Motivation is the key to learning any language; a 5- or 10-year-old may experience age-specific troubles. With a teacher who fails to motivate, English is lost on a kid. Struggling with pronunciation is the last straw. Who would want to demonstrate their inconsistency or, in the language of psychologists, “lose their footing”? Is there any reliable, successful way to help children learn a foreign language?
Show me your tongue!
Today, the non-translated communicative method of learning a language with native speakers is especially popular. These are online lessons with teachers from different countries worldwide. Seamless immersion into the language environment has a great advantage. No one will see your “shame” when you are alone with a teacher. This removes the fear of mistakes, but the child’s curiosity will prevail even over the primary constraint, and a skilled teacher will find a way to make a student feel comfortable. With deep immersion in the language environment, the brain adapts faster, better perceiving English speech by ear.
Pictures, facial expressions, gestures… and more and more new words are assembled into images, deposited in the subcortex. By the beginning of the first lesson, you may not know a single word, but tune in within just three minutes with the help of hints in pictures (without a single word in your native language!).
Gamification and VR are the best assistants in overcoming the language barrier
Digital natives—children born after the launch of the internet —are good at absorbing information through gadgets. What’s the hitch? Game-based learning adapted by age is the best natural way for a child to gain new knowledge. This learning trend is referred to as gamification.
Different platforms offer different ways to play in English with kids, from online charades to VR tours around London with a friendly English-speaking guide.
One more thing – traditional English lessons last an academic hour and are filled with similar actions. Online English learning allows you to switch between different activities and never get bored.
What is the plateau effect?
This setback tends to happen to advanced language users. A child has some vocabulary (about 1,000 words) and can talk a little and… here the slope begins to flatten out. Why does learning become less effective now, and a child seems to be unable to breach certain barriers? Psychologists define this as a “stage of boredom”. Everything seemed so new and interesting at the beginning of the journey. The inevitable repetition of the topics, dialogue and words does not contribute much to enthusiasm.
Is there any way to deal with this? An experienced teacher would see the plateau effect and try to implement something new to the learning process. This is easy to do in online classes. Teachers add games for small children and ambitious goals for older ones, such as reading Harry Potter in English or joining fan clubs on social media to communicate with peers. The main thing is to bring excitement to learning. Motivation supported by a goal plays into learners’ hands at any age.
The Art of Small Steps
And, finally, there is one more psychological technique to help overcome the fear of learning a foreign language, both for children and adults. At the beginning of the journey, any challenge (and learning a language is a real challenge) seems huge and scary. If this is the case, the method of “small steps to great achievements” will help you. Small wins will drive great success. Antoine de Saint-Exupéry said, “…Teach me the art of small steps.“ This works with learning English too. The first verse learned, the first fairy tale read independently, the first pen pal — all these are small steps on a long and fascinating path!