With the boom in information technology, there are now a number of channels to access English, such as the Internet, television, iPads, newspapers, books as well as in schools. This new profusion of possibilities may confuse parents as to which channels are most effective and how much time they should spend on each medium.
Academic Manager of I Can Read System VietNam with more than 10 years of experience shares his expertise on this:
Listening is the most important skill for children
Newborn children need 1.5 to 2 years before they start to speak in their own language; they begin to converse with simple sentences at 3, and can only fully express their thoughts by the age of 4 to 5. Bear in mind that we are referring to the child’s native language, to which children are exposed majority of the day.
It is important, then that parents are patient and should ensure that their expectations reflect this reality. There is a tendency for some parents to force their children to talk, and answer questions in English immediately after having a small number of lessons. This only encourages ‘parrot’ learning habits. The child will answer questions with an automatic response without paying attention to what the other person actually said. A typical example is A: How are you? B: I’m fine thank you, and you? Then, when the child is asked “How old are you?” they reply like a parrot “I’m fine thank you, and you?” While learning in this ‘parrot’ style give the impression the child can speak English, in fact, they only have a very limited understanding of the language, and will struggle to make good progress.
In my experience, some children can learn English for a year to 18 months without developing any independent communicative ability. However once they begin to voluntarily communicate, their English capability seems to surge, and they then learn very quickly and communicate flexibly. All children have their own unique learning style, and learn best in varied conditions and activities.
However, for the vast majority of young children, listening is by far the best way for them to acquire a new language. Children learn a language best, not by parroting phrases, but by learning to understand the words and phrases they hear through the context they hear them. After a period of absorption and with the constant encouragement of the teacher and parents, the child will begin to use the language naturally, and their communicative ability will begin to improve rapidly after that point.
The good news is that, although children in Vietnam have little opportunity to practice speaking English, they have many opportunities to listen. They can practice listening through English cartoon shows and online video clips teaching English. I highly recommend that children listen regularly to English songs. The melody will stick in the child’s mind, helping them retain the vocabulary, as well as the rhythm and intonation of English.
Promoting long-term interest in English
Give your child exposure to English through activities, songs and games. The purpose is to get children be interested in English right from the start. If the first time a child is exposed to English is in academic school, English will be just another subject, with all the accompanying pressure, such as exams, tests and grades. The children will then most likely not be interested and this will make it more difficult for them to fully acquire the language later. One tip I often share with my teachers is to use activities the students already enjoy to introduce and practise new words or phrases. So, whatever your child likes to do, just do it in English!
Practising English at home with children is extremely important
Children probably only see their teacher 1-2 times a week. However, they spend a huge amount of their time with parents. Therefore, parents should do their best to be English role models for their children. Try to read short English stories to children before bed. Do not worry about your pronunciation or if the child can understand the story content or not.
Children are much smarter than you think, and can readily understand stories without understanding every word. Children learn by imitation, so parents should give opportunities for the kids to listen to English by reading newspapers aloud, watching movies or listening to English music. Take every opportunity to expose your child to English, and their awareness of the language will quickly build naturally.
I Can Read Vietnam