"One language sets you in a corridor for life. Two languages open every door along the way." Frank Smith

If you are thinking of opening the door to the world for your child by introducing him or her to English, you are certainly paving the way towards a brighter future for your child. Every parent worries that their child won't be able to grasp a new language as easily or will face language barriers when trying to learn an additional language but the truth is that children who learn languages at an earlier age thrive in all languages learnt. Due to the way that the child's brain is wired, children can soak up new languages easier from a younger age.

Can you imagine your child speaking English fluently within a year?

If you are really interested in getting your child to master English as a second language, here are some tips that may assist you in teaching English to your child.

How to get your child to speak English?
Teaching your child to speak English is an easy process. source: Unsplash| Josh Applegate

When to Begin English Language Learning for Kids?

Many parents, like you, are also struggling with the question of when should I enrol my child into an ESL programme. Sometimes you may hesitate because you may feel that your child is too young having barely grasped his or her first language, and you worry that it may be confusing for your child to pack on a second language.  The hesitation can sometimes make you wait too long and then you may question if your child is too old to have the added responsibility of learning a second language.

The truth of the matter is that children are most eager and susceptible to learning new concepts and words at the age of 3. Between one and two years,  children are developing their vocabulary in their home languages. By the time the child reaches 3 years of age, he or she has developed a large vocabulary bank just by listening to adults speak their home language. So introducing English as a second language to a 3-year-old would be ideal as your child's brain will soak up the language like a sponge.

You would be surprised at how quickly a 3-year-old will learn the language provided that you ensure that the language is being taught in an interactive and highly stimulating way. While it is best to introduce English as a second language to 3 or 4-year-olds, children only start to understand the value of learning a new language from the age of 7. It is certainly not too late to enrol your 7 or 8-year old child into an English language learning class. Children who are even older can also handle learning English as an additional language in a more mature way.

While we have mentioned the best possible ages to learn the language at a faster pace, learning English as a second language can happen at any age. There is no child or adult who is too old or too young to start learning a new language. To date, there have been no known disadvantages of being bilingual so it wouldn't hurt parents or children to start learning a new language such as English.

Ways to Teach English Grammar and Vocabulary for Kids who are Studying a Second Language

Teaching English vocabulary
Put each word that you teach in context to enable understanding for the child. Source: Unsplash| Jason Leung

Teaching English Vocabulary to Children

Any qualified TESL teacher will tell you that the best possible way to teach English words to children who are unfamiliar with the English language is to create a context around the word you teach. Saying the word, 'ball' and having the child repeat the word may simply not be impactful. You need to show the child a ball and explain the uses of the ball before you get the child to master the word for the object.  When you teach a word in context, you must think of the individual child.

If the child is a boy who loves football, it will work wonders to start teaching the child vocabulary related to the sport first. This will make it more fun for the child to learn vocabulary in the language. Allow the child to interact while learning the language as children not meant to rote learn words on a flashcard as per the "Dewy Decimal System" of learning as introduced in the fictional novel by Harper Lee, "To Kill a Mockingbird". The idea is not to do all the talking during the lesson as you could lose the child's interest entirely.

Let children get involved in hands-on activities while they are learning new words and phrases. The more involved that children are in language learning, the easier it will be for them to remember vocabulary in the language. Since you are trying to teach a new language to children, you need to mimic the way that you would teach a language to infantsTotal Physical Response (TPR) is what is commonly used by ESL teachers when teaching words and phrases. TPR is when you react to the verbal input by using appropriate physical action. For instance, if you are saying, "Hello," use your hand to wave and show what the greeting means.

You also need to get children to be involved as much as possible in the learning process. The more involved children are when learning, the more they will enjoy it. You would be surprised at how easily children can pick up English vocabulary words from watching TV shows. For younger children movies like, "The Witches" and "Matilda" will work to teach them English vocabulary. Animated shows like, "Elena of Avalor" uses simple vocabulary that is easy for younger children to grasp.

create chances to read with your child in English
Foster a love for reading in English so your child can learn the language better. Source: Unsplash

Teaching English Grammar

When teaching English to a child, especially when teaching correct English grammar, you need to make sure the child is constantly hearing the language being spoken correctly. You can ensure this happens by constantly letting your child listen to English vocabulary and English grammar.

You can let younger children listen to, "Cocomelon Sing-Along" songs for starters. Hearing songs about saying the importance of, "Please" and "Thank you," may teach your child important vocabulary and the correct grammar rules when using certain words and phrases in a sentence.

Make sure to give children time to correct their own grammar mistakes themselves. If your child does not realise that a grammar mistake has been made, probe the child to enable him or her to realise an incorrect grammatical utterance has been uttered. Mistakes like, "Me and my mum," should be expected at first but these mistakes may continue if left uncorrected. The more you probe the child to correct his or her incorrect grammatical utterances, the more confident the child will become at correcting his or her own grammatical utterances in the future.

Turn to the Internet for Free Downloadable Resources

As a parent trying to teach your child English for the first time, you can start by downloading free resources from the internet that may help you with ways to teach English vocabulary and grammar. As a parent, you can rely on language teaching sites such as Duolingo which can assist in language learning. Vooks storybooks brought to life allows English books to be read for your child. You can also use all online platforms for language learning to get your child more involved by using a tool that all children love-iPads.

You can sign up for a basic 120 hour ESL course first so that you can become more confident in teaching the language to your child.

Start with Basic English Conversation

Talk in English
Have conversations in English often by asking your child questions about pictures and sentences. Source: Unsplash

You must remember that when teaching a new language to a child, nothing has to be overly complex. When toddlers who are one year of age begin learning their home language, they learn simply by listening to conversations that adults are having. You also speak simply to toddlers and they pick up words from the language. Second language learning should be as natural as learning the first language. Try to have basic English conversations with your child as often as possible. This surely is a way to get your child accustomed to hearing English words and the way they are pronounced.

Do not make learning the English language seem like a chore.

Remember the more fun the child is having while learning words and grammatical utterances from the language, the more likely the child will be to remember the words and grammar rules from the language.

The more frequently the child is hearing the English language being spoken, the easier it will be for him or her to speak the language fluently.

Make sure to bring along a good English bedtime book to make the few minutes before bed a learning experience too. Allow your child to read independently in the language once he or she becomes more confident in reading. You could even do an English song hour before bed. Let your children listen to age-appropriate English songs and have them sing along to these songs. Always have your English dictionary close by so that you can show your child how to look up unfamiliar English words in the dictionary. This will teach them from a young age to consult a dictionary if they are unsure of the meaning of a word.

English Tutorials for Teaching English as a Second Language to Children

If English is not your first language either or you feel that you won't do your child any justice by teaching him or her how to speak English, you can always rope in an English tutor to assist.

A tutor can help speed up the process of teaching English to your child and a tutor will know how to approach fostering this second language learning from a more professional stance. Having the experience needed, a tutor can guide language learning and create the ideal environment for second language development.

You can look for a second language English tutor on the Superprof site.

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Laila is an enthusiastic English educator and a fun-filled freelance writer. She has accomplished her dream of getting her first book published and has managed to write over 1 000 000 words since beginning her freelance career. In her free time, she is a travel blogger who explores all South Africa has to offer.