A baby’s first words are often a milestone in any parent’s life, but did you know that young children understand language months before they are able to speak? English learning for kids, or any language for that matter, should focus more on language comprehension rather than production. In other words, in these formative years learning English for kids is more about understanding the language rather than speaking it. Children will speak when they are ready, and by following these tips for learning English, kids will continue to learn the language, even if they are not yet speaking.
A Parent’s Guide to Learning English for Kids
1) Read, read, read.
Reading to your kids improves English learning dramatically. Studies have shown that early reading helps English learning and early reading development. Though they may not seem like they’re understanding the book, they actually are. As early as 8 weeks, they can focus on a book, even if it is just for a moment. Reading not only helps them with learning English, but it also models reading habits at a young age. Hopefully, as they get older, they will continue these good reading habits, as reading regularly has a huge impact on learning English language arts.
Try some of these books we have listed for early English learners. Anything with colorful pictures, lyrical sounds, or even a funny plot line will grab most kids’ attention!
2) Speak simply but properly.
I know there’s not much to say to a 1, 2, or 3 year old, but speaking speeds up English learning for kids. If you don’t know what to say, try to narrate what’s happening. If you’re holding water, say “water.” Keep it simple until your child can speak a few words, and then expand. To expand, you could say “water, cold, BRRR” until they catch on to that concept and so on and so forth. I would recommend avoiding baby talk altogether; however, you still want to keep it simple.
3) Listen and repeat.
Learning English for kids can actually pretty intimidating, so it’s important to listen and encourage. Try not to correct them, but instead repeat it back correctly. For instance, if they say “waper” instead of “water,” say something like, “Yes, water” and emphasize the ‘t.’ If you give your children attention when they are talking, babbling, mumbling, etc., they will be more likely to try out new sounds and words in the future.
Kids love to listen to music and try to sing along. Learning English for kids can be a fun process when you sing to your child and have your child sing along. Try simple children’s songs, or even take them to a local music class to learn some new tunes. Music is a great way to get them listening to the words, as most children’s song have fun, catchy tunes that will capture their attention (we all know how hard that is to do). As they start to learn these songs, try duets at home or in your car. For instance, you could sing, “Five little monkeys jumping on the…” and they could sing (or scream) “BED!” and continue this throughout the song. It gets them talking and engaged, which is the fastest way to learn language.
5) Animate your speech.
Get your kid’s attention by livening up your speech. Don’t speak monotone: speak loudly, clearly, and in funny voices. Instead of saying, “You are a big kid,” try to say “You are a BIIIIIIG kid” (some arm flailing will add an extra flair 🙂 ). Make sure you’re still speaking clearly so that they can catch on, but interesting verbal and non-verbal speech will keep your child’s attention for longer than just regular speech. If you feel uncomfortable doing this in regular speech, start the habit when you read and sing to your child. You probably feel (and look) silly, but silly captures kids’ curiosities.
These 5 tips for learning English for kids will help jumpstart your child’s speech. But be warned: once you get your children to start talking, you can’t get them to stop. 🙂
What are some fun activities you do with your children to get them comprehending speech or speaking? Let us know in the comments!
Author: Becky Adams, Curriculum Manager, A Grade Ahead