Digital technology provides children with a great number of opportunities to practise their English.
Children growing up in a supportive digital environment are learning the skills that they will need for their future studies and careers. Here are some fantastic ways you and your child can use technology together to practise English.
English learning videos
Videos are a great way to see different cultures and hear real-life English. We have lots of great learning tips in our article: Learn English through videos and TV.
But the really fantastic thing about video technology is that learners can make their own. Get creative and have fun!
Ask each family member to shoot a silent video (your child is not allowed to talk!). Keep the videos short – 1 minute at the most. You might like to have a theme. For example, my favourite place, my favourite things. Ask each person to write 10–20 English words to describe their video.
You could ask each person to record a voiceover to their video, using as many of the words as possible from their list.
Using the internet to learn English
Children have access to so much information. It can be hard to know which sources of information are reliable and high quality. Encourage your child to think carefully about what they read online. For example, do I trust this website? Why/why not?
Give each family member a trivia quiz. Family members who don’t speak English can do the quiz in their native language. Ask everyone to search for answers on the web. Do you all get the same answers?
Example quiz questions:
- Who was the first person in space?
- What is the time in Tokyo? How many hours ahead/behind?
- What is the weather tomorrow afternoon in Cape Town?
- How do you say ‘hello’ in Swahili?
- What is the biggest city in the world (by population)?
- How long does it take to drive from Sydney to Melbourne? Which road should you take?
To make it harder you could ask your child to prepare their own quiz.
Online translation tools
Language students are using online translation tools more and more (often as a homework shortcut!). Translation tools are getting better, but they are not always accurate.
We know learners will continue to use these tools. So it’s important to teach children how to use online translation tools – in the right way – and how they need to check their work.
Take a short English text that your child is familiar with. This could be something they’ve studied in class, a passage from their favourite English storybook, or lyrics from a favourite English song.
Translate it into your own language, using two different online translation tools. Ask your child to compare the original text with the translations. Are there any differences? Are there any errors? Can they suggest a better translation?
Learning English with digital storytelling
Digital tools can be a great way for learners to use their language in fun and creative ways. It gives them some control over their own learning, by giving them a chance to be in the director’s chair!
Help your child bring their stories to life. There are loads of great storytelling tools where children can create their own fairy tales, comic strips, puppet shows, 3D popup books or cartoons.
Here are some apps you could try:
- Make your own e-book: Create your own drawings, record your voice, add photos, music, video and text (Book Creator for iOS, Android and Windows).
- Make your own cartoon: Choose your characters and your setting, then move the characters around and voice your own cartoon (Toontastic for iOS and Android).
Games and apps
Our free games and apps are designed to help learners improve their English in a fun way. We provide lots of great learning tips in our article: Learn English through games.
The games industry is huge – it’s bigger now than the music industry or the movie box office! There are all sorts of different types of games and apps, from puzzles and quizzes, to action games, to solitaire and Sudoku. We’ve even run some very successful pilots using apps like dubsmash where children record themselves singing in English over a pop song. Try exploring and learning together!
Encourage the whole family to take part in an app challenge. Ask each family member to download one free language-learning app onto their tablet or phone.
You may want to provide a few key search words. For example: ‘Learn English kids’, ‘English speaking practice’. Alternatively, check out some of these top-rated apps that promote language and reading.
Ask each family member to talk about their app. They could show how it works and say what they like about it. Then have a vote to decide which app is the family favourite.
Learning English with social media
Social media provides lots of opportunities to interact in English. Find out more in our article: Learn English through social media.
Learning tip for 13–18 year olds
The Cambridge English Facebook page has daily tips, quizzes, activities and advice for learning English. It supports students from all over the world to discuss things in English.
Still feeling a bit unsure?
Technology is messy. Our main piece of advice is to embrace the uncertainty, and remember we are ALL learners. The exciting part of digital technology is that children, parents and teachers are all learning about digital technologies together, at the same time.
Technology is constantly changing and improving. It’s OK to try, try and try again. Children will learn that using technology is about exploring, discovering, experimenting, creating and being open-minded to new opportunities.