Everyone knows how important English is in todayâs world, right? I would say everyone, except your kids. Most children I know see English as another boring school subject, with the added potential for great humiliation.
As we can all attest, the brain has a much greater capacity for remembering at a young age. Added to that, there is a cut-off point for pronunciation around puberty. Past this point, itâs very, very rare to have complete mastery of an accent: Starting English at an early age is crucial, and although schools (Iâm writing this in France, so Iâm using France as a model) have caught onto the fact that English needs to start in primary school, the standard of English-teaching is very inconsistent and the amount of time spent on it (1 hour a week maximum) is not enough.
If a) children are not intrinsically interested in learning English and b) they need to learn English, as parents what can we do?
3. Find a fun English class. Look for ones that concentrate on oral English and games. Save grammar and writing for school.
4. Let them see you speak other languages. Make it something normal, even if your own English is terrible. In the Netherlands for example, everyone speaks English, itâs part of life. The children grow up seeing it as something that everybody does, not as something special.
5. Send them on a language holiday. Choose wisely (see my article on this here.) If itâs a good one, they will use their English to make friends from all over the world and have an amazing time. It will also give them a reason to speak English, not just on the holiday but throughout the year, keeping in touch with their friends.
6. Never tell them things like âFrench people arenât good at languages.â Itâs not true, and it gives them a reason to fail before theyâve even started.
How about you? What do your children do to learn English or another language?
Sending your kids on a language holiday is a fantastic way for them to improve their English: if everything goes well, they’ll make friends from all over the world, in English, and wanting to in touch with those friends will give them a reason to improve even more. And yes, for the older ones, there might even be an international love story…(don’t worry, they are supervised at all times!)
Language holidays are expensive. So how do you make sure you choose the right one?
6. Bedrooms. It’s better for the children to sleep in smaller bedrooms, rather than big dormitories, as there is more chance they’ll be with speakers of different languages. Be aware that if your child is going with a friend, they probably won’t be in the same bedroom. Shared bedrooms are also better than single ones, as there is much more potential to make friends with kids from other countries.
7. Phones. The school I worked in restricted wifi to two half an hour slots per day and students were not allowed their phones at night. They did complain, but they actually spent more time speaking to each other than snapchatting their friends at home.
Did you know that you can also do a summer school? Why not go and work on your English at the same time?
On a personal note, I was the Academic Director of CAE summer school in 2015 and 2016, and I can highly recommend it!
My blog has changed! If you're looking for my English-practice exercises, they're all still here, just look in the archives.
Catherine: blogging about learning, language, culture, France and more...