As a parent or carer, your own encouragement and interest can really help your child to progress in English. Here are some top tips from our teachers on how to support your child's English learning at home.
Learn English yourself
To build a positive attitude towards learning, and towards English as a language, the best place to start is with yourself. If you send your child to an English class, why not join one too? Learning English together is a great way to spend time with your kids and create a positive attitude towards learning and speaking another language. By learning English yourself, you can show your kids that ‘having a go’ and making a mistake is better than only speaking when you have the perfect sentence prepared.
Sing songs together (or get YouTube to help if you can’t sing)
After listening to a song or nursery rhyme a few times, children quickly start to hum, sing along to the chorus and eventually put together more and more words. Music and rhyme help children to use full sentences, intonation, pitch, and rhythm, as well as simply building confidence, in a way that we can’t achieve if we were trying to explicitly teach these language features.
We can also introduce children to quite difficult language structures through song. Take, for example, ‘If you’re happy and you know it, clap your hands’. It includes a really complex grammatical structure that a young child would find too challenging to learn from being taught. The song, on the other hand, does everything for us with no pressure, and provides an easily recognisable context for children.
Make sure the Wii or PlayStation is set to use English
Every bit of technology we own comes with language options. By using English as the operational language for your TV, iPad, laptop or phone, each time your child sees you accessing something or tries to herself, she will see English in a natural context.
Don't worry if your child makes mistakes or doesn't start speaking in English immediately. The brain needs to go through a process of decoding and pattern-finding during the language-learning process. Language production usually starts after a long period of listening and thinking.
There is some evidence to suggest that children who are exposed to a lot of different languages at once may need a little more time to put all the information into place. So perhaps in school a child learning new information in a third or possibly fourth language may seem to be a little behind a child who is handling the same new information in their first and only language.
Don't worry, the multilingual child will soon catch up without any help, and there is mounting evidence to suggest that, in later life, the ability to speak more than one language will help maintain memory.
Looking for more tips?
Check out the articles below from the British Council Voices magazine for more tips to help support your child learning English.