Grammar is how words fit together in a language. Children under 12 are very good at figuring out how grammar works, as this is how they learn their first language. This means teaching grammar to children is very different from the way we teach grammar to adults.

Most children are able to understand how the grammar of a language works by having parts of a language highlighted to them. This is very different from the grammar presentations most parents will be used to from school, and often involves helping children identify what looks right or wrong. Most importantly, when learning grammar, children need the opportunity to use and experiment with the grammar by using it to communicate in some way. Without this critical step of using the grammar to communicate, many children learn how to recognise grammar and complete grammar activities, but not how to speak or write in English.

Many parents are worried about using English with their children because they are afraid their children will learn ‘bad’ grammar. But talking English at home can also help children learn how to be confident in English. Many of the children who come to the British Council speak Malaysian English at home, so we try to focus on helping students understand the difference between Malaysian English and a more international English grammar. You can help them at home by pointing out the differences between the Malaysian grammar used with their friends and family and asking your child to identify how you would say it in ‘School’ English.