You may have often heard parents talking to their young children in an exaggerated and overly animated manner. This “baby talk” or in other words; “parentese” or “motherese” is usually the form of language that parents use to teach children learn to talk in the first 1 to 2 years.
While this form of the language may be useful in the initial stages of teaching and learning, it is important to start using a more formal or colloquial form of the English language as soon as it is reasonable to do so. This would usually be sometime between 1.5 to 2 years of age.
Here are some helpful pointers on teaching English at home:
- Do not adjust your natural accent. Teach your child using the natural accent that the rest of the family members speak in at home. This allows children to recognize words easily, instead of having to figure out that 2 different people are actually saying the same word, just pronouncing it differently. This can help a child avoid a lot of frustration when first learning a language.
- Spend one-on-one time teaching your child. Dedicate this time solely for teaching the child. Keep other distractions aside and focus on teaching.
- Adjust the length of the lesson to suit the child’s temperament for the day and level of energy. Do not let teaching sessions degenerate into shouting matches due to fatigue or emotional states.
- Use subject matter that you know will interest your child. If your child likes cars, teach your child by describing the appearance of a car from an advertisement in a magazine. This motivates your child to want to learn the language, so that he/she can access this information directly on his/her own in future.
- Be patient. There are days where your child will learn 5 to 10 new words and days when your child will learn nothing new at all. This is natural and normal!
- Describe, describe, describe! Teach your child to recognize colours, shapes, size and texture. This allows your child to relate to his/her surroundings more easily.
- Repeat lessons. Ask your child to repeat words after you. Gently correct mistakes that your child may make. Making many mistakes is a natural and normal part of learning any new language.
- Speak slowly. Speak carefully. Let your child see how your lips move when you pronounce words. This helps your child to learn by imitation. Facial expressions also help to convey meanings and emotions behind words. Pause and ask questions if your child seems to be lost or confused. Encourage your child to ask questions without being embarrassed.
- Encourage your child to speak. Teaching a child a new language should not be a series of parent to child lectures!
- Parents could also use picture books or draw their own pictures and use these when teaching the child the English language. Parents could also simply search the internet for interesting pictures to use when teaching children.
- If your child has a favourite soft toy, get that involved in the learning experience! Teach your child to say phrases like “Hello, how are you?”, “What is your name?”, etc., and then ask your child to repeat these phrases to the soft toy. You can answer on behalf of the stuffed animal.
- If your child knows more than one language or is growing up in a home where more than one language is frequently spoken, it may at times be useful translate new words between these different languages. However, this should be kept to a minimum.
Above All Else: Encouragement & Praise
Young children appreciate their parents’ praise and compliments. It really does mean a lot to them. Children need to be reminded that they are making progress and congratulated when they try hard. Encouragement motivates the child towards success.
The time will come when a child is able to learn new words on his/her own. In order to get to this stage, the child will need to have a strong foundation of vocabulary so that he/she can understand most what is being read. Once a child reaches that stage, the child will be able to grab a book and exponentially improve his/her proficiency in the language independently!
Brought to you by the KidsEnglishCollege™ Editorial Team.
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