You can’t teach children the English language the same way you would adults. When it comes to a younger learner, language learning has to be fun otherwise they'll lose interest and just give up altogether.
Here’s some advice for how to teach children English.
Focus on the Fun of Learning English
Children learn very quickly, especially when it comes to languages and vocabulary. However, children also lose interest in things very quickly. This is your first hurdle.
As you know, children that start to learn a foreign language at a young age are far more likely to master the language in a few years and become fairly fluent. Therefore, if you're considering teaching English to a child, you should do so as early as possible.
Teaching children a foreign language early on will help a lot further down the line when it comes to their personal life (interacting with other people, when they're on holiday, etc.) and their professional life as they'll have the necessary language skills and know how to speak English fluently with a native English speaker.
You have to use the right methods for them to learn quickly. However, the right approach is more important than any particular teaching method because if you get the approach all wrong, they won't want to learn at all!
An approach that can be summarised as making fun the focus. This is a general approach for all types of learning since children learn much better when they’re having fun with it. There aren't many people who love studying English grammar, spelling, or vocabulary. However, if you learn English while having fun, you won't care whether you have to practise listening skills, are conjugating different verbs, or are just working on your English pronunciation.
This can require a lot of effort but stick with it! If you start taking things far too seriously, you run the risk of your teaching becoming completely ineffective. Children can quickly lose motivation and dig in their heels.
At this point it’s very difficult to change their minds. In order to teach children English, you have to know how to carefully mix work and play. In short: you have to adapt your teaching to the child.
In this article, we've got a few examples of what we've found to be effective and fun activities for teaching children English.
We were all children once. Even as we mature, we retain part of our childhood. Learning while having fun also works for adults.
If you’re wondering about when your child should start learning English, have a look at our article on the best time to start learning English.
English Cartoons for Kids
Children love cartoons. A great way to teach very young children English is with the help of cartoons in English as it can often be a great way to get very young children used to hearing English. They’ll pick up words and phrases as a result. Thanks to digital television and the internet, there are now so many educational cartoons for children to learn English online while having fun.
While Dora the Explorer is one of the most popular, it’s not the only one. However, remember that Dora isn’t a purely English cartoon as she also speaks Spanish. However, if your child speaks Spanish, there's no problem!
There are also cartoons that are fully in English. Experience has shown that young children are very receptive to English cartoons and spoken English. This also can work with adults when it comes to watching films in English. You should also know that for children it doesn’t matter if they don’t understand everything.
English Songs for Kids
Teaching English as a second language with songs and nursery rhymes in English is also a great way to get very young children familiar with the language and on their way towards fluency. Children love music.
It’s very easy to find nursery rhymes and songs in English in shops and on English learning websites. You can also use YouTube. The advantage is that your children can also see the lyrics at the same time and can memorise them more easily. This obviously only works with children who can already read, though.
You don’t have to just listen to nursery rhymes. Children can also sing along to any song just like an English speaker would. Most songs and nursery rhymes are very repetitive and designed for people to sing along with them. They can also help children to improve their pronunciation. Children will eventually learn the songs off by heart because listening and singing songs engages their memory. By teaching them English and music at the same time, you’re killing two birds with one stone.
English Stories for Kids
There are plenty of enjoyable and beautifully-illustrated books which can help very young children learn English. Some also come with audio tracks to make them more interactive. This means there are three different types of media for your children to learn: words, pictures, and audio.
If they’re old enough and familiar with English, you can read them these stories in English. If you’re learning English, you can also use it to teach yourself a bit, too. Again, two birds with one stone. (Those poor birds...)
Remember that you can improve your own English too since books for children are still written using English.
Speaking English to Kids
Not being able to speak English can be a disadvantage. If you can speak the language well, you have to teach your children English.
How do you do this when your English isn’t great? Don't worry! It doesn't need to be your native language!
As a non native speaker, as long as you know a few English words, tenses, and your pronunciation isn't terrible, very young children will be able to gain a good level of proficiency and comprehension thanks to the efforts you put in when they were young.
Question and answer sessions could work. Don't forget that for a child to improve their speaking skills,they have to find the exercises fun. If they don’t know they’re studying, they’ll make much more progress.
Remember that it isn’t necessary to have a high level of English to interact with children in the language. This means everyone can do it.
However, you do need to show your child that speaking English is a positive thing. Your child will want to speak English if they know their parents do, too. It might be something they stick with their whole life.
Online English Activities for Kids
There are tonnes of educational sites for learning English and young children love the colourful and interactive games.
Don't forget about mobile apps, either, as they can be great at keeping a child's attention long enough to learn important vocabulary and grammar. Obviously, you’ll need a tablet or a mobile for your child to benefit from this. Children can learn very quickly how to use mobiles and tablets.
Apps tend to be as effective as websites when it comes to education. You can find these apps on Google Play or the App Store. Some are free while others you’ll have to pay for.
Group English Lessons for Kids
We’ve generally been talking about teaching your own children.
However, don’t forget that there are also opportunities to learn English outside the family. Group language tutorials are a very good option for children learning English. You can find music awakening and music theory tutorials, too.
The idea is the same: teaching children to speak English to one another is more fun than on their own.
Copying the other members of the group can encourage them to learn. This can also help very young children to develop social skills. Group tutorials are a chance for young children to integrate into English-speaking society and it can also pique their interest in these cultures.
Private English Lessons for Kids
English tutorials are also a good idea as private English tutorials don’t usually take the same approach as typical English classes in school.
Make sure you choose the right English teacher, though. An effective English tutor has to take the right approach, offer fun English tutorials, listen, and be patient.
The less they resemble classes at school, the better, and the child has to be motivated and enjoy learning, too.
The success of private tutorials hinges on this. If you think you’ve made the wrong choice of tutor, don’t hesitate to change them as soon as possible. English lessons or esol courses can be costly, you don't want to waste your money on ones that aren't working.
Private tutorials are more effective for enthusiastic learners and group tutorials are an ideal solution for children under three. It’s best to wait until they reach 4 or 5 years old before considering a one-on-one private tutorial. Don't forget that private tutorials can also take place at your home or at the tutor’s home, too, depending on what's most convenient for you.
As you can see, there are plenty of ways for children to learn English and countless benefits to knowing English. Nowadays it’s easier to learn English than it’s ever been. Make the most of it! Learn where to find the best English resources online.
If you’d like to learn about teaching dyslexic children English, read our article on the subject!