A child’s language learning is an exciting time for both parents and children. It is a wonderful way to improve communication between family members, increase understanding of the world around them, and eventually be able to express themselves in English. While speaking in a second language may feel awkward at first, with the right help it becomes much easier over time.
A child’s first language can often be his or her most difficult one to learn. You’ve probably seen the look of frustration on your child’s face when they’re trying to communicate with you in English. The good news is that English is a very intuitive language, and it can be learned with a little practice. The bad news is that children tend to outgrow their native language by the time they are 5 years old, so you’ll need to work quickly.
Children must learn a second language at school. However, it is not that easy to achieve. A child must first pick up the second language and then keep learning it every day at home. The more they practice, the better they become. Here are some tips on how you can help your child learn English in an efficient manner.
If you are a parent, and you’re worried about your child’s English skills, here are some simple tips to help them improve their language skills. Your child may be able to learn more effectively if they know the rules and methods that are used in learning foreign languages. You can help your child learn English by giving them the right tools.
1. Get them English versions of their favourite books
If reading in English is something your child sees as a chore, an easy way to make it more fun for them is to get them their favourite books in English. A remarkable number of popular favourites have been translated, and it may well be that their favourite book was actually written in English originally.
2. Learn a language alongside them
If you’re reading this article, chances are your own English is already pretty good, and trying to improve it alongside your child might end up being disheartening rather than encouraging. But it can be helpful to learn a different language, so that’s you’re learning at the same rate – or your child ends up out-pacing you, which can be gratifying for them. You can compare the vocabulary and structure of the different languages that you’re learning, set each other challenges and generally turn the process of language-learning into a fun and slightly competitive activity, rather than a chore.
There’s nothing that will pile on the pressure like saying that you’re learning another language in order to support your child, though, so keep that to yourself. This tip is best followed if learning another language is something that you were planning on doing anyway, with learning alongside your child being the thing that spurs you into action. Other European languages such as German, French, Dutch and Spanish are likely to be particularly complementary choices, and easier for an English speaker to pick up.
3. Do easy tasks in English and use English for straightforward things
Requiring your child to talk to you in English at set times – such as mealtimes – is a popular tip, but that can feel stressful for them, both in terms of the pressure to do well and the frustration if they struggle to express themselves fully. At earlier learning stages, they might not have enough vocabulary to respond properly, so you end up following a textbook conversation rather than communicating meaningfully. That’s the opposite of making learning a language fun.
What you can do that’s much lower pressure is use English for really straightforward things. For instance, basic instructions that don’t require a response, or only need a yes or no answer, can be communicated in English. That’s things like “I’m going shopping, would you like to come with me?” or “your grandma is coming round later” – statements that use introductory vocabulary and therefore can easily be understood. That way, they’re still listening to English being spoken and therefore learning, but it’s not going to be hard work for them. Think about it like practising driving: you wouldn’t take them on the motorway and insist they manage, but you might let them practise by driving you down quiet roads to the shops.
Once they’ve gained a little more vocabulary, you can try out doing straightforward tasks in English as well, such as cooking or playing sports. These tasks involve a relatively limited range of vocabulary that you could get into the habit of saying in English, and your child could respond to you in English or in their native language as suits them best.
4. Don’t discourage them from learning other languages
There’s often a fair amount of pressure placed on kids not to learn other languages, but if that becomes their language then they’re blocking off the possibility of learning English purely by osmosis.
The result is pretty disastrous for their foreign language abilities: you see children with neither proficiency in nor interest in speaking or understanding any foreign language attempting instead to speak perfect English (who can blame them; it would be worth doing even if it was just for English class).
5. Set technology, such as games consoles, to English
Admittedly, following this tip is a good way to ensure that your child’s English-language vocabulary leans more towards ‘level up’ and ‘game over’ than the kind of thing that might be useful in their future career, but any practice is good practice, and switching technology into English is a low-pressure way to surround your child with the language. It may well be that some items of technology default to English anyway, so you won’t have to put much effort into changing them.
If your child isn’t a big gamer, other ideas include social media accounts like Facebook or even their own mobile phone, if they’re confident enough that they’ll still be able to understand anything. The biggest commitment would be switching over something like a laptop, but unless they’re already familiar with specialist terms in English, that can be more of a challenge. You May Like improve your English with video games.