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Many different factors affect the time it takes. These include your child’s age, first language, their reason for learning English and their teachers.
You can help your child learn quickly by giving them lots of opportunities to use English. It helps to have real reasons for using a language, rather than just studying grammar.
Yes. At early ages, girls tend to develop language more quickly.1 Remember that it’s OK for children to develop at different speeds. It will be more similar by secondary school age.
However, by this stage children might think that languages are 'more of a girl thing'.2 Attitudes to learning can have a big impact on educational success3 so it’s important to find ways to encourage your child and help them enjoy their learning.
Yes, there are differences.
Primary school children are learning their first and second languages at the same time. It’s really important to support both languages. Children with a strong foundation in their first language will find it easier to learn a second language.4
Encourage your child to play, sing and read in both their first and second languages. Remember to plan separate times to focus on each language. If you say something in English and then in another language, your child will automatically listen for their stronger language and ‘tune out’ the other language.
Teenagers are interested in exploring their personalities and identities. This creates lots of opportunities to use popular culture, films, TV, music and video games. Teenagers also enjoy challenging authority, which provides opportunities for debates and discussion.
Multilingual children learn at a young age that they can express their ideas in more than one way. This helps their thought process and makes them better, more flexible, learners.
Research has found that children who speak more than one language do better in school,5 and have better memories and problem-solving skills.
Watch your child playing. What do they enjoy doing? Puzzles and problem-solving? Physical play and sports? Word games? Writing stories? Creative play? Try doing these types of activities in English and make a note of what your child responds to best.
Alternatively, ask your child to create in English their own one-week ‘dream timetable of activities’. Let them choose how to present it. For example, they could act it out, prepare a written fact file, make a video, draw pictures, go on a treasure hunt or make a scrap book.
1 Science, 'Language Gene' More Active in Young Girls Than Boys (accessed 30 November, 2017).
2 Cambridge Assessment, The Gender Gap in English Language Proficiency? (accessed 30 November, 2017).
3 Huffington Post, How Boys and Girls Learn Differently (accessed 30 November, 2017).
4 NALDIC, Supporting children learning English as an additional language (accessed 30 November, 2017).
5 The Telegraph, Why learn a foreign language? Benefits of bilingualism (accessed 30 November, 2017).