During a luncheon, the Patels began discussing which school little Dev should be admitted to. While Dev’s parents wanted to send him to an international school, his grandparents were keen that he goes to a school where the medium of education would be their native language. They were of the opinion that Dev has a lifetime to pick up on his English skills. Which is probably true, but is it enough?
There are more than 6500 different languages spoken all over the world. In India alone, about 121 languages are spoken with varied regional dialects.
With all these options, why choose to learn English?
Even with all these languages, English is the world’s most spoken language. English is taught in schools as a second language in hundreds of countries all over the world, from France to Myanmar, South Africa to China, in Sweden, Spain, and many other countries.
English is the Language of International Communication. Knowledge of the language makes it much easier to travel across the globe. Airport announcements, train timetables and street signs are often available in English, even in countries where the native language is not English. English has also become the dominant business language and it has become inevitable for people to speak English if they wish to enter the global workforce.
Children have the advantage of learning new languages at a much faster pace than teenagers or adults. According to a study, the parts of the human brain that specialize in learning new languages grow rapidly from around six years old until early adolescence. It is also shown that children who start learning a language before the age of five tend to achieve a much higher proficiency and are more likely to achieve the level of fluency similar to native speakers have if they learn the language before their teenage years.
Research also shows that bilingual kids can complete mental puzzles quicker and more efficiently than those who only speak one language. The reason for this is, speaking two languages requires executive functioning, which are higher-level cognitive skills like planning, decision making, problem solving and organization.
Here are some practical ways you can help your children learn English from an early age:
Inculcate a reading habit in children at a young age. Reading is a tested way to learn new words and expand your child’s vocabulary. Reading habits also help in critical thinking. It does not necessarily have to include only long or thick books. Reading byte-sized puzzles to respond to a query, applying your mind to a riddle or just a fun joke; all these constitute reading to understand and enhance language skills.
Every time kids write in English; they learn to arrange their ideas in order and construct sentences. The more you write, the better you’ll be at expressing yourself in English. You can encourage your child to write simple sentences about her day at school or any special activities she took part in. Further, applying your mind to respond to a query or a comprehension or even an audio story strengthens your child’s ability to use English effectively.
Read More: Writing in today’s digital world
Apart from learning English, listening to stories is a fun way to learn and assimilate. Whether you listen to audio books or take this one step ahead to listen to stories with questions built in; listening enables learning the language with a lot of context and application.
Get stories with built in questions on the BrainGymJr App!
You can also understand and assimilate the language through listening to music. Children who listen to songs, quickly start to hum, sing along to the chorus and eventually repeat words. This enables children to use sentences, words, intonations and pronunciations.
Encourage children to speak in English more often. You can ask questions about their day or even make up stories together. Children should feel safe when conversing in a new language. Don’t interrupt your child with corrections immediately. Be patient with them since they will fumble to find the right words initially. You can encourage using English in a safe environment through English puzzles on an App or worksheets. This will help them practice application and imbibe confidence for public speaking without errors.
The easiest of all options would be to allow for entertainment in English. While you need to choose your content carefully, encourage children to use some screen time to watch shows or movies in English. This allows kids to watch and listen to English from native speakers; supporting their understanding through non-verbal cues for context and also improving grammar and pronunciation.
For children to develop any skill, including English speaking, they need your facilitation, support and encouragement. Language learning does not happen in a day. Enable them with the correct tools, a safe environment with low judgement and a lot of encouragement to use English as much as possible in day-to day communication… and watch their confidence soar!
“A different language is a different vision of life.”
— Federico Fellini