Has your child been learning English at school for quite some time now, but their conversational speaking in English skills are not that good? How soon should your kid start speaking a foreign language?
First, it’s essential to understand that learning a language and learning to speak a language are two different things. Most languages worldwide exist in two forms – spoken and written. The primary challenge when learning a language, even if it’s your mother tongue, is mastering how to write in it. It’s not just about phonetics and grammar, but also punctuation and morphology. When you start writing, you make mistakes that are not noticeable when you speak. Written language deals with the “here and now,” and there is no additional explanation you can provide to help the reader better understand what you wrote.
When you speak, however, you can correct your own mistakes as you make them. And it’s not just about using language tools. You can employ body language, facial expressions, gestures and your surroundings. The key is not to be afraid and to try to express what you want to say. Encourage your child to speak English fluently and find out what to do if the child won’t speak your language. Check out our ways to help your child speak English confidently like a native speaker.
Use English and speak the language, even if you have limited vocabulary and don’t know many expressions
Try to remember how kids start speaking their mother tongue! They cannot formulate sentences at first, but they manage to explain themselves to parents and other kids. New words appear in their speech gradually, but they never stay silent, they express their requests and needs using the words they know and they memorize more words when adults reply to them.
In other words, a child’s speech develops during live communication, everyday conversations with questions and answers. Kids are not scared of making mistakes, they are not scared to repeat what they said if someone did not understand them the first time. They are persistent and they are successful in the end. Fear of speaking can be overcome by language exposure and immersion, which are also teaching techniques that help little students speak English confidently and fluently.
Foreign language learning – how does it work?
It’s the same principle! If your goal is to learn how to speak fluently, then you need to learn through active communication. Encourage your child to practice the same phrases and expressions every day, listen carefully, and memorize. Just as it’s impossible to learn how to swim without getting into the water or learn to ride a bike or ice skate by merely watching others, mastering any skill requires practice and hands-on experience.
Learning to speak English is no different – your child needs to practice consistently. To support them, create a positive and engaging learning environment, expose them to various English-speaking situations, and provide them with opportunities to converse with native speakers. And, most importantly, be patient and encouraging throughout the process, as language proficiency takes time to develop.
Novakid utilizes the communication method in its lessons to help kids overcome their fear of speaking. This method focuses on engaging children in interactive conversations with native speakers, simulating real-life scenarios, playing games and fostering a relaxed atmosphere for language learning. By participating in lessons with native speakers at Novakid, children can quickly pick up the accent, pronunciation, and colloquial expressions, which are crucial for developing fluency.
Moreover, this approach builds confidence and helps children feel more comfortable using the language in everyday situations. The Novakid teaching methods ensure that kids benefit from lessons tailored to their needs and abilities, allowing them to make steady progress and ultimately achieve fluency in English.
So… Why does my child seem to know English but can’t speak fluent English?
Possible reason #1
This is the most common one: children learn to read and write in English, but they are not taught to communicate. Communication is not something they pay attention to in English classes at school. You need to create the right environment for the child to learn. It’s like trying to tell someone how to ride a bike, what a bike is, where the wheels and pedals are and how they work, without actually putting them on a bike. They might learn a lot about it, but they won’t be able to ride it! As an example, by simply reading books in English your kid won’t start to speak English. But, reading in English out-loud is a great method for teaching English which boosts confidence in speaking English.
Possible reason #2
This one is also quite common: your child is learning to speak English and they seem to have every opportunity to do so… but the teacher is always correcting the child’s mistakes. What happens then? No one likes to be corrected all the time. This takes away the desire to do anything, especially when it comes to children. They want to try and do everything on their own. They need to try it until they fall or get burned, and warnings from their parents mean very little to them. You need to let them try it, and if they fail, explain what to do to get a better result. A position of an observer means always supporting your child, not overcomplicating things by unloading a lot of theoretical knowledge on them. Use as few words as possible and don’t interrupt during speaking practice despite your kid’s level of English. Kids don’t like to listen, they want to learn. Listening is tiring and creates an illusion of the subject in question being too complicated.
Let’s get back to English. If the teacher doesn’t encourage children’s efforts to speak English and only corrects their mistakes, this will make them stop trying to speak. They will have this misconception that speaking is difficult, “I always make mistakes”, “No one understands me…” There are a lot of recommendations about how to correct the mistakes children make without doing any harm. If a child is trying to take the first step to learning a foreign language, it is important to try not to scare them away. And this means no interruptions. You can repeat what they said without the mistakes they made so that they can see how to say it correctly. But if kids are trying to create a dialog between each other, it is better to just listen.
Possible reason #3
The child is very shy and quiet, it’s hard to hear them among the loud voices of their classmates, and after making a few attempts to talk they give up. So, the main condition for learning is not being met – they are not practicing speaking. You need to make sure to create the right environment for each child in the group to participate in the lesson. An individual approach is needed, so that everyone can take part in the interaction. 1:1 lessons with a native English speaker teacher is a great opportunity for raising a bilingual child who feels confident about speaking in front of many people in English.
Possible reason #4
The child is not interested in the topic being discussed, so they don’t want to participate in the conversation. Maybe the topic of the lesson or a particular task at hand is not suitable for the child’s age? It’s like teaching someone to ride a bike when their feet can’t reach the pedals. Or teaching someone to swim before they learn to tread water. Anyone would be confused in a situation like that… Do you have a huge fan of Disney movies at home? Practice speaking activities in English while pretending to be one of the Disney princesses or characters.
Furthermore, all the tasks have to be suitable for the child’s age, they need to be interesting and relevant to children and their daily life. Asking for strawberry ice cream is relevant for 4, 6 or even 12-year-olds. But the language tools used will differ depending on the age. At 4, it’s enough to say “strawberry ice cream?” At 6, kids can use the full sentence “Can I have some strawberry ice cream, please?” And at 12, you can learn difficult constructions, such as “Is there any strawberry ice cream available?” But booking a hotel room, on the other hand, is not a relevant topic for kids of any age. It does not make them want to participate in the conversation and does not correspond to their individual needs. In everyday life it’s parents who deal with matters like that.
So, what’s the right way to teach kids to speak and be fluent in English?
The bilingual journey is not easy, but with the right approach you can raise a bilingual or multilingual child.
Firstly, you need to create the right environment. As you probably now know, learning English should begin from learning how to say simple words and phrases. A child’s brain is very flexible, and it can learn language patterns just from hearing someone speak! They do not need any additional comments or explanations. The more English they hear, the more they learn and understand the rules of the language. They try to mimic what they are hearing, especially if it is followed by gestures and facial expressions. This helps them learn and understand the language more naturally.
On the other hand, kids have to reply to teachers in English as well. It doesn’t matter if it’s just one word and a bunch of hand gestures, as long as it is in English! Requests, questions, comments – everything has to be in English. You also have to simultaneously address the discipline – if you don’t know how to say something, stay quiet and listen to the others talk.
Secondly, the syllabus needs to be appropriate and engage children in the process of conversation. In order to do this, teachers use Q&A type exercises, guessing exercises that pique children’s interest and prompt them to make guesses in English.
Teachers also use competitive exercises and gamified tasks, in which you have to speak and give answers to quests and quizzes in order to win. Switching between different activities is also a good idea: working with cards in a circle, playing an active game, throwing a ball around and answering questions, dividing into teams and competing etc. The same goes for visuals. They have to be diverse: these could be pictures, toys, objects from everyday life, crafts and drawings made by kids during lessons.
Thirdly, you need to imitate an English language environment. Kids have to learn to understand various types of speech. They get used to the teacher’s voice very quickly, but different people talk differently, and they have to be able to understand various accents and pronunciations. That’s why it’s important to include videos into the lessons:
- First, it adds another type of activity to the lesson.
- Second, visual memory in kids is very well developed, and they love watching videos.
- Third, this gives the kids and the teacher a chance to have a little break,
- Fourth, and most importantly, working with videos helps engage kids in conversation even more, if you use this tool correctly.
There are a lot of options to engage them: you could discuss the main characters, or ask them to voice the video. It depends on their skills. Small children love cartoons, and older children can watch movie clips or original recordings with kids their age, it can help make them more interested in learning the language. Bilingual families – make sure the exposure to the minority language in your family is large enough, so your kid has enough time to speak at least some English.
Why can English lessons with native speakers at Novakid boost your kid’s speaking language skills?
Novakid is an online English school for kids aged 4-12. We emphasize developing communication and English speaking skills, and offer a multitude of benefits for your child’s language proficiency. With native speakers as teachers, Novakid creates an immersive English-speaking environment that helps kids adapt their brains to understanding English more effectively.
English lessons at Novakid are designed to be fun and engaging, ensuring that children start talking quickly and gain confidence in their language abilities. By encouraging, praising, and engaging kids in conversation through regular practice-based lessons, the Novakid teachers foster a supportive and interactive learning experience.
As a result, children become more comfortable with speaking English, even with limited prior knowledge. The most important thing is not to be scared to try something new. Novakid’s approach ensures that kids feel at ease while practicing their English skills. Give it a try with a free first lesson and witness the positive impact on your child’s language development.