“Hello, how are you? I’m fine, thank you and you?” For most Vietnamese, this is their first exposure to English in school as well as evening language classes during the 90s. However, in recent years, English is more often being introduced very early in the education process, when children start kindergarten.
Around the world, as well as in Vietnam, educators and governments are supporting the idea that: “children should learn a foreign language as early as possible”. However, is this concept right or wrong?
The Academic Director of I CAN READ Vietnam, shared his expert opinion on this point.
Children will pronounce words more accurately if they learn them early.
To give the highest chance of success when learning a new language, it is best to begin studying as early as possible; thereby increasing the time that person is exposed to the language. This will, of course, improve the likelihood of success.
One thing I believe to be true is that the younger a student begins to learn, the more accurate their pronunciation will be. By the time students reach their adolescent years, their pronunciation is already entrenched from their mother tongue, especially as Vietnamese pronunciation is largely nasal, while English is produced in the throat.
However, some specialized systems for teaching English, such as our I CAN READ System, can teach children the same way you learn Vietnamese (by helping students recognize the sounds that make up words, and linking their pronunciation to their spelling). From a very young age, the children will learn how to pronounce English words with a standard pronunciation, and can also read unknown words correctly without having to guess. When a student has reached adulthood, it becomes much more difficult to learn these skills.
Teenagers and adults’ experience can help them learn
However, when it comes to learning more complex grammar and vocabulary points, older students do still have some advantages over very young learners. For example, they can compare and contrast these difficult concepts with their own language and existing knowledge, which will help them to gain a greater understanding and awareness. Furthermore, if a student has already learned a second language, this ability is increased, as they can compare and find similarities with the both their mother tongue and second language. Nevertheless, no matter how many languages you study, learning correct pronunciation becomes more difficult the older you become.
Children like to learn in a fun physical way while adults prefer a logical structure
There is one thing that most scientists in the world agree on: the learning requirements of children and adults are completely different.
Most children react to a new language with a curious and carefree attitude, while adults often find a way of attaching the new structure or concept to the knowledge and experience of life which they have. So, children usually learn better through games and physical activities while adults prefer a logical approach with strict requirements.
It is not possible to use an adult teaching methodology to successfully teach English to children. What is needed is a program specially-designed for children, such as the I CAN READ program. It was created and designed by educational psychologists who had studied the way children acquire a language in great depth and gained a great understanding of how to ensure success in learning a new language. For children to learn well, it is not the amount of knowledge that is important, but how that new knowledge is conveyed.