This article was written specially for Good Portugal by English teacher Yuliia Leontiuk.
If you, like me five years ago, are fighting with your child to learn English, this article is for you. It is written for all the parents who understand the importance of knowing English and want their children to be fluent in it, but their children persist in saying, “Why do I need it? I have a translator on my phone; I won’t be a foreign minister,” etc.
If you want your children to know English well and not mumble, “I read and translate with a dictionary,” then we, the parents, need to show the value of this knowledge and awaken motivation to learn. After all, many children do not see their value themselves. What are all these lessons, studies, and exercises for? To write a test? Okay, you wrote, then what? The topic is passed and forgotten in 2-3 months. In this situation, lost motivation: why learn something that you do not use in everyday life?
That’s where the parents come to the rescue – our task is to be interested and shows that speaking a foreign language is fun. Show that you want to improve their knowledge, support your child, and help. After all, learning a language is much more critical than a formidable need. And this curiosity can only ignite and support the parents.
-How? – You ask.
It’s easy! I’ll tell you from personal experience.
My daughter’s first phrase when she was 4 years old was, “Can you help me?” Of course, I taught her this phrase. Whenever I asked her to bring me a book or a pen or to take an item to her place, I would say, “Can you help me?” and then my request would sound. My daughter quickly figured it out and started using that phrase too, holding her shoe to me to tie her shoelaces (even though she knew how to do it) and come running to me with a cup and juice so I could pour her some juice. She liked using that phrase to get help immediately, which she hadn’t had to count on before. (I’m for the child to do by herself what she should already be able to do, albeit long, albeit sloppy). As soon as I noticed that light and excitement in her eyes, I started introducing new phrases: Give me a fork/a spoon/a cup, please. Let’s play/read/cook. Where is your ball/doll/top? Do you want to eat/sleep/go shopping? Then came songs in English, then little books, cartoons, board games, and more phrases.
At school, there was no problem with English. She was top of the class, the teacher’s right hand, and she loved it. She was confident and felt she had an advantage. Thus began our little success story. Lifehack: If our brain sees a job in front of it, it will try to do as little as possible. However, if it considers a buzz in front of it, it will try to do as much as possible. The main secret to productivity is to make learning a talk.
But it wasn’t always easy. I ended up with a sequence of small but regular steps and systematic work. It’s essential to do this work regularly. Only that which is systematic brings results. And there are protests, and there are “let’s do it later,” “I don’t want this cartoon,” and “I don’t remember this word,” but when the child gets involved in the process, he begins to enjoy his successes, you have to wait for it. The effort is always justified.
But what happens to a child when he or she is introduced to English for the first time at school?
Everything new our brain perceives as alien and hostile adds to the fact that learning a language is a chore, and most children do not like a task. They want to see how fluent the teacher speaks English, immediately open their mouth and speak. But it also doesn’t work. Kids don’t like what they can’t do. And to get it right, you have to repeat it many times. So they first want to avoid, bypassing the need to learn. As a consequence, there is boredom. And boredom is more dangerous than we think. Children are bored with learning English because they don’t understand why. And until they find motivation, the train won’t move. In order not to experience boredom, you have to share interests. And who can ignite that interest? That’s right! Parents!
Many parents know what to do, but they don’t. For starters, you need to write yourself 10 simple phrases and tell your child, “Good morning! It’s time to get up.” Tomorrow. I’ll do it tomorrow. I’m going to iron it now and do it. Then you also don’t iron, on top of that. Then you think, “I need to take the dog for a walk right away” … After walking the dog for the 5th time, you think, “well, I’m not a teacher; maybe he should find a carrier.” Fortunately, you can look for a carrier for a long time. You can not find one at all, so the dreams do not come true, and they just get discounted. This is already a topic of our ambition. Many parents want to but can’t get started. Why should they? Well, yes, you need to take the time, you need to develop, you need to set an example, and your brain starts to sabotage it:
The dream – “Can’t you send your kid to Cambridge to study?”
Brain – “Are you crazy? $27,000 a year, the most budgeted department! Where’s that kind of money going? What’s wrong with your local college? It won’t win the Nobel Prize anyway; there’s always a demand for working professions.”
BUT! If you feel that community college is not enough and don’t agree with this state of affairs, you need the support of an experienced professional in the field. With my advice and counseling, you will have a clear plan to help your child fall in love with English. You will have all the necessary materials and tools for a pleasant and helpful pastime to enjoy too. At first, you think everything is very complicated, and you don’t know where to start, but when you see a plan and an action guide, you enjoy the whole process. If you don’t know it yet, give it a try! The brain starts to enjoy every minute when there is a plan.