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On average, it may require around five to seven years for a child to achieve mastery of academic language, even if they exhibit proficiency in the second language during social interactions and conversations. This highlights the complexity of language acquisition and the importance of starting early in nurturing multilingualism amongst young learners.

As parents and educators, we recognize that young minds possess an incredible capacity for language acquisition. Like sponges, children soak up new information effortlessly, making the early years an optimal time to introduce them to the wonders of multilingualism. Among these languages, English stands out as a global lingua franca, opening doors to a myriad of opportunities worldwide. 

In this article, we look into the significance of learning English as a second language and explore practical strategies for teaching English to young learners.

The Importance of Learning English as a Second Language

At the heart of the matter lies the question: “Why bother with English as a second language?” Beyond the mere understanding of grammar rules and vocabulary, mastering English as a second language enriches a child’s cognitive abilities and cross-cultural understanding and broadens their worldview. 

We have to understand that language mastery isn’t just about communication; it’s about empathy, appreciation of diversity, and global citizenship. Teaching English to young learners will help them gain access to a wealth of literature, media, and academic resources, empowering them to thrive in an increasingly interconnected world.

When Should Children Start Learning English?

Experts advise parents and educators to teach English to young learners between 3 – 7 years old due to crucial cognitive development during this period. Approximately half of a person’s cognitive abilities are established within the initial four years of life. As children progress, basic language skills typically solidify around ages 7-8, with further linguistic development requiring deliberate training starting from ages 8-10. 

Consequently, the later a child begins their English language journey, the more time and dedication will be necessary for proficiency. So, beginning English education before the age of 4 is the most favorable approach for effective language acquisition in children.

Read more: The Role of Parents in Early Childhood Education

Introducing English as a Second Language 

Starting early lays a strong foundation for language acquisition. For toddlers, immersion in English-rich environments through songs, games, and storytelling sparks curiosity and lays the groundwork for language development. 

Primary schoolers benefit from interactive activities that blend language learning with everyday experiences, such as role-playing and project-based learning. As children progress to middle and high school, structured lessons focusing on grammar, writing skills, and critical thinking further deepen their English proficiency. 

To make it easier for you to teach English as an additional language to children, here we present several important things that can be done based on educational stages:

1. Toddlers (Ages 2 – 5)

Integrate English into your toddler’s daily routines, such as incorporating English words during mealtime, playtime, and bedtime activities. Utilize bilingual books, interactive apps, and educational toys that introduce English vocabulary and phrases in a fun and engaging way. Encourage social interaction with English-speaking peers through playdates, daycare, or community events to provide opportunities for language practice and immersion.

2. Primary Schoolers (Ages 6 – 11)

Engage your primary school-aged child in language-rich activities that promote English language acquisition and fluency. You can organize scavenger hunts where they can search for items based on English descriptions, fostering vocabulary expansion and comprehension skills. 

You can also enroll them in cooking classes that provide instructions in English, allowing them to learn new words and phrases while participating in hands-on experiences. Arrange pen pal exchanges with students from English-speaking countries to facilitate cultural exchange and language practice, encouraging communication and friendship across borders.

Discover. Learn. Thrive.3. Middle Schoolers & High Schoolers (Ages 12 – 17)

Encourage your middle and high school-aged children to dive into English literature with a diverse selection of classic and modern books, igniting their passion for reading and exposing them to various writing styles. 

Complement their learning by watching English-language films and series together, where you can discuss plot twists, themes, and character growth, boosting their comprehension and language skills. Foster critical thinking and communication abilities by motivating them to join English debates, public speaking events, or drama clubs, creating a nurturing space for self-expression and confidence development.

Read more: Early Childhood Skills List that Every Parent Should Know

Practical Tips You Can Try on How to Teach English to Young Learners

Parents play a crucial role in their child’s language development journey. By incorporating practical tips into daily routines, parents can create an immersive language-learning environment that nurtures their child’s proficiency and confidence. From toddlers to high schoolers, tailored strategies can be employed to foster language skills effectively. 

By integrating English into everyday activities, utilizing educational resources, and encouraging social interactions, parents can lay a strong foundation for language acquisition. These efforts not only enhance linguistic abilities but also promote cultural understanding and communication skills essential for success in an increasingly globalized world. There are at least 5 practical tips that you can try to apply:

1. Set Language Learning Goals

Set specific language learning goals to keep track of their progress. Whether it’s mastering a grammar concept, learning new vocabulary, or improving pronunciation, setting goals gives them a sense of purpose and motivation. Break down the learning process into manageable objectives so your children can track their progress over time and stay focused on their language learning journey.

Setting goals also helps your children develop valuable skills such as self-discipline and time management. Encourage them to write down their goals and create a plan for how they will achieve them.

2. Integrate English Across Different Subjects

Parents can help children learn English by using it in different school subjects. For example, reading English books about science helps them understand scientific ideas and learn new words. It also prepares them for future science classes and jobs.

When kids write about history in English, it helps them explain what they’ve learned in a clear way. Writing essays or stories in English also helps them organize their thoughts and writing skills, which is essential for the language-learning process. Utilizing English in subjects like math and art also helps children think critically. Similarly, talking about math problems or historical events in English makes learning more interesting and improves language skills.

By using English in different subjects, parents can show children how important it is for learning and everyday life. 

3. Language Understanding Through Content Exposure

You can enrich your children’s English learning by incorporating authentic materials such as newspapers, magazines, podcasts, websites, and even social media platforms into their language activities. 

These real-world resources expose students to genuine language usage, idiomatic expressions, and cultural nuances, providing them with practical language skills and a deeper understanding of cultural context. Through the usage of authentic materials, your children can learn how English is used in everyday situations, from reading news articles to listening to podcasts or engaging with online content. 

This not only improves their language proficiency but also creates room for cultural awareness and appreciation. Additionally, authentic materials offer diverse perspectives and topics, allowing your children to explore their interests while expanding their language skills in a meaningful and relevant way.

4. Language Clubs and Activities

Community plays a big role when it comes to language learning. It is not a skill that can be learned through siloed practices. You can enhance your children’s English learning experience by enrolling them in language clubs or extracurricular activities centered around the English language and culture. 

These clubs offer a variety of engaging activities, such as English conversation groups, drama or storytelling sessions, English-language movie nights, and cultural celebrations. Participating in these language-focused activities outside of the classroom not only reinforces language skills but also fosters a sense of community among students with shared interests.

Engaging in extracurricular language activities provides children with opportunities to practice English in a fun and interactive environment, making language learning more enjoyable and meaningful. Additionally, participating in cultural celebrations and events allows children to explore different aspects of English-speaking cultures, broadening their understanding and appreciation of diversity. 

By actively engaging in language clubs and activities, your children can develop not only their language proficiency but also valuable social and cultural competencies that will benefit them in their academic and personal lives.

5. Utilize School Support for Language Learning

Schools also play a crucial role in supporting children in enhancing their English skills through various initiatives. Schools often offer Student Support Programs, such as English as an Additional Language (EAL), tailored for students who need to improve their English proficiency skills. These programs provide specialized instruction and resources to help students develop their language skills at a pace that suits their individual needs. 

For example, at SPH, we understand the importance of English language proficiency for academic success. Our English as an Additional Language (EAL) and English as Second Language Immersion (EALI) programs cater to students from Grade 1 onwards, addressing specific language needs based on their background and proficiency level. 

The EAL program is designed to support students from different countries and language backgrounds, ensuring they can effectively communicate and engage in daily classes. On the other hand, the EALI program focuses on providing concentrated support for students with very limited English skills, aiming to accelerate their acquisition of the target language.

Through these programs, students receive structured guidance and assistance, empowering them to succeed academically and beyond.

In conclusion, nurturing multilingualism and fostering English proficiency in young learners is a multifaceted journey that requires dedication, creativity, and collaboration between parents, educators, and schools. As we’ve explored throughout this article, starting early in introducing children to the wonders of the English language lays a strong foundation for language acquisition and sets them on a path toward academic success and global citizenship. 

By embracing language learning goals, integrating English across various subjects, exposing children to authentic language materials, facilitating language clubs and activities, and implementing robust school support programs, we equip children with the necessary tools to thrive in an interconnected world.

For families seeking a comprehensive English language development program for their children, SPH offers a holistic Primary Program, complemented by two English as Additional Language (EAL) support programs. This program provides a nurturing environment where young learners engage in immersive English language experiences, supported by dedicated educators who understand their unique needs. 

With a focus on interactive learning, cultural exploration, and holistic development, SPH Primary Program ensures that children not only become proficient in English but also develop a love for learning that lasts a lifetime. To learn more about how SPH Primary Program can benefit your child, explore our website and contact us today!

Your Journey to Lifelong Learning Starts Here

Sekolah Pelita Harapan

Established in 1993, Sekolah Pelita Harapan (SPH) has become a trusted International Christian School in Jakarta providing Christian education for Indonesian and expatriate families. As a dedicated partner in education, SPH seeks to empower families with personalized programs and resources, fostering academic excellence, nurturing faith, building character, and facilitating their children's personal growth.