English is taught as a second language in almost every country in the world.
In fact almost 1 in 3 people from non-English speaking countries will study ESL in their lifetime. That’s nearly 2 billion people from all around the world.
Teaching ESL to children can be daunting, however it can also be a lot of fun and immensely rewarding.
Young children under the age of adolescence have a natural ability to learn new languages. At this age they are still developing their language skills so will find it easy to learn English as well as their native language.
When I was 8 years old, my family decided to immigrate from Germany to Australia. In those days ESL was not taught in schools as much as it is now.
In the late sixties sea travel, especially for immigrants, was still very popular so that was how my family decided to travel to Australia. While on the ship I spent a lot of time in the kid’s club as my mother suffered terribly from sea sickness.
I can still remember how much fun it was and obviously the staff on board all spoke English. As a consequence, by the time we arrived in Australia six weeks later, I spoke English as fluently as any native English speaker and without any signs of an accent.
My parents however, found it much harder to acquire the English language and I would constantly be correcting my mother on certain words and phrases.
4 Tips For Teaching ESL to Children
1. Keep it Fun
Children tend to have very short attention spans and need to be entertained while learning so remember to keep the activities fun. Use games, songs and stories to integrate with their learning.
While teaching the alphabet, you could use the ‘alphabet song’ as a way to make it fun. Children learn really well by repetition, so singing the alphabet song on a daily basis will encourage them to remember the different letters easily.
2. Use Alphabet Cards with Pictures
You can make up some colorful alphabet cards as a visual aid. Put each letter onto a separate card along with pictures of words starting with that letter. You could feature a different letter each day, repeating the letter and the words on the card.
Then the next day you could get the children involved by asking them to name the letter and the different words by pointing to the pictures. Once they’ve mastered that, you may like to ask if they can think of any other words beginning with that letter.
3. Use Games to Teach
Playing games is a fun way for children to learn. Children learn through their curiosity and the use of their imagination. You could play games like ‘Simon Says’. Demonstrate the different actions first and then play the game. You’ll be surprised how quickly all the children will pick up and copy what ‘Simon Says’.
4. Use Stories
What child does not like to be told a good story? You can use story telling as a way of teaching ESL very effectively by pointing to pictures as you read the words.
Once you’ve done this a couple of times, just point to particular words as you’re reading the story and let the children fill in the words for you. At the end of the story you could also ask questions and let the children give you the answer. Try and reward correct answers with a gold star or maybe a sticker.
If a child makes a slight mistake when answering a question, correct them by responding with the correct phrase. For example the child might say “He goed to the park” and you could respond with “Yes, he went to the park”. Children are great at mimicking and will quickly learn the correct phrases to use.
So teaching English as a second language to children need not be daunting. Make the learning fun and engaging by singing songs, playing games and telling stories. Most children will learn English quickly and you’ll soon be well rewarded with their excited chatter.
Teaching ESL is very popular in Asia and especially in Japan, Korea, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, etc… and the number of English learning centres are growing year by year. As for Hong Kong, there are several English Learning Centres that follows a similar guideline implementing fun lessons and one in particular, Monkey Tree Hong Kong, teaches English courses in a fun and interactive environment to kids ranging from age 3 – 12 in a small classroom setting. Their centres also offers Cambridge preparation and Trinity GESE.