Did you know that English has twice as many vowels and half the number of consonants of Hindi? No wonder children find it so hard to get their little mouths around English words! But in India, English learning for kids has become a priority. We want the best for our children, and many parents believe being fluent in English is as important as the mother tongue.
Learning a language is a great way for kids to unleash their potential and expand their horizons, and we are here to help you support your child as they learn and grow. But try getting your child to sit still and pronounce ‘wet’ and ‘vet’ differently, or push their tongue forward to say ‘th’ .
Young children do not have long attention spans – and even as adults, we are still prone to stumble over certain English words. Speaking a language, however, is what really helps you internalise it. There’s no use knowing the ABCs and memorising long lists of vocabulary if you can’t communicate everyday thoughts in English.
Introducing English at Home: English Games and Nursery Rhymes
Experts generally agree that English language learning should start as early as possible, while a child’s brain is still forming neurological connections. Ideally, if you’d like to bring your child up to be bilingual, there’s no better time to start speaking to them in English than from birth.
Recent research suggests multilingual children have better brain power and are less likely to develop dementia late in life. But what if you have just started getting your child comfortable with English? Where do you start? The most important thing to bear in mind is that language learning should be stress-free and fun. It can even be effortless – expose your child to spoken English regularly, and you’ll be surprised at how much they pick up.
Swap out your regular kids’ TV or radio stations for English programmes for kids, for example. Try listening to CDs of English rhymes for kids – these are often repetitious, so they can be particularly effective at teaching simple vocabulary and pronunciation. You’ll find your child more likely to be able to use the words from songs that they have learned to sing than those acquired via flashcards or memory games.
Tell and Create Stories for Kids
Narration is another good tool. Kids love telling stories, but if they haven’t yet sorted out all the words or grammar, just let them listen to you narrating daily activities – like going shopping or cooking – in English.
At the end of the day, talk about what you did – it’s a good way to practice the past tense. When they are more confident in English, take turns making up crazy bedtime stories in English – they don’t have to be perfect, since it’s just a practice exercise in oral expression.
Older children who have started to learn to read in English should be encouraged to do so aloud at a leisurely pace. Illustrated e-books with English narration can also be a big help for English learning.
English Learning Games for Kids
Much of early language acquisition involves imitation. If your child notices other people using English, they are more likely to follow suit. Your child will feel more at ease if you organise play dates with other English-speaking families and play English games in a group.
There are plenty of good English learning games that you and your child can try out! Games like Twenty Questions, Simon Says, and What’s the Time, Mr. Wolf are great fun, and can be adapted for kids of all ages. Playing board games – like Ludo, Dominos, Bingo, or Snakes and Ladders – is great for getting your kids to practise counting in English.
The card game UNO is good for practising numbers and colours in English, and Snap! and Pairs are good vocabulary builders. What are your kids’ favourite English games and English nursery rhymes? Share them in the comments below!