English is the most commonly used language in the world. Statistically at present, there are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world who speak English and surprisingly majority of them aren’t native English speakers.
As a parent, it is vital to recognize the importance and advantages of being able to speak and understand a language as crucial as English. Learning a language takes years but for children it is easier than you think. The reason being that young children are not formally instructed the way adults are; kids absorb the language the way it is used and spoken in their familiar environment. Moreover, they are not being judged based on their grammatical mistakes or mispronunciations, etc. which gives them a positive environment to learn.
People who reside in countries, where English is not the first language, understand the significance of learning it in the early stage but they do not know how to begin or what they can do to make English learning easy for their child.
Not to worry, in this article we have listed various ways you, as a parent, can make this language learning simple and fun for your kids.
Using English in day-to-day life
Just like your native language, make English a part of your daily life. Don’t treat it as a foreign language instead make the learning process more natural by using everyday situations such as –
(i) Ask your child what they would like to wear (e.g., green t-shirt or blue jeans, etc.)
(ii) Practise the names of objects around the house like bed, lamp, kitchen utensils, etc.
(iii) Make them say the names of his/her toys. You can also teach them what a particular toy does by demonstrating, for example, if the child sees you moving the airplane toy to and for in the air, next time, they will imitate you and, in the process, learn that an airplane flies in the air.
(iv) When at the supermarket, ask them to find certain items.
(v) Food vocabulary can be a fun activity. What you can do is place a bunch of fruits/vegetables in front of your child and ask them if they know what it is. Also, let the kid taste it. This way, he/she can learn to associate the names of different fruits/vegetables with how they taste.
Keep them talking
Initiating a conversation is difficult for young children so you need to keep talking with them in English. Ask them what they would like to do in the evening or which rhyme is their favourite (and you can ask them to sing it too) and try to emphasize but do not pressurize them to answer in English. For instance, if they are replying with incorrect grammar then do not fuss over it. Let small mistakes go.
Understand their strengths and weaknesses
Understand what your child can or cannot do. Knowing your child’s abilities and limitations is helpful when you are planning to teach them English. Don’t let the fact that they can’t read or write or sometimes barely even talk discourage you. This is just the beginning and they have a long way to go so be patient. Continue to tutor them in fun ways and soon you will see improvements every time you see them.
Learning through picture books
Kids love bright and colourful books. Use them to make your child learn about birds, flowers, animals, etc. Point at a picture and say what it is and let your kid repeat after you.
Kids love to play and if you want your child to enjoy learning English then why not mix the two! You can try playing these games –
(i) Find that colour – simply ask your child to point at the said colour, that is, you can say “find something black”. Once they recognise the colour, you can add more detail like “bring me a blue pencil.”
(ii) I spy – an interesting game to play while travelling. You can start with “I spy with my little eye something beginning with B” and your kids will have to guess the answer by looking out the window. For beginners, you can give more clues to make it easier to guess.
(iii) Pictionary – using picture books to learn shapes, colour, fruits etc. is common but drawing pictures seems more fun and entertaining. For a pre-schooler, holding the pen and then drawing something from memory like an apple or a pencil or any shape is good progress.
(iv) Pop the balloon – scatter various different coloured balloons in a room. Call out a colour and your child will have to pop the balloon of that colour. (you can play this game with the help of paint-balls too).
Reading story books
Reading stories to your child stimulates brain development and imagination. Apart from learning different words and their pronunciations, they also learn about emotions. Through books, you can make your child understand what is right and what is wrong. It also helps in developing the child’s reading and listening skills.
There are plenty of nursery rhymes and children’s songs available on the internet today. Rhymes (such as twinkle, twinkle little stars…) which require actions or any kind of movements, makes it easier to understand the meaning of the rhyme which later helps them memorize it too.
As a 21st century parent, you probably use a smartphone, right? There are many apps and interactive games available in the play store which could be a fun learning exercise you can do with your kids. One of the popular children apps is ‘Khan Academy Kids’ which is used for creative learning and educational games.
With the help of these activities and several other exercises which you might come across while surfing the web, you can make the English learning process an enjoyable experience for your children.
I would like to add that whatever methods or exercises you use, being a parent, you must always support, encourage and praise your kids. Learning a language is challenging and every child learns at his/her own pace so if your child is facing some difficulties while speaking English, don’t worry. Be patient with them and keep up the English practice.