Everyone knows you need to be constantly exposed to a language to improve it. That’s why some schools provide immersion programmes for students who learn foreign languages. For instance, they may be sent to live in Germany for a year to learn German.
It’s not easy to improve a language days before the exams- you need persistent work. Today, I will divulge a few simple tips to help your child with this process.
1. Reading Read frequently. Start with baby steps. Your child can begin with an easy book/a short story/an interesting article.
Start the habit by allocating 15 minutes a day to reading and then increase the time when he/she gets more interested. Have a notebook with him on the go. Get him to write down every word he doesn’t understand and check the dictionary later. If he sees any good phrases, write them down as well. It takes a bit of time but the effort is well worth it.
2. Writing Write a journal. I love to get people to write diaries because 10 or 20 years later, there’s the added perk of reminiscing the younger you.
If not, try to write about something he fancies. If he is into minecraft, write about the various game strategies. Share it with like-minded people by posting it on Facebook or start a blog- that will motivate him to write more when there’s an audience.
3. Speak more
For families who speak their mother tongue at home, the children may sometimes find it awkward to speak in public. Get him to overcome his fear by using English more, even if he thinks he would trip his words or embarrass himself. I have a Taiwanese friend who speaks with a very strong Chinese accent but he has no qualms about approaching people and talking to them in English. His English has improved and people understand him better. What’s the worst case scenario? There may be some awkwardness but it’s not life or death! Take part in debates in school and don’t shy from the stage. Get him to speak to friends of other ethnicities so he’s forced to use English.
(NOTE: I am not saying that you shouldn’t speak Chinese, Malay or Tamil at home. It’s fabulous to be bilingual!)
4. Listening Listen to the BBC channel on radio. It may be a bit boring for a child, but who knows, he may like it. If it’s too dry, watch TV. Yes, some TV shows are of horrendous standards and indeed, reading helps a child concentrate better compared with TV shows. However, it does help to get the child exposed to the language. I used to learn my vocabulary watching the Electric Company and the Word Shop by CDIS. (Anyone remembers this?) Even listening to pop music may help with increasing interest for the language at the bare minimum. I know many non-native speakers who learn the English language through songs.
5. Get a Mentor Get someone to speak to your child, listen to him, read what he has written and tell him what his mistakes are. It always helps to have someone watch over you and guide you. It could be you, his teacher or even his peers in school.
These are really very elementary steps. But if your child follows through them, I guarantee his grades would improve in a year’s time!
Wei is a reporter who teaches students English on Fridays and Saturdays because he loves children. He started this project with his buddy Wallace, who teaches Maths and Science. Their username was previously PSLEGURU. To get more tips, you can visit their facebook and website. To know more about their classes, click here.