Any parent wants the best for his or her child. And many adults think that kids need to learn foreign languages – this will bring an immense benefit. And some parents are just obsessed with the idea of starting learning as early as possible. In this article, we will tell you when, where and how to start studying, and how to do it at home.
We begin with the question "When?".
We will say directly: there is no exact answer to this question. Each child is individual, so the "universal age" of the beginning of studying is almost impossible to designate. We will consider two options, their pros and cons. In addition, you will see expert opinions of different teachers on this issue, they are based on their personal experience. You know your child well, so you can decide which of these options suits you.
Theory #1. A Child Should Be Taught English as Soon as Possible
Adherents of this theory say that children easily learn any languages from birth and up to 5-6 years. They learn their native language naturally, without any schools, so they can learn other ones the same way.
Advantages of this approach:
- A child learns the language unconsciously
Parents believe that kids learn English as their native language, that is, they simply listen passively, and then reproduce words and phrases in their own speech. By the age of 7, every child knows the native language well, despite the fact that he or she does not understand what is "subject", "noun", "present tense" etc. Hence the conclusion follows that you can similarly learn English – naturally and with no rules.
- A kid is not afraid to talk
A child at this age is less afraid to make a mistake than an adult, so kids are more boldly using the language they are studying. Children do not have a language barrier, because they are more direct and less constrained than adults. They just say what they want without paying attention to their pronunciation or mistakes in speech. Adults correct these mistakes, and gradually a child gets used to saying right sentences.
- Children have a good memory
There is a theory that at the age of up to 5 years, each person's ability for languages is above average because children quickly memorize words and phrases. They, like parrots, repeat everything they hear, and literally on the fly seize new words for themselves. Remember, probably, every adult had such a discomfiture: you pronounce some not very good word, and a child instantly remembers it and begins to use it in his or her speech. If to offer the child good words in English instead of bad ones, he or she will also remember them quickly.
- A child is easier to work out a good pronunciation
It is also believed that it is easier for a child to learn to pronounce the sounds of English speech correctly, because the onomatopoeic abilities of children are at an elevated level. A child quickly learns to pronounce all sounds of his or her native language as an adult says. Similarly, he or she will learn to pronounce sounds of English speech: quickly and correctly.
Disadvantages of this approach:
- The need for a language environment
Studying "in a natural way" is possible only under the condition of the creation of a suitable language environment or staying in it. That is, a child should hear English speech from others daily. This is possible if he or she lives abroad, one of the parents is always speaking English or a child has an English-speaking nanny. Remember, in the XVIII-XIX centuries, representatives of the higher world knew the French language even better than their native one. And all because it was customary to invite governesses and tutors from France in those days.
- Danger of "mechanical" learning
A child still does not know his or her native language, he or she pronounces sentences "on the autopilot", but does not understand how words "work" with each other. In addition, many kids have a small vocabulary, and if a child does not understand what a particular word means in his or her native language, they will not understand this in English. Mechanical memorization of English phrases is not the most effective method of learning the language. Think, maybe, it is necessary to wait, while the child grows up and will consciously learn English.
- It is difficult to create the right mood
For a child of preschool age, the correct attitude is important both at home and at lessons, and it is not easy to create it. So, a child learns playing, so at home, you will need to "play in English". In addition, you will need to find a tutor who will be able to teach a child through the game and instill in him or her the love for learning the language. It is not easy to do this: not every teacher knows how to teach children, and some ones discourage to learn foreign languages for a long time.
- The risk of spoiling the pronunciation of native tongue’s sounds
Some speech therapists believe that studying English sounds can cause poor pronunciation of native tongue’s ones. That is, they do not recommend studying English until a child has a good pronunciation of sounds of his or her native language.
Now let us consider opinions of different teachers on the topic when it is better to start learning a foreign language.
I would say that a child can begin to learn English from birth, if parents are of different nationalities and, accordingly, originally one speaks two (and sometimes three) tongues in the family.
My daughter began to show interest in various videos with songs and poems in English from 2,5 years old (of course, it was I who chose and suggested them). She immediately chose certain ones and then simply required to turn them on 20-30 times in a row. She began to sing them in a couple of weeks. At this age, children are able to absorb new words and pronunciation at an astonishing rate.
It seems to me that the earlier you show a new tongue to a kid (and this is your initial task), the easier it will be for to learn in the future. The desire of a child is also very important, parents need to catch the moment when a child is interested. And do not try to impose at an early age what they are not interested in, because then the result will be negative.
With regard directly to learning the language as a kind of activity, then probably children can be given to courses from 3-4 years old, but necessarily in a group, and not individually (this is my subjective opinion, of course). At the same time, it is very good to weigh the pros and cons, considering the nature of a child, his or her willingness to learn and communicate with new peers and a teacher. The first experience is the most important!
Read continuation in the next part of the article.