The school year has started, bringing us a lot of responsibilities. For many children, as well as their parents, one of them is learning foreign languages. Foreign languages are (in most cases) compulsory from the third grade at elementary schools. Some children, however, have a strong dislike towards learning languages. Nevertheless, to be able to communicate in foreign languages, especially in English, is vital for the successful preparation for the future. So how to motivate young children to learn a foreign language we ourselves might not speak?
Tip 1: The sooner you start learning, the better
English is needed practically everywhere nowadays. Its knowledge can be crucial for e.g. getting a job. Starting early may be beneficial for the child’s future. “By and large, it is recommended to start learning a language in the first grade of elementary school where children may listen to English songs, watch animated educational videos and so on,” says Simona Škurková, the director of Lingua Centrum language school.
Many schools, therefore, include English lessons into the syllabus already in the first grade even though they are not obligated to do so. There are many language clubs already in kindergartens and there are also methods with which a child can start learning languages at the age of one year. Such a method is for example the Helen Doron method which has achieved its success in the whole world, says Škurková.
TRIVIA: What is the method of Helen Doron based on and why is it so popular?
The Helen Doron method is based on playfulness and learning through children’s interests. Teaching materials are based on fairy tales, characters, songs and games and mostly include repetitive listening. The method is designed for children from three months up to 19 years of age and is based on simplicity. Eventually, it produces excellent results. The method is used by a thousand of centres all over the world; you can find its franchises in the Czech Republic, as well.
Tip 2: No punishment for mistakes
It is without a doubt better to speak with mistakes than not to speak at all. Therefore, experts advise not to punish children for making mistakes. Bad grades can also demotivate them. Despite the fact that parents cannot influence the grades at school, a choice of a teacher in a language school, a tutor or an approach to home preparation is fully in their charge. Grammar mistakes will be eliminated under the supervision of a teacher on the condition that a pupil has the chance to practice the language.
Tip 3: System is important
The right system should be present in learning a language, but it is a common problem at many elementary schools. “Grammar is very often incorporated into vocabulary. Children learn by heart e.g. “he swims”, but they aren’t able to say “she swims” simply because they aren’t able to establish the connection between the two,” says Škurková. She explains that this absence of an appropriate system is one of the most frequent reasons why children need tutoring after school. A parent can also influence the method of learning, similarly as with grades – the choice of a high-quality teacher and good home preparation is on them.
Tip 4: Children’s interests may help
This advice stems from the approach to learning used at private language schools. Children discuss different topics than adults, lessons are adjusted to be playful and to keep children’s attention. Students learn better if they learn about something they are interested in. If children are able to describe their hobbies and abilities, it is much easier to follow with similar topics and more advanced grammar. The joy from the ability to order ice cream abroad or to make new foreign friends at the beach can be very inspiring for a child.
Tip 5: Inspire and be a role model
English interferes with many spheres of life and is no longer used only on holidays abroad. The sooner a child understands this fact, the more learning a language will start to make sense. To look up important information in English, translate a favourite song, and understand a video on YouTube or a computer game – these inspire children and help to push them towards effective learning. “In short, it is important for children to see that they can benefit from mastering a foreign language and to understand that learning a language is an investment for life, not the necessary evil from school,” concludes Škurková.
Lingua Centrum is one of the leading Czech language schools, established in 1990. It has nine branches and employs more than 1,300 teachers. The school offers a wide range of education courses for both public and companies in 25 languages, deals with translations, interpreting and language audits.
As one of the few schools in the Czech Republic, it has been certified by the audit from Bureau Veritas, specialising on the quality of language learning, since 2003 has been a member of the Association of the Language Schools of the Czech Republic and since 2011 an accredited exam centre for Cambridge English in the Czech Republic.