AHMAD asks: How can spoken English of the nursery and primary school pupils, who primarily speak other languages, be enhanced?
Hi AHMAD –
It should be clear, to anyone who has ever studied a foreign language, that actual classroom and homework instruction only teaches fundamentals. To really master a tongue, one needs different experiences with it. Especially because people who speak a language well tend to speak in very different ways than what’s taught in classes.
My human friend Handsome and I live in an area with lots of people who speak Spanish – a language which Handsome studied in school for years, and which he can speak fairly well. But when our neighbors talk among themselves, he feels like he never learned a word of it – with their speed, their slurring of words, their natural colloquialisms (a long word for the ways people talk that aren’t officially correct grammar or definitions).
So while it’s a great thing for children to be taught languages at early ages (as scientists have found that human brains learn languages much better at early ages than they do later), it’s all the better if the kids can also experience the languages in other ways, so they learn to become truly fluent, and not just knowledgeable.
There are lots of ways to achieve this. One nice thing about English is that so many of the most popular movies and songs are in it. So a great way for children to learn to speak it well is to just enjoy some of their favorite entertainments – watching an undubbed Cars 3 or listening to the latest from Bruno Mars or Ed Sheeran are great ways to immerse kids into the language.
But my favorite way is what’s called full immersion. That’s where the child is in an atmosphere where all the talking is in that language, and it’s okay if they don’t understand everything. After all, children often don’t understand a lot of what’s being said in their own language anyway! But this way, they’ll pick up words and expressions.
Think about us dogs. Humans will work hard to teach us certain words, like “No,” “Sit,” “Stay,” “Heel,” “Good Boy,” etc. But if we live in their home, we’re also certain to learn other words – like “Dinner,” “Car,” names and nicknames, maybe some bad ones like “Bath,” and best of all “Walk” and “Squirrel!” No one tried to teach us those, but we learn them the same way you learned to speak when you were a baby, by observing what happens around us.
So I’m a big fan of, in schools, teaching not only the specifics of a language, but teaching other classes in that language. There’s no reason a class in history or social studies, or art or music, can’t be taught in a different language, especially if there’s a lot of discussion.
And wouldn’t it be great to put on a play in that language too? That way the kids actually memorize lines and have to put real meaning behind the words as they say them. I’ll be those kids would never forget those words they’d worked so hard to learn.
So, after all this, what I’m really saying, AHMAD, is that the best way to enhance English is to find more ways to get those kids hearing and speaking English. The more the better.
Just the way you – and I – learned words when we were young.
All my best,