How can I help my child to enjoy speaking English and not worry about making mistakes?
Some children find it hard to speak English. Some are shy. Some don’t want to make mistakes. You can help your child feel more confident by creating a positive and encouraging atmosphere at home.
Let them know that making mistakes is a normal and important part of learning a language. Everyone makes mistakes at times – it’s how we learn. But don’t pressure them or show disappointment if your child is not ready to speak yet.
How can we practise English in a stress-free way?
Here are some tips to develop your child’s confidence:
- Don’t pressure your child to give longer answers. Saying just one word is fine, if that’s all they can say for the moment.
- Look relaxed so your child knows that you’re happy with what they are saying (however short!).
- Don’t interrupt (or let anyone else interrupt) when your child is speaking.
- Remember ‘mistakes’ for later. Don’t stop your child when they’re speaking. If you stop to correct, it is hard to build up spoken fluency and can be bad for confidence.
- Give them opportunities to use vocabulary and phrases that they already know well.
- Check they understand questions and instructions. Use your first language to clarify if necessary.
- Keep speaking activities fun and not too long. For example, ask your child to tell you some of the things they see on car journeys. That car’s red! I can see three buses! Accept mistakes. The important thing is for your child to say English words without worrying.
Above all, don’t make a big thing out of your child’s silence. Help, encourage and always be positive. Talk about it and reassure them: you are there to help them become more confident.
How can we make English speaking activities fun?
Encourage funny, light-hearted and unpredictable answers. For example, say the words in different ways. With a happy face, with a sad face, singing opera, acting sleepy. Use your imagination and have fun. If the stress is not on speaking but on making funny faces, children are often happy to repeat the language over and over again.
Many children are more motivated to learn English if they like English-speaking music, films, cartoons or books. Your child might have a toy version of a favourite English-speaking cartoon character. Tell your child that this toy only understands English. Have a conversation with the toy yourself to encourage your child to do the same in private.
Many young children learn language more easily when the learning is subtly combined with creative activities. Think about what your child likes doing for fun and try doing these activities in English, such as singing, playing games, reading books aloud, role-playing.
How should I correct mistakes?
If you want to correct your child, don’t correct every mistake, and never interrupt your child to correct. Wait until they finish speaking, then say the word or the sentence correctly and encourage them to repeat. Don’t say ‘Not like that’ or ‘It's wrong’. Instead choose ‘Listen …’ or ‘Let's try again’.