Lebanon as well here in the Lebanese community, really bridges the gap between me and my Lebanese heritage.

In sharing Arabic bedtime stories, Sirine hopes to maintain this culture with her daughter, but she previously found a disconnect between the formal style of language in the books they would read and the conversational Arabic she would use at home.

“I found as I kept on having conversations with more and more people from different backgrounds that they were facing the same issue,” Sirine explained.

“My sister-in-law is Vietnamese and she said when it comes to their children’s books, the language is also quite formal and is not the Vietnamese she speaks everyday, and she doesn’t read and write either, so she asked when I would be doing a Vietnamese transliteration version.”

For now, Sirine is focusing on the Mama Baba series, with her second book having just been completed, and a third and fourth also in the works.

To buy Mama Baba, iza bit reedo, visit Sirine’s website HERE.

Anisha Mistry

As the Editor of CulturalPulse, Anisha is passionate about listening to, writing and sharing stories of Australia's multicultural achievement. Got a story to tell? Get in touch: [email protected]