"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his own language, that goes to his heart." Nelson Mandela

As a parent, you may have already started understanding how vital it has become in our interconnected world to have bilingual children. So you may have already contemplated getting your child to take up English second language classes before he or she even starts learning English at school. While you are an eager beaver to register your child for these additional language classes, how can you possibly get your child enthusiastic about speaking the English language first?

If you start teaching your 3 or 4-year-old child the English language, he or she will be willing to imitate the language utterances and even soak up the language like a sponge. Younger children enjoy listening to their voices and exploring the way that new words and sounds roll off their tongues. Teaching your child a second language when he or she is 7 years old or even older may be harder than teaching your child when he or she is younger. However, there is nothing stopping you from teaching your 7 to 10-year-old children how to speak the English language. In fact, you can even teach teenagers how to speak English and how to be enthusiastic about learning the language. You must remember that language learning can happen at any age.

Get your child interested in language learning
Use your own strategies to teach English as a second language to your child. Source: Unsplash | Gabriel Tovar

The education system in South Africa is such that many children that are being taught the English language at school do not actually speak English in their homes. As such children who do not hear the English language being spoken at home find it extremely difficult to adjust to the school classroom situation where the English language is predominantly spoken.

If you are keen on putting your child in an English-speaking school, you can't blame the failed education system of South Africa for your child not being fluent in the language by the end of the foundation phase. You must start exposing your child to the English language before he or she enters the schooling world. At a school with over 40 learners per class, the teacher doesn't always have enough time to teach every English concept to your child alone and although learner support is provided in most schools, it may not be merely enough to help your child master the English language.

To tell you the truth, there are plenty of ways for you to teach the English language before you even enrol your child into an English speaking course.

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The Best English Course for Kids Equals Fun

"A new language is a new life" Persian proverb

Having said that a new language is a new life, how can you change your life to meet the English second language learning demands? Let's start with the fact that as a parent you need to be a role model for your child. If you speak the English language more often, you would force your children to do the same in the home.

If you look at the CAPS curriculum, you will see that mention has been made about strands that need to be developed by very young children so that they can be proficient in English. Here are some strategies to teach your child some of the best English lessons in a fun way while still teaching your child how to speak, listen to and read in English.

Include English in Daily Interactions

A good suggestion would be to label things in English so the child can constantly look at the English spelling of a word. Put a sticker on the milk jug that reads, "Milk" or a sticker on the juice box that reads, "Orange juice". Make it a rule for your child to read the name of every labelled object that they spot at home. When your child opens up the fridge he or she must read out the name of the objects that are labelled. This way you get to rectify incorrect pronunciation as soon as you hear the words being sounded. By doing this, you help your child form connections between objects and words. The child will begin to associate certain English words with specific objects in the house.

Label food items
Label food items in English to teach certain words to your child. Source: Unsplash | Tania Malrechauffer

If you are not labelling food items around the home, you can strike up a conversation with your child in the English language. It is true that the more the child hears the language being spoken, the easier it becomes for the child to speak the language. Use bath-time related vocabulary such as soap, bubbles, shampoo, hands, feet and scrub during evening baths. At tea time, use English words associated with drinking tea.  You will be exposing your child to the English vocabulary while allowing your child to visually link words to certain actions and nouns.

It is proven that the more children hear a language being spoken, the more likely they will be to speak the language. You need to set the example and make English speaking almost a natural occurrence in the household.

Sing-Along to English Songs

Certain nursery rhymes like, "Rock-A-Bye-Baby" and "Twinkle Twinkle" tends to stick in the heads of those who hear the songs being sung. You could start by singing an English nursery rhyme every evening for your child. After a few nights, you can be sure that your child will be mouthing the words to the nursery rhyme as well.

Try to go deeper with nursery rhymes by also teaching your child the meaning of nursery rhymes.  Think back to days when you would hear nursery rhymes. Can you recall the words to, "Humpty Dumpty?" If you can then surely your child will be able to remember English nursery rhymes too.

"CocoMelon" has created some sing-along songs which focuses on teaching simple English concepts like colours, shapes and food groups to very young children.  These fun Cocomelon songs will do wonders in teaching your children some important English words including words and phrases like, "Please" and "Thank you".

Read English Stories for Kids

If you are keen on getting your child to fall hopelessly in love with the English language, start reading your child's favourite fairytales in English. Your child will at first react rather strangely to the nuances in the new language as opposed to having the book read in their home language. However, once your child sees the illustrations, he or she will have tons of fun trying to decide what the pictures indicate about what's happening in the story. Alternate between reading in your child's home language and in English. By choosing one day of the week to read in the child's home language and another to read in the first additional language, you are simultaneously developing your child's ability to be knowledgeable in both languages.

Once your child becomes more familiar with the English language, he or she will be able to finger read on his or her own.

If you are finding it impossible to read to your child yourself, you can try out Vooks animated stories for children between the ages of 2 to 8. This site offers an ever-growing library of books that are read to your child. It has been stated that just by reading 20 minutes per day, vocabulary can be strengthened, fluency in reading is encouraged and a love for reading inculcated in your child. So spare 20 to 30 minutes per day to let your child read in his or her home language as well as in other languages such as English.

For children who are beginning to learn to read in English, interactive reading games like Teach Your Monster to Read could be fun if included in your child's daily routine. The game teaches children how to pronounce certain phonetic sounds correctly and helps children read more fluently and well.

You would be surprised at how many reading applications are available online to ensure that children can be assisted when it comes to one of the core skills of any language-reading.

Reading in English with your child
Make reading English a fun experience every night. Source: Unsplash

Play English Games with Your Child

At a Play Sense online workshop for parents, it had been mentioned that play helps your child's brain grow, deal with difficult situations and prepares your child to be a master player. However, when choosing to teach your child English through play, do not plan anything in advance. Play needs to unstructured and flexible for children to reap maximum benefit from playing. Make everything a game. Put a few objects in the toy box. Give your child time to pick out an object or objects that he or she is interested in. Once he or she starts playing with the objects, have English conversations about the objects. Probe the child and ignite the child's curiosity while he or she is playing.

Say things like, "What a pretty pony, where do you think ponies live?" This will prompt thinking and encourage the learning of new vocabulary. You can then introduce the English word, "stable" as a place where horses and ponies live. You can also start a conversation about how the word, "stable" has more than one meaning. Talk about how funny the English language is and how one word can have multiple meanings. Do not try to overcomplicate this playful activity by introducing the concept of homonyms and homophones. Keep play as simple as possible whilst still teaching a thing or two to your child.

By playing games with Barbie dolls and even when role-playing,  children suspend reality. Having their reality suspended, children become far more susceptible to deal with things. Play doctor-patient so that your child can learn how to take on the role of being a caregiver while simultaneously learning some medical jargon. "We use a thermometer to check someone's temperature." Ask children to repeat. In fact, if your child enjoys playing a certain game he or she will repeat the game several times. This repetition allows the child to learn.

While you may think that you are not encouraging the language learning process by letting your child play freely, this is not true. Children remember what they learn during play more than they remember what they have learnt in a structured classroom setting. So give your child time to just play around with English words and nuances and you will be getting your child to formulate connections through the repetition of certain words and phrases.

Using objects to teach English
Play games to foster vocabulary learning. Source: Unsplash | Sandy Millar

The Value of An English Learning Course for Kids

"A different language is a different vision for life." Federico Fellini

It's best to make English learning fun and part of daily activities. In this way, your child won't even know that he or she is actually learning. Having fun strategies to teach the English language will be effective so you don't actually need to persuade your child to want to learn the language. So why do you want your child to learn English? What value can your child gain from learning English?

By learning English, your child can get immersed in the English culture. Through language pronunciation and the vocabulary of a particular language, you can learn a lot about the culture of the people who speak the language. To a certain extent children who learn more than one language tend to be far more empathetic.  You are building your child's character and personality by introducing him or her to a whole new language and thus a whole new cultural experience associated with this new language.

By teaching your child a new language and by making your child bilingual your child becomes intellectually stimulated. It is also believed that children who are bilingual tend to learn faster in all aspects. Children who learn English from a young age experience cerebral development. Cerebral development means that children become far more focused and able to concentrate on anything. It is also proven that bilingual children have an increased ability to problem solve quickly and effectively.

As a parent, it is inevitable to set a goal for your children in hopes of getting them to want to thrive in the world. Almost everyone in the world is multilingual so you would want to also make it possible for your child to be multilingual too. Children who are multilingual become adults who generally have better jobs in the future. It sounds as if this is a difficult fact to prove. However, many studies conducted do indeed indicate that setting your child up for successstarts with teaching them to be proficient in more languages than just one.

Setting your child up for success
Teaching your child different languages from a young age helps them succeed when they are older.                  Source: Unsplash

The Way to Create English Speaking Lessons for Kids at Home

"With languages, you can move from one social situation to another. With languages, you are at home anywhere" Edmund De Waal

You would have noticed that most of the tips that have already been mentioned as to how to teach children English suggested that you try out language learning activities at home. Contrary to popular belief, you do not always need to send your child to a language learning centre in order to get them to master speaking English. Allow your child to feel at home while learning the language by creating opportunities for your child to actually learn at the home. So are there any ways to guarantee success in the English language?

Watch Cartoons and Animated Movies

The thought of having your child vegetate in front of the television set makes you think of Roald Dahl's poem, "Television". We don't mean letting your child watch TV until his or her eyes pop out.  Let your child watch 30 minutes of their favourite cartoon in the English language. While your child won't be imagining at all during the cartoon, he or she will be hypnotised by the English language and in turn, he or she will learn certain English idioms and phrases. It is amazing how many puns you will notice in cartoons that your child may not pick up on these puns. Although you do not need to introduce the concept of a pun to your little child it is important to let your child know that the characters in the cartoon are playing on words and that one word can have more than one meaning

If you do want your child's imagination to flow while still learning English, try to watch something like Disney's Paperman on Youtube. The silent cartoon allows you to ask your child to fill in the dialogues for the main characters.  This task is much more creative and involves your child's imagination but it does require a sound knowledge of English vocabulary. Therefore this task is far more suitable for the older child who has been learning English for over 2 years.

An English Speaking Tutor or Au pair

Get children to cooperate when language learning
Learning with a baby sitter or English speaking tutor can be fun. Source: Unsplash | Andrew Ebrahim

If you are looking for another strategy to teach your child English from home, we suggest that you employ an English speaking tutor or au pair to come home and help your child. Having a native language English speaker in the house may do the trick in helping your child perfect the English language. You would be surprised at how wonderfully your child will pick up on English vocabulary from the English speaking tutor or au pair.

In foreign countries such as Amsterdam, families employ au pairs from South Africa mainly for the reason that this native English speaking au pair can assist their children with learning the English language while looking after their children at the same time. So if you can kill two birds with one stone, why not do so?

Remember the more open-minded you are about the activities that use to teach English and the more patient you are as a parent when your child is trying to perfect this foreign language, the easier the task of teaching English to your child will be. Why spend a fortune on specialised ESL courses when most of the learning starts at the home in the first place?

The truth is that children can learn English simply.

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Laila

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.