Whether we accept it or not – English has become a daily part and parcel of our lives.
It’s a fact that a language is easier to learn when one is young. Kids have the ability to pick up multiple languages simultaneously without getting confused. As we grow older, it gets tougher, taking us longer to learn a language.
How to build English-speaking skills in kids, so they don’t struggle later in life?
Sharing my experiences while growing up, then as a professional and a mom.
1. Selecting the right school
My school was English-medium, but for most aspects, other than teachers, the medium of communication with classmates and friends was Hindi.
During graduation, I actually understood the importance of expressing myself in English. Thinking in a different language, then converting to English while speaking, getting tongue-tied to form a sentence, struggling to find the right words were usual. This may lead to a lowering of confidence in the long run; fortunately, in my case, my collegemates were easy-going, and Hinglish was an accepted mode of conversation! (Replace these features with your native tongue, and the result will be the same)
Note: I watched English serials and read-only English books. Still, my verbal skills were not up-to-the-mark.
Throughout graduation, I kept working upon this skill and, by post-graduation, was a confident speaker, even going on to becoming a trainer.
To ensure my daughter doesn’t face the same issue, we enrolled in a school after an extensive search. Speaking in English is a norm at her school, amongst kids, and with teachers.
This practice continues at home; I emphasize clear and complete responses in English. If she’s unable to find the right words, language-mixing is allowed as long as she checks on those words later!
2. Activity-based learning
Ensuring one speaks the language is the foundation; developing on it is a continuous process.
Example “build” is commonly used, but do we know its synonyms (alternatives) for regular usage?
Activities engaging young learners through a fun-based environment lead to better retention.
- Reading– I integrated the habit of reading in my daughter since age 2, slowly she grew fond of it. What took the habit to another level was a website that the school introduced.
Getlitt! is an online library of kids’ books. A gamified experience motivates kids as they compete for points on reading maximum books, review-writing, quizzes, and reading contests. This provided her the necessary momentum to read. Now, she reads more regularly than me!
Reading opens up multiple avenues by increasing vocabulary, enhancing grammar, and later even writing style. If one doesn’t read, writing can never progress.
- Spell Bee (Indian-version) grade-wise interschool competition covers not only spellings but synonyms, sentence structures, prefix-suffix, comprehension, idioms, proverbs, etc.
My daughter is participating since Grade-1, recommended not for the contest-based structure, but the achievement of completing a level successfully gives the motivation to do better each time and move to advanced levels.
- Watching English cartoons/movies– She views other languages too but prefers her watching English films to improve her grasp of the language.
- Games– Like jumble, find the word, pictionary, scrabble are other enjoyable options for vocabulary expansion.
3. Creative exercises conducted by the school
- Topic presentation – designed as show and tell (with an object) in lower grades; higher grades kids memorize and speak few lines on a specific subject in front of the class without referring to notes.
- Synonym/antonym – words from the grade-prescribed novels are assigned, kids prepare and attempt a weekly test.
- Interhouse public-speaking/speech competitions – kids give a prepared script in front of the entire grade/judges.
- Western vocal classes – language broadening through training in English tracks.
- Library – journals for kids to rate and record their book reviews.
- English department actively organizes interactive author meets, drop-everything-and-read days, creating charts to display reading routines, etc.
Encouraging her to participate is like winning half the battle, then it’s about preparation and competing in the best possible manner.
Diary-writing is recommended by language experts, I wasn’t too successful with her in this area, but it’s surely on my list for the future.
Bottom-line – one may select the best school in the city but to groom and inspire kids with real improvement being demonstrated is the key.
Speaking the language is the first step to learning it; learning by doing, in this case, becomes learning by speaking!
Parent-school partnership acts as the catalyst in my daughter’s journey towards English eloquence.
The ability to speak English fluently boosts the confidence of kids and adults. The proof of this is in front of me during her online-school interactions.