Learning a language

Parents can help their children in improving English language competence

Iit makes better sense to discuss this question with parents.
The discussion that follows could be shared with parents, without any need to edit.
Let us recapitulate how we learnt our mother-tongue – by listening! Truly, there is only one simple way to learn a language – listening. And why do we see disparity in the use of mother-tongue among people with the same mother-tongue? Their homes did not use the ‘same level’ of mother-tongue – the vocabulary (and structure) was different. Yes, the words you do not hear (or use) are never part of your language. What was the next thing in learning the mother-tongue? Starting to speak to people around; it is important to get opportunities to express in the mother-tongue.
Clearly, the key reasons for your child’s weak command over the English language are:
a. She/he does not hear adequate English words and phrases in school and at home.
b. She/he gets very limited opportunity to express thoughts and responses in English (except copying texts for homework)
c. She/he gets limited exposure to good quality English in school and at home.
Let us explore each of the above reason to find ways to overcome the English language deficits:
1. Limited amount of hearing of English words and phrases
Fortunately, there is one other way to hear words and sentences in English even if it is not spoken around. It
is to hear one’s own words of English! And how can we hear English in one’s own words?
By reading volumes in English, one is talking to self while reading; reading is same as self-talk. Reading is the only way to create an artificial world of English language around self without help from anyone else. And how much reading is the threshold? Try reaching 5,000 hours of reading in English in 5 years!
What to read? Read actual works of literature and NOT just newspapers, comic books, etc. And grow from reading a 5-page story in 5 hours to 50-page story in 5 hours to 100-page story in 5 hours to 200-page story in 5-7 hours!
2. Very limited opportunities to express
Schools will not change overnight, if at all. Opportunities for expression in English must be created outside school as soon as possible. Fortunately, the Internet has created a world of opportunity to express one’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas in spoken and written words. Help your child blog as well as write on others’ blogs.
Of course, more and more communication at home should be in English as far as possible. Tutoring support may be sought to get your child more ‘airtime’ for conversing in English; get a tutor who will speak less and listen more and also encourage writing and check the quality of content if not grammar.
3. Limited exposure to good quality English
It is very interesting to realise that written language is far superior in structure, grammar and vocabulary (and exposed spellings) than spoken language. Reading in English is also the best way to access good quality English.
To summarise, extensive reading and frequent opportunities to express are the best ways to learn English.
Nothing else has ever worked in the past!

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