Tuesday, July 1, 2008

English Matters - Helping your child speak English

English Matters - Helping your child speak English
Monday June 30 2008 22:51 IST Albert P’Rayan for EXPRESS NEWS SERVICE

Recently I attended a parents-teachers meeting at a school where my 6-year old son studies. The meeting lasted for an hour. The interaction between the class teacher and parents was lively.

The parents who were present there raised a few questions that were related to enabling their wards’ conversational English. I take the following two questions for discussion:

1. “What steps do you take to make students speak English at school?” 2. “Could you suggest ways to develop our children’s spoken English?” When the first question was asked by a parent, pat came this reply from the teacher. “My mother tongue is different from yours. I don’t speak the language your children speak at home. In this situation there are only two possibilities. I should communicate with them either in English or Hindi. If I speak in Hindi not a single child will understand what I tell them. So I speak to them in English.” The teacher’s message is very clear. Exposure to English does wonders. The teacher does not know the students’ first language and so she communicates with them in the target language. Her English is quite good. She is fluent and her utter ances are accurate. She is very interactive and it provides ample opportunities for the students to use English in the classroom. The exposure to the English language has helped students develop their listening and speaking skills to a great extent.

I had a feeling of satisfaction after the meeting and I told my son that he was lucky to have such a good teacher of English. A teacher is expected to be a role model for her students.

The second question for discussion is how we can develop our children’s spoken English.

Parents are also expected to play an important role in helping their children learn English at home.

Let me start with my own example. My son, Aldeesh, is fond of stories. He enjoys reading and listening to stories and it has become a habit for me and my wife to narrate stories to him almost every day Whenever a guest comes home, he asks .

them to tell him a story. Listening to stories has had a positive impact on him.

Here I explain how I, as a parent, helped Aldeesh develop his English language skills.

STAGE 1 I narrated a story to the child and asked him to narrate the same story back to me. At the initial stage he was a bit reluctant but later he gained confidence and became very enthusiastic. The reason is very simple. My aim was to develop his fluency in the target language. I never tried to stop him while he was narrating a story. In other words, I tolerated his grammatical errors. The teacher in me did not play any role.

As an enthusiastic listener, he listened to me actively and developed his listening skills. Then without fear or inhibition he recounted the story and it helped him develop his fluency He proved .

the saying that a good listener is a good speaker.

His range of vocabulary is also good.

Some tips:

Speak simple English. Communicate and don’t complicate.

Don’t stop your child in the middle while he/she is speaking to correct his/her gram matical errors.

If there are grammatical errors, narrate the story again using correct sentences. By lis tening to correct English, the child picks up the language naturally .

Help him/her gain confidence.

Allow them to speak naturally .

STAGE 2 I narrated a story and stopped in the middle and asked him to continue the story. The objectives were to develop his listening and speaking skills and foster his imagination and creativity As days .

went by, he could create characters and narrate new stories.

Tips Be imaginative.

Narrate a story and stop in the middle.

Ask the child to continue the story.

Ask them to create their own characters and produce new stories.

Don’t look for logic in your child’s story It is .

not important at this stage.

Appreciate your child’s imagination. A pat on the back helps your child gain confidence.

Spend 10-15 minutes every day with your child for this purpose.

Look at this sample. The transcription of a story narrated by Aldeesh is given below. Though it contains a mixture of tenses and a number of grammatical errors, it was quite comprehensible.

“There was a lion.

His name was Jangu.

The lion was going to the other side of the forest.

There he saw a monkey in a tree.

The monkey was very frightened to see the lion.

But the lion is happy to see the monkey .

Then the monkey started running.

The monkey cannot run fast.

It was thirsty .

The monkey drank so much water.

Then he started running fast to the other side of the forest and escaped.

The lion was very sad.

He drink water.

Afterwards it saw a tiger.

Then the tiger and the lion fighting.

The lion jump up and stamp on the tiger.

He killed the tiger and he was very happy .” STAGE 3 Reading is an important habit that a child should cultivate at a young age. I have bought a number of story books for Aldeesh and I read the stories to him. The stories are in simple English and they do not contain any difficult words. I ask him to read one or two stories every day The regular reading .

practice helps him improve his pronunciation and reading skills.


Subscribe to magazines such as Champak and Magic Pot.

Don’t try to teach vocabulary as a teacher does. Let the children read stories and under stand the meanings of unfamiliar words from the context.

Ask your child to read at least 10 minutes every day .

Albert P’Rayan is an ELT resource person and editor of ELTeCS for India and Sri Lanka. He can be reached at rayanal@yahoo.co.uk

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