Parents, have you been scratching your head wondering when the right time for your little one to start learning languages is? There really isn’t any certain or ideal age where we can say for sure. However, you can definitely prepare your child for different learning curves they will face as they grow up and mature.
Children at a young age (6 to 9 years old), are usually very eager to learn and experiment with languages. At this age, children aren’t afraid to make mistakes and learn the best through engaging all their senses. This allows them to learn intuitively. No kid below that age level is going to be able to tell the difference between a past participle or a gerund, there’s no fun in that!
Therefore, as parents, you can shift the focus from grammar instruction and instead teach them to learn a language through play. Children need variety such as songs, videos, games and story books where they learn new words and phrases. Also, instead of telling them their mistakes, try ‘recasting’ which is repeating their sentence but without a mistake. They will then internalise the correct form and start using it eventually without prompting.
However, when children grow older and become teenagers, they begin to learn languages differently. Teens are often able to be analytical in their approach to a subject and use their knowledge of their own language to connect the dots with a second language. This is the perfect time to introduce things such as grammar instruction and even study skills such as time management and note-taking.
It is extremely crucial in a teenager’s life to encourage self-awareness as well. Some questions you could be asking your teen to ponder on are: What causes their problems in writing? What can they do to improve? What do successful writers do? Can they use any of the same techniques? Analysis isn’t just essential for studies or learning a new language, but it is important for every area of their lives.
At the British Council, we have a variety of courses for our Young Learners from age 5 all the way until the age of 17 and topics revolving around grammar, formal language structures and study skills are all taught according to the ability and learning styles of the various age groups. Furthermore, soft skills are also taught during classes through group activities and games.
For further details on our programme structure and content, visit https://www.britishcouncil.my/english/courses-children for further details. We look forward to working together with you to see your child develop a love for English!