Bilingual Children’s Books

I thought it would be nice to buy our two nieces in Bangladesh these bilingual Bengal-English children’s books. I got them The Very Hungry CaterpillarThe Giant Turnip, and We’re Going on a Bear Hunt. Unfortunately, The Giant Turnip is not the cute version my 2nd grade class read with all the animals. It is an adaptation that left out all the animals. I don’t actually like it, but I’m not going to return it. My nieces should still find it helpful for practicing reading in English.

While I was at it, I also bought Baby Are You My Baby? in Arabic. I have to say here that we are not an Arabic speaking family. My husband and I can both read Arabic to recite Quran, and we know some basic grammar and phrases, and that is about the extent of our fluency. Not being Quran or written for learners (even though it’s a baby board book?), Are You My Baby? lacks the diacritical marks to tell you how to pronounce the vowels, so I looked them all up online before reading it to Baby for the first time.

She loves it. I was reading it to her in Arabic. It starts out with the Papa dog asking, “Are you my baby?” Then the next page has a picture of a donkey, and the donkey says, “No!” Then there is a flap with the picture of a puppy, and the puppy says, “Yes.” So, I was reading it to her (in Arabic) and I when we lift up the flap to reveal the puppy, I hear her gasp in delight and look back and forth between the dog and the puppy. She realized that the dog and the puppy went together. She understood the whole point of the story, and I wasn’t even reading it to her in our language.

I’m not really fluent in Bengali either. I understand a fairly good amount, but my speaking skills are behind. I still try to speak with Baby in Bengali sometimes, and her reaction amuses me. For example, today I said to her, “You have to get dressed and put on some nice clothes.” Then I said, “Shoondor jama.” She grinned at me. This is her typical reaction when I speak Bengali. She grins or laughs like it is a very amusing game between the two of us.


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