Many parents would like to teach their children English at home, but don’t know how to start. It doesn’t matter if your own English isn’t perfect, the most important thing is that you are enthusiastic and give your children lots of encouragement.
Remember: don’t worry if your child doesn’t start speaking English immediately, as they will need a certain amount of time to absorb the language, and feel that using the language will be useful for them. Be patient, and they will begin to speak English in their own time.
Establishing a routine
Having a routine for your English time at home will help your child to feel comfortable and confident. This could be playing an English game when they get home from school every day, or reading a short story before bedtime. The repetition of these activities will give children the opportunity to start using the language themselves without fear of getting it wrong.
As well as the time of day, it is also important to think about how long the sessions will be. For very young children, 15 minute sessions will keep them engaged and entertained. Frequent, short sessions are beneficial for all age-groups, but sessions can increase in length as your child’s attention span increases.
Using everyday situations
The advantage of teaching English at home is that you can use everyday situations and real objects from around the house to practise English naturally and in context.
For example, you can talk about clothes and colours when you are helping your child get dressed. Cooking with your child is a fun way to learn a life skill at the same time as using food words. Even chores such as cleaning can be an opportunity to use English verbs alongside vocabulary for things around the house.
Using games and songs
Children learn best when they are having fun, and there are many online resources with ideas for English games. The best and most effective language games are often the most simple: Tic Tac Toe, Bingo, and a range of other childhood games have simple rules, which children can comprehend quickly, letting them concentrate on the language.
Songs are a really effective way to learn new words and improve pronunciation. Songs with actions are particularly good for young children, as they are able to join in even if they are not yet able to speak. For older children, helping them to notice the words in their favourite pop songs can be a fun way to improve their listening, a difficult skill to master, and increase their vocabulary.
Younger children love books with bright colours and attractive illustrations. Look at the pictures together and say the words as you point to the pictures. After a while, encourage them to say the words by asking ‘What's that?’ Listening to stories is also beneficial, as it will get your child used to the sounds and rhythms of English.
Reading books can be a great way to have a conversation with older children. Ask them to describe their favourite characters, give reasons for why they enjoyed the story, and summarise the action. Keeping a reading diary, where children record the books they’ve read, can improve writing skills whilst also giving them a sense of achievement for how many books they’ve read in English.
Where can you find help?
Whichever methods you use with your children, the British Council has a range of activities, games, songs and articles to help you and your child.