The Importance of Teaching Modern Standard Arabic to Native Arabic-Speaking Children

The Importance of Teaching Modern Standard Arabic to Native Arabic-Speaking Children

24 Jun 2024

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This informal CPD article, ‘The Importance of Teaching Modern Standard Arabic to Native Arabic-Speaking Children’, was provided by International Language Experts, who organise language training for companies and individuals. 

Modern Standard Arabic (MSA) serves as the linguistic foundation for the Arab world, transcending regional dialects and providing a unifying mode of communication. For native Arabic-speaking children, learning MSA is crucial not only for cultural and linguistic reasons but also for cognitive development. This article explores the significance of teaching MSA to native Arabic-speaking children and the cognitive benefits associated with mastering this standardized form of the language.

Linguistic and Cultural Significance

MSA is the formal language used in media, literature, education, and formal settings across Arab countries. It is derived from Classical Arabic, the language of the Quran, and holds a prestigious status in Arab culture. Proficiency in MSA allows children to access a vast array of cultural and historical texts, fostering a deeper understanding of their heritage. It also equips them with the language skills necessary for academic and professional success in a globalized world.

Cognitive Development Benefits

1. Enhanced Executive Function:

Learning MSA, alongside their native dialect, engages children in complex cognitive processes. This dual-language environment enhances executive function, which includes skills such as problem-solving, task switching, and inhibitory control (Bialystok, 2011). These skills are crucial for academic success and everyday decision-making.

2. Improved Metalinguistic Awareness:

Metalinguistic awareness refers to the ability to think about and manipulate language structures. Children who learn MSA develop a heightened awareness of language mechanics, as they navigate the differences and similarities between MSA and their regional dialects (Karmiloff-Smith, 1992). This awareness fosters analytical thinking and improves their ability to learn additional languages.

3. Cognitive Flexibility:

Cognitive flexibility is the ability to switch between thinking about two different concepts or to think about multiple concepts simultaneously. The process of learning and using MSA alongside a colloquial dialect enhances cognitive flexibility (Adesope et al., 2010). This skill is beneficial not only in language learning but also in adapting to new situations and learning new tasks.

4. Enhanced Memory:

Learning MSA requires memorization of vocabulary, grammar rules, and syntactic structures. This extensive memorization strengthens both short-term and long-term memory capabilities. Research indicates that bilingual individuals often have better memory retention due to the constant practice of recalling and using multiple language systems (Craik & Bialystok, 2006).

5. Improved Reading Skills:

Proficiency in MSA significantly enhances reading skills. Since MSA is the language of written texts, children proficient in it can access a broader range of reading materials. This exposure to diverse texts improves their reading comprehension, vocabulary, and overall literacy skills (Saiegh-Haddad & Geva, 2008). Moreover, reading in MSA prepares children for academic texts they will encounter in higher education.

Practical Implementation

To maximize the cognitive and educational benefits, the implementation of MSA instruction should be systematic and engaging. Educational programs should integrate MSA in a way that is interactive and contextually relevant. Teachers can use stories, games, and multimedia resources to make learning MSA enjoyable and effective. Additionally, creating an immersive language environment where MSA is used in daily classroom interactions can reinforce learning.


Teaching Modern Standard Arabic to native Arabic-speaking children is vital for their cultural identity and cognitive development. The cognitive benefits, such as enhanced executive function, metalinguistic awareness, cognitive flexibility, memory, and reading skills, underscore the importance of incorporating MSA into their education. By fostering proficiency in MSA, educators can equip children with the linguistic and cognitive tools they need for future academic and professional success.

We hope this article was helpful. For more information from International Language Experts, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively, you can go to the CPD Industry Hubs for more articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.


Adesope, O. O., Lavin, T., Thompson, T., & Ungerleider, C. (2010). "A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Cognitive Correlates of Bilingualism." (“Applying meta-analysis to research on bilingualism: An introduction”) *Review of Educational Research*, 80(2), 207-245.

Bialystok, E. (2011). Reshaping the Mind: The Benefits of Bilingualism. *Canadian Journal of Experimental Psychology/Revue canadienne de psychologie expérimentale*, 65(4), 229.

Craik, F. I., & Bialystok, E. (2006). Cognition through the lifespan: mechanisms of change. *Trends in Cognitive Sciences*, 10(3), 131-138.

Karmiloff-Smith, A. (1992). *Beyond Modularity: A Developmental Perspective on Cognitive Science*. MIT Press.

Saiegh-Haddad, E., & Geva, E. (2008). Morphological awareness, phonological awareness, and reading in English-Arabic bilingual children. *Reading and Writing*, 21(5), 481-504.

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For more information from International Language Experts, please visit their CPD Member Directory page. Alternatively please visit the CPD Industry Hubs for more CPD articles, courses and events relevant to your Continuing Professional Development requirements.

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