How to help a child learn English: Tips for parents | Novakid
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How to help a child learn English: Tips for parents

On the Internet, you can find a great number of tips on how to help a child learn English. Some of them are classics that have worked and will work forever, for example:

These are the most common tips and they really work… But only if the child has some basic knowledge of English, loves the language and enjoys studying. In this case they are interested in practicing and developing skills and learning new things.

But if a child has just started learning English, then…

Don’t believe it? Play a song in a language you have never studied before, and you will immediately understand what I mean. Why does this happen? Very simple. A child’s ear is not yet familiar with or poorly distinguishes the sounding component of the English language; elementary speaking skills have not been formed yet, so a child simply does not know how to listen to English words. Accordingly, background listening will not work.

And what is the process of learning English? 

Before answering this question and giving advice on how to help a child learn English, let’s discuss what language learning consists of.

Speaking any language, including English, is the ability to perform four activities in the language:

In order to master all these, one needs to know:

Phonetics, vocabulary, and grammar are closely interrelated – one needs to know the meaning of words to be able to pronounce and discern them, and also to know how to connect the words together in order to express ideas so that other people could understand them or to understand others correctly. In other words, vocabulary, grammar and phonetics form the base that allows the use of language as a communication tool.

 It is believed that the most difficult thing is to learn to speak the language. This is a myth. The most difficult thing is to learn to write! And not only in English, but also in your native language. At least because in order to write, you need to sit down and write. And to speak? You can do it anywhere. Just find the right person. Here, parents can be irreplaceable assistants for their children learning English!

 Saying that you do not remember or do not know anything will not work – the children know nothing either, so you are on an equal footing 🙂

Why speaking English is the key to correct English learning

Proper language learning should start with oral communication which trains both speaking and listening skills. This rule is relevant for any age. Students immerse themselves in the language through oral communication. But there are certain intricacies associated with the organisation of such communication for each age group. 

While toddlers and pre-schoolers, in general, do not know any other way of learning new things except through oral speech, schoolchildren, on the other hand, are already familiar with written speech, and, of course, using written support structures helps a lot – if you forget something, you can always look it up and remember. However, the English language is an exception to this rule. Starting to learn a language with the alphabet is obviously a false path, though it seems the easiest one.

An introductory speaking course allows you to form the skills of comprehending English words and the simplest phrases by ear, memorizing the most common vocabulary and learning speech cliches. These skills and abilities:

How to teach a child to speak English

Accordingly, at this very first stage, we do need help from parents. A child will understand that they are not alone, get enough praise, and in general children like it when their parents are also involved 🙂

Well…

To memorise new words, you can use flashcards or everything around you. Children have a good memory, so repeating words a couple of times is enough to remember them, but then make sure to use these words in phrases. This is how grammar is subconsciously memorised. For example:

– cat, a cat.

 – This is a cat.

 – dog, a dog.

 – That is a dog.

You can check whether a child remembers the meaning of words with questions:

 – Where is the dog? Where is the cat?

To check whether a child remembers the word itself, use another question:

 – What is it?

Be sure to use games and competitions. For example, name more words using the structure this is a… that is a…

Complicate it by adding colours:

 – This is a black cat.

Then add other adjectives:

 – This is a fat cat or This is a small cat.

Do not forget about the questions. After getting acquainted with colours, play the game “What colour is it?”. First, use something that has one colour, then two colours: “It is blue and yellow”. And so on.

Then add numbers. First, just count everything around you. Do not forget about the plural form! Three catssssss, five dogsssssss.

You can play a game “What’s in the window?”, practicing both colours and numbers:

 – Look! Three black cars!

 – Look! Two cats! Red and white!

Or use a question-answer pattern:

 – How many birds (cats, dogs, stars, children…)?

An ordinary ball can help a lot. It is good to train reaction time, alertness and memory. Monotonous repetition of numbers is boring, but drilling them while throwing a ball to each other becomes much more exciting. The same applies to questions and answers. You can just throw the ball, or you can play “I know 5 names…” in English.

And how can you properly teach English verbs to a child?

Oral memorisation and working out the actions is not a problem either. We introduce morning and evening exercises. This is when songs come in handy! But not as background listening. Sing and dance together! But before that, you need to go over the actions and demonstrate them without music.

You can take other actions from our everyday life. At the same time, we practice the Present Continuous (for actions that are taking place at the moment) and the Imperative (requests, orders, suggestions).

Express all requests through:

 – Please go (give, take, say)…

or

 – Can I…

Express offers through:

 – Let’s play (watch, buy, eat)…

Look at the photos and describe what you see:

 – Look! Dad is fishing!

– Look! Grandma is swimming.

Include the question “What are you doing?” in your everyday communication and, of course, do not forget to ask it in a conversation on the phone!

So, how can you properly teach English to a child?

 – learn the words that we use in everyday life and immediately use them in phrases or sentences. The brain will learn to remember the words very quickly, and the ear will be able to catch not a single word, but a word in a phrase – just like when talking in your native language.

– start with a context, not with a grammatical rule. We need to learn how to ask for something, how to tell someone something, or how to describe something, but not what the Present Continuous is and how it is used.

 – make dialogues, interact, but do not learn topics by heart. Try to recall at least one situation in your life when you had to do a monologue. Have you tried? Can you think of any? No? No wonder! Even when we tell somebody about what happened, the person asks us to repeat or asks some follow-up questions. This is called a conversation.

And what about cartoons, songs, reading…?

Cartoons and songs may and should be included in the speaking course. But you should use specifically selected vocabulary and grammar that have already been covered.

How to choose the appropriate material?

You can use any course for beginners. As a rule, the grammar in textbooks corresponds to the international language proficiency levels. If a child is already learning a language, for example, at school, feel free to choose the school course as a basis, practice and consolidate the material that they study at school and gradually add your own stuff.

You can also use the video lessons from Novakid online English language school for kids. Our teachers are the best assistants for children aged 4 to 12 years who are learning English; they will teach them to speak and understand the language. Your child will love English! Free trial lesson. 

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