With support from both teachers and parents, children have more chances to use and improve their language.
Can I support my child if I don’t speak English well?
Yes! You can help your child to gain in confidence and feel more motivated by giving them lots of praise and opportunities to practise English. It’s easier for children to learn when they get encouragement at home.
You could also all learn some English together. If you are enthusiastic about learning the language, they will be too.
How can we practise English at home?
Use our free FAQs, tips and resources! Here’s how to get started:
- Learn little and often: regular practice really helps children to learn a language. Keep activities short and fun (for younger learners 3–10 minutes). However, if your child is enjoying working on their own, let them control their own activity times.
FREE, SHORT LEARNING ACTIVITIES FOR YOUNG LEARNERS
FREE, SHORT LEARNING ACTIVITIES FOR TEENAGERS
- Build confidence: children are sometimes afraid of making mistakes in front of their classmates. They often feel more comfortable trying things out with their parents. Praise them to create a sense of success and encourage them when they take ‘risks’.
- Focus on your child’s interests: teachers prepare lessons that they hope will interest the whole class, whereas you can really focus on your child’s interests. Choose materials together that your child will enjoy the most, whether dinosaurs or dancing!
How involved should parents be with their child’s English language learning?
There is a difference between ‘instruction’ and ‘education’.
- Instruction is about telling a child what to do and how to do it.
- Education is about guiding a child to their full potential as they become more independent.
Parents play a vital role by giving children the courage and confidence to do their work, providing encouragement and helping them develop study skills.
Homework tip: if your child gets stuck, don’t rush in with the solution. Sometimes a child just needs a minute by themselves to work through the problem. If they are still stuck, discuss how they could find out more. For example they could use a dictionary, glossary, past paper example answers or internet research.
What types of rewards are most effective when learning English?
Rewards can sometimes produce one-time actions, rather than developing long-term study skills. It’s really important to praise effort, not just results and intelligence.
This means praising your child if they have kept going when they’ve found something hard, or found a way to solve a problem by themselves. Research shows that children who receive this type of praise make the best progress in their studies.1
Teachers usually can’t offer rewards other than praise. Parents have many options – and the rewards don’t have to cost anything. For example, you could try:
- activity rewards: your child earns extra free time to do their favourite activities
- social rewards: your child earns extra quality time together with family and friends
- asking your child to think about how they would like their effort to be recognised. Their ideas may surprise you!
Will my child copy errors in my language pronunciation?
No. Children can hear differences in pronunciation and their accents are influenced by lots of different things – their teachers, their peer group, actors in films, and so on.
Children’s accents can easily change as they are growing up. From teenage years onwards, pronunciation is more difficult to master.
Remember, there is no single ‘correct’ English pronunciation. In countries such as Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, the UK and USA, there are over 100 different regional and local varieties of English.
Furthermore, the majority of people who use English come from other countries all over the world. English speakers are used to hearing lots of different accents – it’s a really important part of learning the language.
Is it confusing for children when their parents speak more than one language?
No, nothing in our research suggests this is a problem. Remember to plan separate times to focus on each language. If you say a sentence in English and then again in another language, your child will automatically listen for their stronger language and ‘tune out’ the other language.
Don’t worry if your child sometimes gets confused when they’re learning English. It’s normal to have a U-shaped learning curve. One step back, then two steps forward!
1 The New York Times, Helping Students Motivate Themselves (accessed 30 November 2017).