The fact that the English language is a vital skill is beyond doubt. Most parents realise that early English is important. But very few actually do something about it. First of all, pre-school education is not free, and second, it means that you will have to take your child to classes. They are already going to pre-school and have lots of classes, so why add more? Of course, you don’t want to sacrifice your free time. It’s much easier to start extra classes when they go to school – is what you are probably thinking.
But what is school for a 7-year-old? It’s a lot of stress, because their daily routine changes significantly. If both parents are working, it’s hard to find someone to take care of the child in August. It was much easier when they went to pre-school. The only thing that stays the same is having to get up early. But now there are no more afternoon naps, and walking is allowed only after school, there are no games between lessons, and the breaks are very short, only 10 minutes. It’s hard to get used to it, it requires a lot of time and energy. There is no time for parents to plan for the English classes as well… It’s CHAOS!
It’s better to start before school
It’s much better to start learning English at the age of 6 or even 5! Usually, at this age, kids can speak their native language pretty well, and their brain is actively developing and open to new things. Kids are interested in anything and everything and are ready to absorb new information like a sponge. Dancing, music, sports, chess… the sky is the limit! English or another foreign language could be a part of this list. There are psychological and physiological prerequisites of productive learning of a second language.
- The increased need for socialisation, kids want to meet new friends.
- The psychological barrier is minimal, because at this age kids become more sociable and talkative.
- Increased interest in learning: kids find out that there are a lot of new interesting things around them and attempt to expand the limits of what’s allowed in order to satisfy their growing curiosity.
- Playing by the rules: at this age kids start to realise that all games have their own rules that need to be followed in order to keep playing.
- The language system of their mother tongue is more or less clear to them. So they shouldn’t be mixing two languages.
- Their speech organs are still flexible, so they will be able to achieve the right pronunciation by mimicking the teacher.
- They still remember how they learned their mother tongue, so they will use the same principle when learning a new language. As a result, they will have an easier time remembering phrases and other language constructs, as long as they have regular practice.
- The cognitive processes (imagination, attention, guessing and memory) are actively developing. If you create the right conditions, kids can memorise large volumes of information.
The aforementioned points work in your favour when learning a new language at an early age, and if you organise the lessons correctly, you will definitely achieve good results.
What are the benefits of early language learning?
Kids that begin learning a foreign language before school don’t have a language or a psychological barrier. It means that you don’t have to make an extra effort and create special conditions in order to get them to talk.
They aren’t afraid of making mistakes because they start learning a language in an environment that does not evaluate their progress, and failure has no consequences. Communication skills benefit from this, because they first think about what they want to say, and not about what is the correct way of saying it.
Learning a language develops abstract thinking, memory and imagination. And learning a new language before school without a mediator language, speaking only in English, helps develop contextual language guessing, which is an achievement even for high school students.
Kids that begin learning English at an early age are not afraid of the foreign language, because they don’t learn it by writing down unclear rules, transcripts or dictations, but instead they learn it via games – a natural activity for kids. Early language learning makes kids interested in English, as well as the cultural values and traditions of English-speaking countries.
Finally, kids will undoubtedly have an advantage when learning English at school. It’s always easier to repeat what you already learned and expand your knowledge rather than begin from scratch. Your child will feel a lot more confident than their peers who have never studied English before. Confidence will help them be successful and get good grades, which will make the parents happy as well.
Why are lessons with pre-schoolers so successful?
Of course, the main component of success is creating the right learning environment. Teaching English to pre-schoolers is much like teaching them their mother tongue. Kids “absorb” their native language from their surroundings and everyday interactions that they go through all day long. Repetitive situations help them make sense of the language used in various circumstances. Phrases that parents use when talking to their kids are easily memorised, because repetition is the mother of learning.
That’s why when learning English, it’s important to create a natural language-learning environment for the kids:
- ‘Immersion’ into the English-speaking environment.
Early English learning means speaking with kids only in English. Sometimes it might seem difficult for kids and that it’s better to switch to English gradually. But it’s a mistake to think that way. It is much easier for a child’s brain to get used to the fact that the teacher only speaks English. It’s taken for granted and their brain quickly starts learning. But it’s much more difficult to get rid of the habit of speaking in your mother tongue during lessons.
Contextuality and repetition is provided by playing out everyday situations with kids. The emphasis is on the “playing” part because games are a vital part of learning at this age. No extra explanations needed! This format is natural and easy to understand for pre-schoolers since it’s the only activity that they have fully mastered at this age. Games and gamified learning are used when introducing new language material, both vocabulary and grammar. The same approach is used when repeating and consolidating what they have learned, and trying to activate their speech. Switching between games (board games, role playing games, active games) helps retain children’s attention.
Various visual tools are used in order to help kids to better remember what they learned: toys, colourful pictures, everyday items, gestures and body language. Everything that helps influence the visual and emotional memory of the child and create a full picture.
Another important point is including elements of creativity into the lessons. Kids love to model, draw and craft things. Creative skills in pre-schoolers are much better than those of older kids, because arts and crafts are the main methods of learning at pre-school. If creative tasks are included in each lesson and followed by comments in English, the three main conditions of learning will be met: immersion, contextuality and repetition.
Parents who want to teach their kids on their own can make use of the aforementioned advice and adhere to it when organising lessons at home.
What is the best way to organise early English lessons?
Let’s discuss this final but equally as important point. How do you organise early English lessons for your kids?
First of all, do not make lessons last too long. For pre-schoolers, 20-30-minute lessons are a perfect fit, the most important thing is to make them regular. Two or three times per week is ideal.
Second, do not pressure kids and do not make them do anything! If they protest, you need to analyse why they are behaving this way. Why do they feel negativity towards these lessons? Are they against learning English specifically? Or maybe they don’t like the teacher? Maybe your child is tired of all the noise at the kindergarten and group lessons seem even more tiresome? Or, perhaps, they are feeling “lazy” and simply don’t want to leave the house? “I don’t want to go to English class” does not mean that they hate English. Try changing the format of the lessons. You could go to another teacher or switch from group to individual lessons.
You could also try another format – online lessons. Perhaps, your kids will like studying from home much better? This way, parents can observe during the lessons and find out what it is exactly that their kids have a problem with.
Online lessons for pre-schoolers – is that even possible?!
It’s up to the parents to decide whether they want their kids to attend online or in-person lessons. But more and more parents are opting for the online format nowadays. After trying it and evaluating all the benefits and conveniences of online lessons from their own experience, many parents choose this method of education.
Here are some of the benefits of online lessons:
- You don’t need to commute
- You can study from anywhere, if you go on a trip you don’t have to cancel the lessons.
- Flexible schedule.
- You can choose a teacher.
- You can study with a native speaker.
It’s only the parents that struggle with the idea of online lessons. Kids, born in the era of gadgets and digital technologies, see online lessons as a norm. Moreover, the latest ICT technologies make great learning tools, elements of gamification and edutainment will help engage even the most stubborn and inattentive child.
In terms of learning English specifically, the online format provides more opportunities to create an authentic language environment. Students can visit web pages of various websites with voice comments or stories in English, which makes learning English more individual and personalised, as students can choose any topic that they are interested in.
Even if you are a vigorous critic of online learning, it doesn’t hurt to try. Our recommendation is video lessons at the Novakid online English school for kids aged 4-12. Lessons are conducted in a specialised interactive room with lots of great features. Even the youngest kids will love our quest lessons and try to get as many stars or flowers as they can. At the end of the lesson, parents will get a detailed written report about the progress and achievements of their kids, as well as the teacher’s recommendations.
All the teachers are native speakers, and they actively communicate and interact with kids, which guarantees a good result: they will soon speak, read and write like a native speaker. The individual lesson format helps cater to various interests and goals of each student, which helps develop an interest in learning English. The first lesson is free, and you can sign up using this link!