The other day, a seemingly small thing brought about faded memories and a sense of loss for what I had thought was a timeless activity. What brought about all this concern, you ask? Well, the surprising answer is a basic, paper form.
Yes, I had to fill out a form the other day by hand (the horror!); it was not a lengthy document and it was simply asking for my personal details and contact information. Ten minutes later, by the time I was signing my signature at the end, my fingers were literally cramping and my handwriting hardly legible. I was perplexed – how could my fingers ache and my script look so terrible after such little handwriting?
In the Middle East, writing has not only dwindled but the actual use of Arabic letters is fading rapidly amongst Arabs. The origins of the problem are the fact that many are not used to typing in Arabic, so they take a long time just to find where a letter is on the keyboard. Switching the language of the keyboard from English to Arabic and then back is cumbersome and so many just avoid it all together. But what about letters that have no English equivalent? Well, they’re substituted by numbers. For example, grapes in Arabic would be written as “3inab” the first letter actually a guttural sound that is similar to “e” but not exactly.
So now, I pose to you a question – when was the last time that you wrote more than a few sentences down with pen and paper? Keep thinking… go on, I’ll wait…
The truth is, for most of you it was probably so long ago, that you do not even remember. In this day and age, almost everything – from our reporting to note-taking – has gone digital.
What does this mean for the old-fashioned art of writing and what is the best way to teach the younger generation?
In this day and age, almost everything – from our reporting to note-taking – has gone digital.
Did you know that many schools have stopped teaching cursive handwriting and some do not focus on handwriting at all and instead, put emphasis on typing skills? Despite this, research shows that the cognitive process behind typing is drastically different from writing. While more in-depth studies need to be conducted, a report stated that the “physical action of forming letters while writing by hand is important in helping the brain to remember the letters that are written.” Children tend to memorize and recognize letters better when writing them down as opposed to typing.
Using our hands to write with pens and pencils aids in learning and language development due to its sensory and motor aspects – it can improve how you develop and express your ideas and may also aid the development of fine motor skills. Overall, writing by hand engages the brain more than typing does.
All of this information goes for children and adults alike. So if you are looking to learn a language – whether it is your mother tongue or a foreign one – it’s better to learn by writing and tracing rather than just reading and typing. Writing by hand is considered a good cognitive exercise and preliminary research supports that you will learn better and faster if you use this method of learning.
However – even with the onslaught of technology, computers, tablets and such, it is found that some apps are actually helping with the seemingly retro, but increasingly important activity of writing. There are now apps in which you use a stylus or an Apple Pencil to write on the screen – therefore promoting the skill of writing by hand. There are also apps that help children and adults learn new characters by instructing them to trace letters on the screen using their finger. AppyKids’ app for learning how to write Arabic, Zee’s Alphabet – زي حروف. The Arabic alphabet app teaches how to write the Arabic letters by directing you to trace them multiple times – therefore, supporting the physical act of writing and, according to the research, increasing retention.
So, don’t give up on handwriting just yet – make sure you emphasize the importance of writing skills to your children and that they get enough practice. Given all this information, I know my next to-do list will definitely be written down with a paper and pen!