Learning English as a child can be a slow process. Although the goal of most learners is to apply their skills in the real world, too many young learners are only exposed to English for a short period of time once or twice a week.
Infrequent access isn’t the only issue behind slow progress. By limiting language interactions to a classroom setting, we restrict young learners to impractical sentence patterns and inflexible conversation structures.
One way to learn English faster is daily exposure. By breathing life into this new language, children recognize its importance as a communication tool. In this article, Chatterize interviews four outstanding English as a Second Language instructors- Jojo, Janice, Mandy and Frank – for their tips and tricks around creating an English language environment at home.
1) Prioritize Homework
Homework is the first and most obvious choice. Homework has the benefit of involving parents in their child’s language learning. In the beginning, language learning requires some memorization and, unfortunately, there is no trick for this one. Practice makes perfect, and the best way to get your child to practice is to practice together.
Teacher Jojo Francisco suggests that parents ask their children to transcribe new words and phrases. Jojo believes that, “The physical act of writing helps the child remember the ideas in the lesson.”
2) Review, Review, Review
If your child isn’t old enough to go to school, your role as a parent becomes even more important. The first step is to teach your child some basic words and phrases. If you can’t speak English, don’t despair! There are plenty of language learning apps for children that introduce basic vocabulary, foundational reading skills, pronunciation and phrases.
Teacher Mandy Brooking suggests, “Other things parents can do with their children is review vocabulary and sight words and challenge them to create sentences using them, or to talk about the topic or word by asking them questions about it.”
3) Establish an English-only Policy
Whenever possible, establish a routine for children to use English at a specific time and place every day. For example, create a language corner with books and toys geared towards learning. Make walking into this corner feel like stepping into another country, and you’re a step closer to incentivizing your child on their language learning journey, helping them to learn English faster.
The length of daily practice time can range from 10 minutes- ideal for younger children- to up to one hour per day. Teacher Jojo says, “The parent can schedule an EOP (English Only Policy) for 30 minutes to 1 hour daily, but during this time the parent needs to also speak English. This will support the child’s learning both cognitively and collectively.”
4) Parents Lead by Example
Learning English is a marathon and, as with all things requiring patience and perseverance, frustration will inevitably creep in. Adopt an attitude of determination and positivity around your child’s language learning journey.
“Lead by example! Start a conversation in English with your child. Teach them English vocabulary as you go about your daily activities. Use the new vocabulary in simple sentences that your child may already know. Immersing your child in the language will help them to pick it up quickly,” says teacher Janice.
Remind your child that they can also initiate the conversation. Turn your child’s inquisitive nature into a learning opportunity.
5) Make Reading a Group Activity
Teachers unanimously agree that reading is a proven way to learn English faster. When choosing reading content, be sure to choose something that matches both your child’s level and interest. Teacher Jojo adds, “Reading should always be slightly above the student’s aptitude.” However, parents should be honest with themselves in the assessment of their child’s abilities, otherwise “the student will not be engaged in the learning, thereby making it an exercise in futility,” says Teacher Mandy.
As for suggestions, Teacher Mandy Brooking has quite a few. “Storyline Online is a great site that has people reading a wide variety of books for children at many levels. They are presented on YouTube, with subtitles so that the student can hear for proper pronunciation, and read along. The parent can mute the volume for the student, too, so that they can read what is on the screen independently. For older students, I recommend books that are tailored to their tastes and fluency level. I have recommended to MANY the Harry Potter series. I try to think about books that the student would enjoy, and have even found links to novel studies the parent could use with the student to deepen their understanding of the text.”
Teacher Janice Alguire adds, “If dual language books are available, even better! These can help to reduce frustration and keep your child motivated!”
6) Sing Your Heart Out
If your goal is to motivate your child to speak English, why not use music to learn new words and phrases? Singing is a wonderful alternative to rote memorization.
“For my very young learners that really enjoy singing, I suggest a website called Busy Beavers, which is chock full of songs and colorful videos to help young learners with basic English concepts such as the alphabet, shapes and sounds. Most of its content is free, which is important to me,” says Teacher Mandy.
Another very good free resource is Super Simple Songs on Youtube.
7) Increase the Exposure
Getting comfortable with the phonemic sounds of English can help children become more comfortable in speaking and listening. This stream of language can be as simple as a podcast or music playing in the background. Teacher Frank Noriega says, “I encourage parents to expose their children to English language television programs/channels, to listen to age-appropriate music, and watch YouTube tutorials.”
8) Study Abroad at Home
If you live in a large city and are learning a common language, chances are that a bit of digging will unearth a vibrant expat community. Take advantage of family-centric activities sponsored by international schools and expat groups. Theses activities create the perfect opportunity your child to build culturally diverse friendships, all while practicing English in an immersion environment- the ideal environment to learn English faster.
9) Play Games
Looking for a way to motivate your young learner? Look no further.
For a low-tech solution, games like Hangman and Simon Says are both fun and educational. Just don’t forget to switch roles and give your child the chance to stump you.
As for apps, we recommend those where children practice some speaking, even if it is just repeating words in the beginning. Some commonly used resources are the Duolingo Kids app and Starfall. Lack of confidence in speaking English is an issue that can follow them through adulthood. Getting children used to saying words out loud and building the muscle memory for English pronunciation can have long-term benefits.
Looking to help your child improve their confidence and accelerate their spoken English skills? Chatterize is an AI-based English language learning tool, providing gamified daily conversation opportunities for children from the comfort of home. Want to give it a go? Check our product TalkTown here.