Excelling in Languages
Published on: March 09, 2020
Educator Fiona Walker explains the ways you can encourage children to develop language skills. While this article focuses on English, the principles are the same, whether it’s English, Thai, or any other language.
By Fiona Walker
The limits of my language are the limits of my world.
We want our children to excel, not only in school but also in life. To be able to do whatever they set their heart on, to have the skills and confidence they need to succeed. One of the most important skills you could ever ensure your child has is the ability to use language well. What good is high intelligence and sparkling creativity if you cannot share your thoughts and ideas?
Mastering a language is a skill that benefits us in every area of life.
Once your preschool child has grasped the skills needed to read and write, how can you ensure they keep on learning and growing their confidence to the most effective use of the complex and rich English language?
- Language is caught not taught!
Children need to have a reason to use language. Ask your child questions and wait for them to answer, this could be to describe how their day went, what they learned in school, how they are feeling, what they watched on YouTube and why they enjoyed it. Ask lots of questions and provide your child with many different experiences. Language is most commonly used to label experiences; How does that taste? What did you see? The more a person can experience, the wider their vocabulary will be.
We don’t always have the time and money to travel the world experiencing new things but don’t worry, you don’t have to – you can read! Through books and the beautiful, evocative language many of them contain we can be transported to worlds far away.
- Meaningful and Relevant
Widening your child’s vocabulary or improving their grammar should happen painlessly through exposure to good language models. Giving them opportunities to read, write, and speak in a variety of different situations will enable them to become more confident with the language, to be humorous, make puns and jokes.
- Positive Reinforcement
Just as when your toddler began speaking, positive reinforcement and encouragement are still needed. Even children as old as teens can still get tenses and plurals wrong on occasions. Repeat back to them correctly or gently remind them but always encourage them to continue speaking and/or writing. If your child is keeping a journal or writing poetry, don’t focus on grammar or spelling. Celebrate any efforts they make to express themselves as it is through practice and experience that they will learn how to use the language to their very best advantage.
- Understand the Requirements of Primary School Curriculum
The best way to support your child’s academic progress is by fully understanding what is required of them by the school. These requirements should provide the foundation for your child. These are the skills they need to obtain in order to move forward and how well they do will determine their success in school. Times have changed, and parents often talk amongst themselves or remember how the curriculum was for their own education and therefore are not clear on what exactly is required today. This can lead to unnecessary stress for everyone involved.
- Language Model
We learn the language we are surrounded by so the question is: “What language surrounds your child?” Take a good, hard look at the language/s that are used in the home. This is how your child will use language. If your child spends much time with grandparents or a helper, who are using English as a second language then that will affect his/her use of the language. We need to be mindful of the standard of English our children are exposed to. Again, books are the best way to bring rich and vibrant language into the house if you want to expose your child to a level of language they may not have exposure to on a daily basis.
Remove all the limits you can for your child by ensuring they can express themselves clearly, creatively, and confidently in English. This is a skill that goes well beyond the school years and is worthwhile investing in.
Image by Aline Dassel from Pixabay.
About the Author
Fiona has worked at Julia Gabriel Education since 1991 and believes every childhood should be filled with positive experiences and wonder. She works to ensure programmes deliver the Julia Gabriel Education promise. Fiona is trained and qualified through the University of South Australia and the Maria Montessori Training Organisation.
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