We are in 2021 and nobody needs to explain the importance of English as a global language and lingua franca. Post WW2 French got replaced with English and it is here to stay. You can’t refute that English fluency is one of the most sought-after skills in the current market and is not a luxury anymore but a need. It also is a very fundamental factor in the personality development of growing kids today. No wonder parents want their children to be able to speak and write in English fluently. The whole idea is to make them so confident in English that it acts as a stepping stone to success in the child’s future. Now teaching a language to someone which is not their mother tongue might seem like a task. But kids are fast learners. Their mind is like wet clay and can be shaped very easily in the growing years. Now a lot of parents do the mistake of trying to teach this new language to kids in a formal way as you would teach an adult. And that is where it becomes a cumbersome process for the child as well as the parent. Read further to know how to make this process less boring for kids so they take an interest in grasping it.
Make it fun
Allow them to get comfortable with the language without the pressure of learning the language. The fun way is the way to go about when teaching anything to anyone, not just to children. It becomes less of a task and more of a fun activity to do that isn’t boring and kids will be motivated to do it already without you tugging on them. Make it into a game, turn it into a painting or art-craft activity, make a fun video reciting poem or song and share it with family and friends. But all of this is in English. Kids won’t even notice this is a part of learning.
Incorporate reading habit
Reading increases a child’s exposure to the language. It is also a powerful language learning technique an excellent way to sneak in some vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structures. Students who read can speak more fluently than ones who don’t. You can start by reading bedtime stories and then get them their fav comic books, visual storybooks, or even newspaper and magazines; whatever that they would prefer to read. With reading, you inculcate a habit in a child which works exponentially as they grow. The only thing you need to do is get them started.
Everyone loves watching TV shows and movies. Entertainment is a significant aspect of life. Considering we spend so much time in this activity, it seems easy to turn it into a medium to develop language skills, without the kids even knowing it, make it entertaining. Consuming content in the English language will expose children to newer aspects of language in a very organic way which we intentionally cannot make them learn; like pronunciations, intonations, tones, etc. Cartoons, Songs, Movies, TV shows, Documentaries; you are spoilt for options here. Just make sure they are appropriate and screened according to the age of your child.
Motivate instead of discouragement
Encourage your children to communicate in English at home by making it a habit. So many simple yet interesting conversations take place at home itself. You can involve your child in it and turn the language button to English, voila! This will help develop conversation skills and allow them to gain confidence to speak the language in public eventually. Also, avoid correcting them harshly. It’s a learning process and initially, they will make a lot of mistakes. But if you correct your child every time he/she makes mistake while trying to attempt to talk or write English they might feel embarrassed or even discouraged from attempting it in the future. It will only lead them to be upset and demotivated. It is your responsibility as a parent to correct them without upsetting them.
This is an exciting way to inculcate English in a fun way in kid’s minds. This will enhance vocabulary as children will seek out words enthusiastically as a part of the game. Pictionary, Taboo, Scrabble, Boggle, what am I? and many more. You don’t have to follow a pre-existing game, you can make one yourself; reading out name plates-boards you see during car/train journey; googling names of ingredients of a recipe you are cooking, on a nature walk pointing out names of birds-insects-trees. These kinds of interesting activities help them learn in a relaxed way without any pressure to learn and feeding their curiosity at the same time.
When you start learning any language organically, like your mother tongue, you don’t learn the grammar first. You just learn from repeating and constantly hearing similar words and basic sentence structures of that language and that is true for learning English as well. Grammar will be taught to children in school when they are in a position to grasp technicalities. So initially don’t fuss so much about correcting their grammar, just focus on using the right grammar in front of them yourself so they understand what sounds more right generally. And for children who are learning grammar at school, you can try subtly correcting them instead of pointing out their mistakes harshly always. You don’t want to bore your child with grammar lessons constantly else they will start hating it which will do no one any good.
Being exposed to certain things impact you in a way that you don’t even understand. Why not utilize this tactic to ingrain the English language in kids? This might not sound like a regular technique out of a textbook to learn a new language. But think about it and you will understand that it makes a lot of sense. Honestly, the incredible way our brain works is mind-boggling. All you have to do is put on Radio, Podcasts, Songs, Rhymes, or Poems in English in the background when your child is around. Even an audio recipe while you are cooking something together can work.
Technology in English
Today every form of technology comes with customizable language options. Make English your operational language for all devices and technology; TV, iPad, Laptops, Cell phones, etc. This might seem extremely frivolous but consider it as sneaking in some contact with the language unknowingly. And children learn gadgets so fast these days out of curiosity that your aim will be fulfilled in no time. It can sure be a starting point.
Often screen time is worried to be wasted time. But if you look at it as a way to incorporate English language skills in your child then boom, you have hit the jackpot. Videos can be quite stimulating for curious minds. Child-friendly channels can be watched even without parental supervision. YouTube also has great content for children but it is preferable to be watched under parental guidance. Overdoing anything doesn’t yield any good but moderation can work wonders.
Do it yourself too
Children follow in your footsteps. What better way to lead them than by example. Also, it’s a great way to spend time together with your little ones and build a positive attitude towards learning English. To find games, activities, and ways in day-to-day life which you and your kids can utilize to learn new aspects of this fun language together and grow as a family.
Give your children a comfortable space where they are not embarrassed or afraid thinking they will make mistakes. They need to know that they can make mistakes while trying their hand at a new language and can learn from those mistakes as well. Convey to your kids that they aren’t be put under pressure to be correct but can practice freely and explore the language however they would like. Let them know that making mistakes is normal and an important part of learning anything, be it the English language or just about anything. After all, practice makes man perfect and everyone learns at their speed. So don’t try to haste them up in the process, give them their time, every child learns at a different pace, all you need to do is support them. And when your kid starts showing improvement in English skills, reward and appreciate them for all their efforts. This will act as a positive reinforcement which pushes the kids to do more and better ahead.