Teaching young children to speak English can be challenging for parents because kids cannot be easily convinced to sit down in one place and memorise vocabulary or grammar rules from textbooks. Children almost expect to be taught in unique, interactive, engaging and fun ways. However, many parents are not able to teach English to their children at home, even though they would really like to.
The reasons for this can be many:
1. Not enough time
2. No confidence (in both parents and child)
3. No language mastery (parent)
4. No knowledge of tools or teaching methods
The above list is not exhaustive. Many parents look for “plug and play” solutions or end up spending money on English tutors or enrichment classes. There definitely are upsides and advantages to these various approaches, but by far the most effective way to accelerate a child’s mastery of the English language is to create an immersive language learning experience within the home, since this is where the child usually spends most of his or her time anyway.
Why Should English Be Taught To Young Children?
Even if English is not the native language of your country, English is without doubt the most used language in the corporate world. Teaching the language to your child allows your child to develop a flexible mind which improves critical thinking and general problem solving skills. Most people are fluent in their native languages not because they intentionally developed their mastery but simply because they started using the language when they were very young and were immediately immersed in the use of the language in their everyday lives. If English is the native language of your country, then there is an all the more pressing need to ensure your children gains mastery of the language as soon as possible.
Here are a few tips to help you get your child to start speaking English at home:
1. Establish a routine: If you are introducing the use of the English language at home, you can try to set aside a specific time everyday where English is the only “allowed” language in the house. For example you could set a rule that every Saturday morning – only English will be spoken at home, only English shows will be watched on television, only English books or newspapers will be read and only English songs will be played on the radio. You can keep this up until your child gains confidence in the use of the language.
2. Introduce new words to children every day. This could be done by reading an English bedtime story or even by watching an English cartoon every day. As the child gets exposed to the same words repetitively, they will intuitively understand grammar rules and common phrases. In fact, repetition is an important aspect of language learning, even for adults.
3. Play games in English; like charades, Happy Family or Snap. You can also use flash cards to keep your child engaged. On our site, you can find free downloadable flashcards on a wide range of topics in our Teaching Tools section. We also have a wide range of electronic flash cards ideal for creating a unique learning experience for your child.
4. Keep things fun, because children learn effectively when they are having fun, so you can also try games like Monopoly, Scrabble, Snakes & Ladders, Hangman or Pictionary. You can also use online games that have been designed to increase a child’s mastery of English.
5. Use everyday situations as lessons. Turn mundane activities you do at home into learning experiences. For example, you can provide a running commentary in English when you are doing something so that your children will learn how to construct sentences. For example, as you get dressed you can make comments such as “This is my hat”, “That pair of socks belong to your mother”, “Let’s close the cupboard door” or “We need to clean the house today”.
6. Use songs. Songs are a good way to keep your children engaged and entertained while they learn new vocabulary and phonics. However, since many song artists bend grammar rules in their songs, parents will need to be mindful to point out wrong grammar use in songs to their children.
7. Use story books. Parents can squeeze out more learning value from story books if they do more than just read to the children. They can pick pictures from the books and ask children to identify the items or they can ask questions about the pictures. This encourages children to think about the information that is being presented to them. This in turn encourages them to think in the language, which is essential to accelerate language learning.
In conclusion, parents cannot solely depend on the education system to build their child’s mastery in the English language. Parents should provide children with a safe environment at home to build their confidence in the use of the language while keeping in mind that all children develop and learn at different speeds.
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