Help your child become fluent at English
- It takes time – Try to allocate 20 hours a week to using English. Speaking, reading and writing.
- Keep it fun – Becoming fluent is tough, think of topics and activities that your child enjoys and always praise your child’s efforts.
- Use variety – Introduce the language in different ways, classes, books, conversation, movies…
- Don’t interrupt your child – When they are speaking or writing, they may be very slow. Don’t pick on every mistake and give your child time to try.
- Copy TV shows or movies – Encourage your child to copy what they are hearing, they can try to copy the different voices and speaking styles. You can even re enact their favourite scenes from shows or movies!
There is no magic way to help your child become fluent at English, and it is a particularly difficult language to master. IParents always ask me how their child can be more fluent and natural when they speak. Here are 5 strategies that can help.
1. It takes time
Why: There are 168 hours in a week your child will be awake for around 100 of those. For a child to make good progress and to become fluent, they need to have at least 20% of their waking lives exposed to English, so therefore around 20 hours.
How to do this: First estimate how much time they currently use English – this could be classes in school, extra tuition,sports, music clubs in English, reading with parents, watching English language shows, or using apps. Next, think of how you can add some activities where your child will use English. This could be sport or activity clubs conducted in English or play dates with native English speaking friends or family.
2. Keep it fun
Why: Becoming fluent at English is tough and a child should experiment and have fun with the language to make progress. Keeping activities fun keeps children engaged, it also shows them that they can experiment with language.
Example of how to do this: If I’m talking with the students about pets, and I want the students to tell me which animals are suitable. I could ask “which animals can make good pets?” and we make a list, but that is boring. So instead I might ask who has a pet elephant or shark. Then they will all tell me that you can’t have that type of pet. So I will follow up with why not? They tell me. Then I ask, so which animals could be pets? Then we are back to the discussion I wanted to have. But the students are much more involved. I gave an extremely silly example at the start to get the students laughing, and you can apply this strategy to discussions about any topic.
3. Use variety
Why: Variety helps in 2 ways, firstly it keeps your child engaged and excited about the learning process, because they aren’t always doing the same activities. Secondly, it helps your child experience and use English in different situations. They will therefore, hear different vocabulary and sentence patterns, bringing the language to life.
How to do this: Your child will probably have English lessons at school and be reading books. You can also, take them to movies, arrange play-dates with native English speaking children, have sports or music classes in English or even use English around the dinner or breakfast table.
4. Don’t interrupt your child.
Why: Don’t stop them when they are trying to explain their thoughts. Let them take their time. When a child is learning a language it may take a long time for them to put their thoughts into words. They may make mistakes. Don’t try to jump in and help or correct them. Early in their learning journey, children need time to think and need to be given confidence.
It’s not necessary for a child to have perfect grammar or pronunciation early in their learning journey. By giving them time to think about what they say and time to self correct and amend their comments you are allowing them to calculate how to produce English, this means they are trying to work out how to speak by themselves.
How: First allow your child to take their time, and let them know that they will always be able to have time to think. Furthermore, allow your child to self correct their statements.
If you want to correct a mistake or 2 once they have made their point. Use positive phrasing such as “try again like this” or “say it like this” or “the word for … is this.” A final point is that if your child is really struggling to make a point or they ask for help, you can give an example answer for them to adapt or talk about.
5. Copy TV shows or movies
Why: When a child repeats what they hear on a TV show or in a movie scene, they will try to mimic words, the manner of speaking, pronunciation, and intonation. This is a great way to practice the pronunciation and sentence structures of English.
How to do this: There are 2 ways to do this. Firstly, you can encourage your child to copy exactly what they are seeing on the screen. They could perhaps pick 1 character to impersonate, or they could try and impersonate a few and attempt to capture the different voices and speaking styles, secondly, you can re-enact their favourite scene from a show or movie, encourage your child to adapt the scene in their own way.