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Teaching English to Children: A Guide

By Joseph, published on 24/07/2017 Blog > Languages > ESOL (English) > How to Teach English to Kids

We start worrying about our child’s future before they’ve even entered the world…

These worries are often caused by parental instinct. However, recessions and employment crises probably don’t help matters.

How are they going to succeed in the world with all this going on?

How can you teach children English as a second language?

Do you find yourself asking these questions? As parents, we want to do what’s best for our children.

Globalisation has made learning English as a second language essential when it comes to getting ahead in the world of business.

It seems that students from Northern European are almost fluent when it comes to learning English. Whereas some countries in Europe seem to be lagging behind. France, for example.

The French education system seems to be failing when it comes to teaching foreign languages. However, you can’t go around blaming education systems for your child’s ability in a language. Part of it’s down to you!

Would you like them to learn from a very young age?

Children are sponges when it comes to learning. You can start teaching English to them from 3 or 4 years old.

There are plenty of ways for children to learn English. How they learn vocabulary will really surprise you!

1. Daily English Lessons

As a parent you have to set the example your child will follow.

This is easier when they’re younger. Once they become teenagers they’re unlikely to say “I want to by like mum/dad!”.

Use English for everyday situations. Regular practice can also help you improve your English.

Introduce English lessons around the house. Cook with them in English or speak to them when it’s bath time, for example.

Start off easily.

Paediatricians agree that teaching children at a very young age can set them on the path to speaking English fluently.

Speak English to your children every day.

Learning English as a foreign language will give them a great advantage nowadays. Are they really advantages?

Regular language learning can bring the following benefits:

  • They’ll be intellectually stimulated: It’s scientifically proven that bilingual children are better when it comes to conceptualisation, symbolism, and analysis.

  • They’ll learn quicker: Children in multilingual environments are equipped to learn other foreign languages at school quicker. They’ll also quickly gain communication skills.

  • They’ll quickly open themselves up to the world: When they learn to speak English, it will spark their curiosity when it comes to learning about the world around them.

Speaking a second (or foreign) language throughout school can help your child not just academically but also professionally further down the road.

It’s important to alternate between English and their mother tongue at different points of the time. Set the example.

In the beginning, they’ll start by mixing up expressions before quickly using them appropriately.

2. English Songs for Kids

There are plenty of songs you’ll know by heart.

Can you remember the nursery rhymes you sang as a child?

Your child could be the same!

Teach them English nursery rhymes from a young age.

How can you teach children English with songs? How can you help your child with nursery rhymes? (Source: Web-Plectres)

You can also teach them what it means. They’ll quickly overtake you!

You could even listen to songs in English online!

They’ll improve their English listening skills.

Introduce Them to English with Nursery Rhymes

Music is a great way to teach non native children how to speak English. They can learn to speak as early as 3 years old.

There are plenty of nursery rhymes that can help them to learn English through repetition and singing. They’ll end up working on their English pronunciation without even realising it.

The rhythms are catchy, the words are simple, the pronunciation is clear. They’ll be so enthusiastic about learning them. They’ll learn vocabulary, pronunciation, intonation, and the basics of syntax while enjoying themselves.

Here are a few English-language songs we recommend.

  • For the alphabet: The Alphabet Song

  • For numbers: The Ants Go Marching

  • For colours and clothes: The Colours of Our Clothes

3. English Games for Kids

Learning English while playing is a great way to teach your child. There are plenty of educational English games on-line.

There are also free apps you can download to practice English.

Does your child often take your smartphone off you to play on? Download a few games from the App Store or Google Play and they can learn English online at the same time.

What are the best games for children learning English? Help your child improve their English with games. (Source: Pogu)

There are also fun games you can play without going on-line. Why not play a role-playing game? You could even have a game of English hide and seek!

Make them count in English! English learning needs to be enjoyable. Most sites focus on children learning English.

However, you can learn English while having fun regardless of your age. It’s a great way to learn! It does work better for children, though.

Pique their curiosity with a game and teach them a foreign language without them realising! In the digital age, it’s useful to focus them on the educational resources on-line.

It’s very easy to find educational games for your children.

There are tonnes of games to learn about English culture, nouns, and writing. Here are a few that we really like:

  • The British Council: For learning to read and write in English.

  • TheLiteracyCenter.net: A lively on-line resource to get children used to English numbers, colours, times, and the alphabet.

  • Startfall.com: Perfect for working on their pronunciation.

Learn English by Playing on Your Tablet

Just like a the apps for older people to learn English, there are also tonnes of apps for children to learn English and start ESOL courses.

There’s a lot of learning going on behind these games and riddles.

You should check out:

What are the best apps for kids learning English? From a young age, kids can learn English with Pili Pop! (Source: Pili Pop)

4. English Stories for Kids

Your child probably loves their bedtime stories. Alternate which language they’re in!

Once you’ve finished one book, consider an English book for children.

They’ll also get used to the spoken language as well as learning English vocabulary and expressions as they see them alongside the pictures.

Learning English while bonding with your children is a great idea, isn’t it?

Your child will also be learning how to read in English so make sure to teach them the alphabet!

Teaching Kids to Read

Bedtime stories are the perfect time to start teaching them English words and phrases.

Children learn their first words between the ages of 1 and 3.

To make sure they stay interested, alternate between languages. If you want to make sure learning English remains interesting and enriching, you should:

  1. Choose short stories: smaller children have smaller attention spans. Focus on stories that last less than 10 minutes.

  2. Choose a particular theme: to ensure that the language and vocabulary is useful, make sure to pick a story on a particular subject or theme. A story about farm animals, for example.

  3. Be expressive when you read: Bring the story alive with a stellar performance. Impersonate animal noises, etc.

Make sure that learning English is both educational and fun.

5. Watch Cartoons in English

Some parents think that television is harmful to their children. However, children can spend hours in front of the TV without bothering anyone.

Make the most of the time they spend glued to the TV by making them watch English cartoons. Educational shows like Dora the Explorer can be used to teach them vocabulary in two languages.

You can also put the shows on in English. Your child may struggle to understand everything in the beginning but they’ll quickly get the hang of it and improve.

Master the English language with the help of cartoons.

We’ve already mentioned the benefits of watching films in English in our other articles on learning English as an adult. It’s a great way to work on your listening and comprehension.

How does this work with children? By replacing films with cartoons!

Perhaps you’re worried that they won’t understand the story. Children will be just as glued to an English cartoon as they would be any other.

What are the best cartoons for children learning English? It’s a great idea to find English cartoons they already know. (Source: SB Mania)

These cartoons are the first steps your child will take towards taking an interest in subjects like history, science, and the environment.

6. Hire an English-Speaking Babysitter

Who better than an English speaker to teach your children English?

If you’re looking for someone to look after your children, you should consider looking towards bilingual English speakers. There are plenty of English speakers looking for work while they study.

What are the most fun ways for children to learn English? It’s important to find fun ways for your children to learn. (Source: Ashi Tano)

Find somebody and ensure that they speak English to your children. You could also look for an English-speaking au-pair.

If you can afford it, an English speaker living with you and looking after your children could quickly teach them English. However, this can be a quickly option.

Your children can start learning English with native English speakers.

Is it easy to find an English-speaking babysitter to teach your children English? Nowadays, there are plenty of services that can put you in contact with babysitters.

For example, in France there’s Baby Speaking. This is a foreign language babysitting service. It’s available in a number of France’s largest cities and is a great way to children to learn a new language.

English-speaking babysitters are trained by the agency to teach English to young children!

7. Travel to an English-Speaking country.

Are you currently planning your family holidays but not sure where to go? Travel to an English-speaking country.

Immersion is the perfect way to learn a foreign language. Get them to order their food in English or speak to the locals.

Go to parks where they can play with English-speaking children their own age. This is a great opportunity for them to practice their English.

They’ll also begin to understand the importance of using a language to integrate into a country.

If you can’t go with them, why not consider an exchange programme?

There are plenty of organisations that offer language trips for children. Generally, children will study English in the morning (grammar, syntax, vocabulary, etc.) and in the afternoon they’ll focus on activities and games.

Language stays in England for children.

Learn English as young as you can!

There’s nothing better than immersion in an English-speaking country when it comes to learning the language.

Instead of sending your child to a summer camp, why not send them on a language trip to London? There are plenty of organisations offering language trips all over the globe for children as young as 6.

These are a perfect way to get to know English-speaking culture and start learning English pronunciation and vocabulary.

Whether it’s in a school, with a host family, or even with an private tutor, your children will have a great time.

Have a look for:

  • Language stays,

  • English language summer camps,

  • Host families, etc.

8. Sign Up to a Bilingual School

There are plenty of schools all over the world offering bilingual education.

Given the cost, there aren’t many families that can afford to do this. However, if you can afford to, you can’t afford not to!

Where are the best English schools? Certain methods at specialised schools can be very effective. (Source: La Region)

There are other options, too. There are bilingual schools and academies for school holidays and weekends, etc.

These adopt a more entertaining approach. Having fun is a great way to learn English.

In some countries, there are also bilingual classes in state schools. Nevertheless, the quality of these can vary massively depending on where you are.

Bilingual Education from 3 Years

What is a bilingual school? A bilingual school is an educational establishment where the curriculum is taught using two working languages.

You can find them almost all over the world. They often teach children as young as 3.

According to linguists, children are most receptive to languages when they’re aged between 3 and 4 years old.

Young children learn very quickly by listening and drilling.

By having classes in these types of establishments, they won’t have to wait very long before they pick up enough vocabulary and grammar to start forming their own sentences.

By the time students attending these school reach the end of their academic career, they’ll already have all the necessary language skills they need to pursue a number of international career options.

9. English lessons for Kids with a Tutor

Once a child finishes nursery, you should consider getting a private tutor to help them with their English.

A tutor can tailor their teaching to your child. Their classes can be a lot more fun than they would be for an adult receiving academic support.

Furthermore, the tutor can regularly evaluate your child’s progress. They’ll also be able to give you specific advice geared towards helping them practice English.

Group English Tutorials for Children

Another option would be to have group tutorials for a number of children.

Group tutorials are different to normal private tutorials but they are still a great way for children to learn English.

What are the advantages?

The children aren’t alone with their private tutor. This means they can speak English with other children their own age, too.

They are a great way for your child to develop social skills.

10. Learn to Be Patient

Helping your child to learn English or another foreign language is important because it’ll give them more options in the future.

They’ll have everything they need when it comes to choosing what they want to do.

However, don’t make them hate English class! Learning a language needs to be an enjoyable experience.

You won’t see short-term results. It’s a long-term process. Every child goes at their own speed, too. You should keep this in mind.

Even though children learn languages quickly, they need to learn regularly over a long period of time in order to reap the benefits.

How long does it take children to learn English? Learning English requires patience and many years of study. (Source: Pxhere)

The methods and approaches will need to change as they do.

One last tip:

Don’t forget to lead by example. While they’re learning English, make sure that you also speak to them in English on a regular basis. Patience is the key to happiness.

Don’t put unnecessary pressure on your child.  Let them learn at their own pace while having fun.

If you’d like to learn about teaching dyslexic children English, read our article on the subject!

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