¿Cómo aprende mi niño inglés?

How children learn languages

As we know, there are lots of different ways to learn a language. Here, we review some facts from an expert researcher about how children learn best. This article is based  on Cambridge English material.

What type of learner is my child?

What does he or she enjoy doing? Puzzles and problem-solving, or physical play and sports? Perhaps word games, or music? Try doing these types of activities in English and see which he or she responds to best.

Ask your child to think about their ‘ideal timetable of activities’ with regular  activities that are short in duration. Choose from different ideas – acting or role play, preparing a written fact file or scrap book, drawing pictures, make a video. Treasure hunts are great motivators to learn vocabulary!

 Do primary and secondary children learn differently?

Yes – primary school children are learning their first and second languages at the same time and need support for both languages. Children with a strong foundation in their first language have better thinking skills and a better understanding of how language works.

Teenagers are interested in exploring their personalities and identities so popular culture, TV, films and music are of interest to them.  Teenagers enjoy challenging authority (!); use opportunities for debates to practise language.

Learning tip for 5–12 year olds

Encourage your child to play, sing and read in their first and second languages – with separate times to focus on each language. Do not translate – if you say a sentence in English and then again in another language, your child will automatically listen for their stronger language and ‘tune out’ the new language.

Learning tip for 13–18 year olds

Why not practise debating skills? Create some cards with different arguments from a debate. Ask your child(ren) to put these in order, from the most important to the least important. Then, ask them to explain their decisions. This  can produce lively debate!

Is it true that boys and girls learn differently?

Yes. At early ages, girls tend to develop language more quickly. All children develop at different speeds, though are usually more similar by secondary school age.

It’s important to find ways to encourage your child and help them enjoy their learning.

Learning tip

Focus on your child’s personality and interests. Talk to them about the sort of books they like – fun fact books, cartoons, biographies, fantasy or science fiction. Help them find things in English to explore these interests.

How long does it take to learn a language?

There are lots of different factors which govern the time needed.  These include the child’s age, first language, their reason for learning English and their teachers.

You can help your child learn quickly by giving them lots of opportunities to use English. It helps to have real reasons for using a language, rather than just studying grammar.

Learning tip for 5–12 year olds

Use everyday situations to practise English regularly. At the supermarket, give your child a shopping list written in English and ask them to find the items on the list.

Learning tip for 13–18 year olds

Create real reasons for using language around the home. Change the language for your computers, TVs and mobile phones to English.

How can I motivate my child to learn English?

There are two main types of motivation.

1.       Learning English for a particular purpose – for example, to get a job, get into university, to travel or to pass a particular exam.

2.       Learning English because you enjoy learning, having fun and making progress. This tends to be the most effective form of motivation.

Children are also more motivated when they have a positive impression of English-speaking people and cultures. If they like the music, films or sports, they are more likely to want to learn the language.

They are less likely to learn well if there is negativity or a sense of demanding, whether from parents or other sources.

Learning tip

Encourage a love of learning by doing fun activities. Play card games in English, such as the game Concentration (the memory game where pairs of cards are turned face down on a table. The child must turn two cards over to try to find the matching pairs. If they can’t find a pair, they must turn them face down and try again. You can create your own cards on different themes, such as animals, foods, countries, money, weather, sports, rooms in the house. On one card put a picture and on the ‘matching’ card put a word.

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