Is there a “best” way to teach your children how to speak, read, and write in English? No matter which technique you use for your children, learning another language takes time and commitment. Apart from complete immersion in the English language through an American school or camp, the following suggestions will help your children learn English in the most efficient way possible:
Teach Them Early: Numerous studies show that the best time to learn a second language is when you are very young. One study demonstrated that the best time to acquire multiple languages is between the ages of nine months and seven years of age. See Shonkoff, J. and Phillips, D. (Eds.). (2000). From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood Development. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press. Chapter 8: The developing brain (pp. 182-217). As infants and small children instinctively search for language cues, exposure to English along with their native language will make it easier for them to become fluent as they grow.
Use Audiovisual Books: Having both audio and visual cues while reading will help your budding English speaker understand how the written words sound as they are spoken. Many on-line reading programs offer audiovisual books written in English for different level readers. Raz-Kids offers an expansive library of audiovisual readers for a fee (available at a discounted rate of $15 annually at EnglishHound.com), but there are other websites that offer free audio-visual books for children such as MeeGenius.com, magickeys.com, and EnglishHound.com, which pools free audio-visual books from the Internet.
Read Out Loud: Similarly, when your child is reading an audiovisual book, encourage your child to read out loud, rather than silently. Have your child listen to a sentence while reading, then pause the book and have him or her read the same sentence out loud. It is a bit time consuming, but reading out loud reinforces retention by incorporating English into your child’s speech patterns.
Watch Children’s Shows: American educational shows will give your children a context for the language they are learning. Many quality U.S. children’s shows use popular vernacular in an educational way. Watching a program will also let your students enjoy their English education. Here are some fantastic recommendations for the whole family: Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego?; Magic School Bus; Wild Kratts; and Odd Squad.
Vocabulary: When first learning English, vocabulary building is critical. In fact, when you introduce a new language, this skill is just as, if not more important, than actual fluency. Helen Whang, the Founder and CEO of English Hound observed, “I’ve noticed that children in Korea, particularly those who have attended English kindergartens, are good at reading fluency – the ability to recognize and sound out the words. However, their vocabulary is lacking, which poses a huge obstacle in reading comprehension, speaking and writing. Rote memorization doesn’t help children who will forget the memorized words a few days later. Children must learn vocabulary contextually through extensive reading and usage.” Try http://www.eslgamesplus.com/memory-games/ for a fun and free website that offers English vocabulary games to help boost your child’s word knowledge.
Tutoring: For extra support, weekly or twice-weekly tutors can help older children incorporate their English knowledge into everyday usage. For those seeking to immigrate to the U.S. or attend an international school, it is especially important for students to be able to converse and write in English. Particularly starting in middle school, grades in English and Social Studies depend largely on writing skills. “Beginning in middle school, 70 to 80 percent of Language Arts and Social Studies grades depend upon a student’s writing skills. When learning English, students struggle the most with writing. Even in top Ivy League feeder schools in the U.S. like Horace Mann and Hackley, we’re seeing students interested in getting tutored in writing when they reach 5th and 6th grades,” said Whang. “Becoming a better writer takes years of practice.”
One or many of these steps should become part of your child’s daily routine, as repetition is crucial to building fluency and comprehension. With commitment to these methods, your child will be reading, speaking, and writing English with greater speed, fluency, and understanding.