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Helping Children to Learn English

English is the third most common native language in the world, is widely learned as a second language and is an official language of the United Nations, the European Union, and many other world and regional international organisations. Your children’s future is made brighter and opportunities open up if English is known and used fluently by them. This isn't necessarily something you can or should leave to chance. It takes a certain amount of conscious action and creativity. But the rewards are tremendous and long-lasting. Here are some tips to do with learning English effectively and quickly.

1. Point out different things in English.

Many English courses, even the most creative ones, can tend to get ‘stuck’ quickly in certain patterns and can fixate attention onto the pages of a text book or into particular exercises. Students can become too focused on the page and can lose sight of the fact that English, like all languages, is meant to be lived. Studying from books alone can make the language seem boring and a little ‘dead’. Next time you go out, or even inside your house, try pointing out things some distance away or close at hand which you may not have noticed before: the cloud on the horizon; the sign above a shop; the design on a magazine cover; the colours in the room. Find the English words for these and take notice. The language will grow more interesting accordingly.

2. Notice particular things in English.

Similar to the above, try this: pick a section of a busy street near you, about a hundred yards or metres in length. In it, find fascinating things: different colours, people, perhaps a portion of traffic, signs and so forth. Look up the English words for each of these. Start with nouns and then try to find the verbs -walking, driving, talking and so forth. Expand into adjectives: noisy, sudden, quiet, etc. Apart from heightening your attention to detail, you will have fun and widen your vocabulary in a living and relevant way.

3. Go on English adventures.

Most English language courses can get very dull very quickly. But, with a little imagination almost everything about learning English can be an adventure. Outings are important. Even going to the shops can be a voyage to new worlds. Go on a Grocery Shopping Adventure! Pick up an English travel magazine and browse some interesting destinations. Watch an English news broadcast or sports programme. This can all have the effect of casting a net of magic over otherwise ordinary, everyday activities. Something you considered mundane can take on the look of enchantment again.

4. Encourage writing and talking in English.

Practical advice here: leave reams of blank paper and a supply of pens around the place. Try to record whatever you see or hear in a few English words and sentences. Use your imagination. Create mini-masterpieces openly or in secret. Keep a journal, with space for pictures or sketches. It helps if you have a go, no matter how hopeless you may think your understanding of English is. Do the same in conversations -try to ask for something simple in English in an outdoor or ‘life’ situation. You will gain confidence and be happier as well as potentially developing talents in this language.

5. Avoid drawing attention to mistakes.

With all of the above -and indeed, generally- try not to jump on any errors you make. Too much criticism and correction, even very little criticism, results in a student feeling blunted and negated. Mistakes that students make in learning a new language are by accident. Don't make a big deal out of it and you’ll win and learn faster.

Using the above, you can bring the language to life and make sure that a child is able to ‘think with it’ in the same way that he or she thinks in their native language.

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