- Learning more than one language will confuse my child.
False. This is quite an old belief that arose from political power and superiority beliefs. The truth is, there is almost no scientific evidence that learning more than one language harms the development in a child’s primary language. No matter how small your child is, that little brain has more than enough horsepower to cope! It is very common that bilingual children occasionally switch between languages. This is not a case of confusion, but rather an attempt to express their needs when one language has fallen short. Remember that children are mostly concerned with making their needs clear, no matter if they speak one language or 20!
2. The development of my child in other areas and languages will have a positive effect on learning English.
True. Much of the brain is still a mystery and unfortunately, it is not sectioned off into clear subject areas like it is in school. For example, we do not only use problem-solving in math, but in most aspects of our daily lives. Any kind of cognitive and academic development will benefit your child, whether it is science or art. This is also good news for parents who do not speak English well. Your first language is much richer and complex which helps to develop basic concepts. These concepts will eventually be translated into English. So, simply reading to your child and discussing the story (in Vietnamese or any other language) will have a positive effect on English language learning.
3. My child will just pick up the language if he hears it.
True and false. Children do tend to acquire language by listening and finding patterns. They are generally considered to be implicit learners, which in basic terms means you do not bore them with explaining grammar rules. However, they do need comprehensible input. Imagine if you were placed in a room full of people speaking Dutch, you probably would not learn much, even if you were there for 10 hours! The child needs consistency, creativity and commitment to learn a language effectively. Remember to be realistic and logical about your expectations.
4. I should make sure to always correct my child.
False. This can be a tricky one, because not correcting means the child will most likely continue to make the same mistakes. The danger with over-correction, on the other hand, is that students could lose motivation and confidence. So how do we achieve that perfect balance? There are many ways but we can start with avoiding interrupting a child mid-sentence and focusing on one reoccurring error at a time. Check what your child is learning at I Can Read that week and try to reinforce it at home.
5. If I see a foreigner on the street, I should seize the opportunity for my child to practice speaking English.
False! It is very tempting to test what your child has learnt when running into an English speaker. However, part of learning a language is also building confidence, so putting a child on the spot (especially in front of strangers) can be very scary to them. We want students to associate English with positive experiences to encourage them to continue learning, not with frightening and embarrassing experiences. It is also common that children will associate certain languages with certain contexts, so it may take time for them to start breaking those boundaries. A little bit of encouragement is healthy but please do not keep pushing, unless the child is keen to speak themselves.
6. Practice makes perfect.
True and false. The more we work on something the better and quicker we master it. What many people forget is the difference between effective and ineffective practice. This rule can be applied to virtually any skill. Gone are the days of monotonous drilling, we do not want them to consider it a chore, but rather a hobby. Another important factor is to make sure that the practice is aimed at improving weaknesses, rather than playing to one’s strengths. If you are not sure of what you can do at home with your child to practice English, remember you can always speak to any I Can Read staff member for advice on games and activities.