English for kids – Part II

Ultima modifica 6 Novembre 2015


English begins at home.

From a very early stage have your child listen to English nursery rhymes. Decide when, let’s say, Friday, Saturday and Sunday as part of the child’s bedtime ritual. Leave on low recordings of bedtime stories by female voices (easier for the very young ear to assimilate) while the child is sitting in his chair or napping.

Watch out for your child’s favourite cartoon. He will become fond of one in particular, and let him watch it as often as he wants. Don’t insist that he pays special attention because it’s the English cartoon or worry if he prefers to go out to play. Just leave it on as background noise. As I said, it’s a commitment and there will be days when you really think it’s a waste of time and effort. It’s your decision. Children accept the rules their parents set down for them. They won’t mind if they learn English or if they don’t. They will mind if things associated with English are stressful.

At the same time let him hear “real people” speaking English.  He mustn’t think that English is in some way connected to the world of cartoons and fairy land. Most people have access to English speaking channels and there is no shortage of material for children of all ages. Children must  hear the various shades of language: anger, joy, fear, excitement, anticipation. Leave Youtube is a great source of material. Advertisements, too, offer another source of authentic language. News channels on in the background. The intonation is perfect and the content is good for your learning process! One of the weaknesses of school English is that, removed from any real context, it loses its essence – the communication of our sentiments.

Use your own English, whatever level it’s at. Read simple books and read them over and over. Children don’t tire of repetition. Learn rhymes to share with your child. Don’t be afraid to do what you’re asking him to do!

Your home is a great language laboratory. Post English words on furniture and utensils in the child’s room and in the bathroom. The child can’t read the word but can associate the paper with the object. Use coloured post-its. For example, green for nouns, red for verbs, blue for adjectives, We “see” words in Technicolor!

Keep this part of your family life intimate and share it only with people who may be in your home during “English times” or who may be doing the same and who won’t make a big issue of it.

Don’t make your child perform in English.  The child doesn’t know he’s doing anything out of the ordinary and might see this request as a kind of test.

Don’t make his progress a topic of conversation in his presence. This, too, can confuse a child.

When your child starts school he will likely be with children who also have some knowledge of English. Let the teacher find out about your child’s background in the class context and without your intervention. Your child will be much happier when he comes home and tells you this “news”. Don’t interfere with what the teacher does in class. Avoid creating a mechanism where the very young child associates English with a “school” structure. It doesn’t matter that your child already knows the colours or whatever. Don’t fuss.. He will learn words associated with the topic his classmates are studying. Concentrate on the parenting and leave the “teaching” to the teacher!

As we said, the younger the better. However, you can start this language journey now no matter what age your child is.

Your own English will improve as your child is growing up. You will soon begin to enjoy films together, maybe with sub-titles. (For your benefit, not for his!) You will find that he has been assimilating more than you have and you mustn’t resent this because that’s the nature of things.  Over the years you will travel abroad together and he will be more at ease with English speakers than you can ever be. Then when he reaches his teens you can consider yours “a job well done” because you will finally see the fruits of your investment.

As I said “a few lessons” is not really the best solution.

Frances Fahy

 

2 COMMENTS

  1. Very good article, and a very topical as well. Many Italian families strive to bring up their children with at least some English notions these days, and I agree that this can be done in a fun and playful way. I think this is the key: one should never put the child in a contrived situation where it’s not natural for them to speak English (eg, “Now mummy decides that you m.u.s.t. speak English, even though mummy’s native language is Italian and she never speaks English to anyone else!”O_o), and the more opportunities one has to come into contact with native speakers, the more spontaneous the whole process will be.

    • Hi Sfolli. Thank you for taking the time to comment on the second part of the article English for Kids. Great to get positive feedback on such a divisive topic. I wish people would just remember the three words you mentioned: fun, playful, spontaneous. They say it all.
      Best regards
      Frances

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