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Let’s talk about motivation: how can you explain to your child why they should learn English?

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In a truly global world, knowing English (at the very least) is essential. Good command of a foreign language provides great opportunities and opens many doors. Unfortunately, many people realize this long after they graduate, and by then it is either very difficult or impossible to catch up. Yes, yes, we are talking about those “lazy” adults who did not learn English in due course and now they are proverbially kicking themselves.

Many parents wonder how they can protect their children from such a fate. And those who think that “there is nothing to worry about, kids will learn at school” are wrong! Everyone goes through this. Very few kids learn English at school, and the rest have to either get extra help, or… well, end up kicking themselves.

Why you shouldn’t rely on school

One might wonder, how can school fail to teach English in 8 years? Everyone starts learning English from the 2nd grade and has a class at least twice per week. From the 5th grade on, there are at least 3 classes a week! Colourful textbooks, photos, funny pictures, songs, rhymes, audio tasks, country and cultural studies (lots of info about interesting places, holidays, traditions), crossword puzzles etc. Learning English is such a pleasure! It’s not what it used to be. Back in our day, we had thin boring pages, black and white drawings – one every 3 pages, and lots of text to translate…

But the problem is that just like before, English teachers start by teaching the alphabet. Children are not taught to listen and speak, but rather to read right away, write dictations and learn the rules of grammar. It’s a lot for the second grade. This is where the problem lies. As a result, children quickly lose all interest in the learning process, a couple of bad grades and they start to hate English, because English is difficult, boring and dull…

There is only one way to prevent this from happening – children must start learning the language before they go to school. This will allow for a certain language foundation to form, and children won’t have to waste their time at school trying to overcome this psychological barrier. On the contrary, they will feel much more confident when they repeat what they already know and remember. They will not be bored because everything is different at school. But their good grades and the feeling of success will serve as reliable motivation to keep learning English.

How to motivate a child who already started learning English at school and had a rough time?

If your kid keeps grumbling that they “hate this wretched language”, it will be oh so difficult to get them to learn something. You can, of course, use the stick and carrot method, or “motivate” them, in other words. But in this case, they will be externally motivated – the motivation won’t come from within, they will simply do what is necessary under the circumstances. Fine, I’ll study because I don’t want to get an “F”, or because I was promised this or that…

In some cases, external motivation helps a lot. For example, when there is a conscious goal – I want to learn English to get a good job or to go abroad. Then English becomes necessary to achieve the set goal. But with children, it’s rather the parents who have a goal – they don’t want their child to get bad grades. Therefore, the “carrot and stick” method will work up to a certain point. So what can we do?

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First of all, you need to pique their interest

How?! After all, the train has left the station: “Choo-choo!” And it’s too late to come aboard. The child associates English with something negative. You still need to try and take another, deeper look into the school curriculum, and help them with their homework. If that doesn’t work, then forget about the school and school curriculum. Take a course. But first, make sure that they do fun things there and practice speaking English, not just learn the boring stuff, like writing and reading.

– They do fun stuff there, but what about school homework and bad grades?

– The grades can wait. First, we need to spark the kid’s interest so that they understand that English is not so bad after all, it can actually be a lot of fun. It can make them feel more successful and improve their self-esteem. There won’t be any grades but they will still get praised for their efforts. And everyone loves praise. Psychologists unanimously declare that praise makes even an adult much more confident in their abilities. You will see that as soon as the negativity is gone, the child will show interest in studying English, and even start showing progress at school. Not right away, but they will.

What to do if your child used to like English and everything was fine, but then they went to the 5th grade…

Oh, the notorious 5th grade! First of all, don’t forget, that your 11-12 year olds are about to become teenagers, and it’s an awkward age. Their whole world is turning upside down, all their values are being reconsidered, and their interests change dramatically. If before your child enjoyed studying English because they liked the process itself, liked their teacher, they did well at it, and now… Now they are wondering what the point of it all is. Why try and make all this effort? They have grown up, and now it is time to present them with a clear answer to the question “Why should I learn English?”

And then you can calmly have a talk with them about the global implications of learning English, how it is the language of international communication, and don’t forget to complain about your own bitter fate – demonstrate with your own example how terrible life is for those who do not know English. Support this thought by telling them the sad tales of your past, how you did not get the job you wanted, how you could not explain yourself at the airport, and how you ordered something completely… unexpected instead of dessert that time you went on a holiday abroad. You can even lie a little to make it sound more dramatic – it’s for a good cause. The main thing is to speak calmly and convincingly, presenting one argument after another until you hit the “bullseye”, that is, until you see that you have stumbled upon something your child truly cares about and considers worthy enough to break a sweat for… Below is a list of the most effective reasons for learning English that parents can incorporate into this conversation.

Why learn English

  1. English is the language of international communication, it is taught all over the world, even in China. Without English, it will be hard to manage during your trips abroad: you can’t ask for directions, you can’t go shopping, you can’t order a delicious dessert, you can’t ask about the menu at a cafe or restaurant. And forget about talking to other kids at the beach! And that’s a lot of “can’ts”! You don’t want to end up just standing there with a blank look on your face.
  2. Even basic knowledge of English will give you the confidence in your ability to understand what is happening and try to explain yourself in any situation instead of getting nervous and panicking. Therefore, speaking English will protect you against stressful situations while traveling.
  3. English will help you understand the lyrics of your favourite songs and translate them for your friends, which will obviously make you cooler in their eyes. You can also “chat” with other fans from all over the world on social networks and read your idols’ bios!
  4. Using the Internet without speaking English is like using the latest iPhone just for calls and text messages! A large portion of content exists only in English, such as videos, movies, podcasts, blogs, and articles on various topics that you can watch, read and listen to without any difficulty.
  5. If you speak English, you can keep up to date with the latest global discoveries and inventions, because learning with the BBC, National Geographic and TED Talks is a lot of fun! They have educational programs, training courses and movies, as well as informative lectures.
  6. You can take virtual tours to the most interesting museums in the world. Speaking English provides great opportunities for self-education and self-development, because you can travel to the most famous sights around the world from the comfort of your home. And the English audio guide will be an irreplaceable companion on such a journey.
  7. And what about the fact you can watch the latest films and TV series with your favourite actors in the original version even before they are dubbed into your own language? It is also worth mentioning that the translation is not always able to accurately convey the meaning of the original.
  8. You can also read your favourite books in the original version and you won’t have to wait for the translation to be released.
  9. So many computer video games are available in English only! Of course, the players also communicate solely in English.
  10. If you speak English, you can chat to people on social networks and chat about absolutely anything that is trending that day – from discussing weather conditions and your weekend plans to the latest news and sensational events.
  11. For tech and IT enthusiasts, English means access to instructions for the latest gadgets and software. For ordinary users – it’s an opportunity to understand “pop-ups” and other technical information on their computer.
  12. Good command of English in high school will give you the opportunity to participate in international competitions or even win scholarships that will allow you to get higher education abroad for free. But without a test confirming the required level of English proficiency, you won’t get admitted to the university. You must have a good TOEFL or IELTS score. You can take exams in advance in your home country. You also need these tests to obtain a student or work visa.
  13. English can be your window into the world. For example, you can participate in student exchange or volunteer programs abroad. Make new friends and have a great time!
  14. Without English, you won’t be able to go to international camps and meet other children from all over the world.
  15. Upon reaching the age of 14, English speakers can volunteer at international sporting events. The candidates undergo interviews and are carefully selected. Upon reaching 18, you can get a job abroad, for example, picking fruits and vegetables. Or work in summer camps in the USA. This requires a written English test.
  16. In general, English will help you find a well-paid prestigious job at an international company. Salaries are always higher for people who speak good English.
  17. To participate in international competitions, projects, conferences and seminars, you, of course, will also need to speak good English. And this can be a good addition to your CV.

Wow, this list is pretty impressive. You can add other reasons, if you like. I think the idea is clear – you can’t get anywhere in our world without English. And the sooner the child realises this and has their heart set on learning English, the better. But… once again, if the studies are too difficult for them and they get bored easily, none of these motivating points will bring them closer to the cherished goal.

It is also worth noting that school grades are not a good indicator of English proficiency. So if the school cannot get your child interested in learning English, you should find a good language program or an educational platform for this purpose.

Online schools are in these days and this learning format is great for 10-12 year olds. We recommend taking a closer look at the video lessons from Novakid online school. Teaching is conducted exclusively in English, because all the teachers are native speakers. Moreover, they are professionals in their field who can find a way to motivate anyone. Try it, the first lesson is free!

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