If you’ve ever tried to encourage a reluctant child to do great at their homework, then you know how hard it can be to get them invested in their education. You may have even had to resort to bribery (i.e. a new toy) or punishment (i.e. grounding) in order for them to apply themselves.
The problem is that while your child may open their textbooks and read, their lack of enthusiasm is exactly what you want to avoid when doing something exciting like learning a new language, because they simply won’t learn as much. When children (and adults alike) aren’t enthusiastic about learning because of the way the new information is presented to them they get bored – mainly because they can’t interact – and this causes them to switch off.
For children learning English as a foreign language, this might mean that they’re copying down the phrases “where is the bathroom?” or “can I have a chocolate bar?”, but chances are they wouldn’t remember enough op the exercise to apply them in real-world situations, which is the point of language learning in the first place.
When allowed and encouraged to interact with the subject at hand, then not only are they more likely to pay attention and retain the information, but even the most reluctant child will be more motivated to learn more, perhaps through independent learning.
How can you make learning English fun?
If you want to help your children to learn English, whether to give them an advantage in the competitive job market of the future or boost their enjoyment of life now, then the key thing to do is to make it fun. How? By incorporating it into something that they already enjoy.
If your child is a prolific reader, then why not pick up one of their favourite books in English? They can read through it, perhaps with their original version on hand, and see the translation for themselves. Importantly, this will also help them to understand English grammar rules in context.
Some top picks for easy-to-read children’s books include:
- The Dinosaur that Pooped… by Tom Fletcher and Dougie Poynter (Ages 4-7)
- Harry Potter by JK Rowling (Ages 8-12)
- The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman (Ages 13+)
If your kid is more of a film buff, then pick up the English-language DVD of a film that they’ve been wanting to see. You can change the settings, so that subtitles appear on the screen to help your child follow along, but this will help them get the hang of spoken English in different accents and slang. This is important as many translation materials will use the “Queen’s English”, but few English speakers actually do.
Some picks for popular movies with English-language releases, include:
- Toy Story (or any other favourite animated film) for little ones
- The Chronicles of Narnia or Harry Potter for older children
- The Amazing Spider-Man, Iron Man, The Avengers or any of their favourite super heroes for teens
If you no longer own a DVD player, use the settings on your TV to add subtitles and switch languages, and don’t forget that this works for Netflix too!
If your child is more into music and their favourite performer sings in English, then you’ve probably already heard them singing in English. The key is to encourage this. The catchy tunes are designed to stay in your head, meaning that your child could retain the information more easily.
You could start by persuading them to look up the French-language lyrics, so that they can compare the words they’re singing to the ones on the page and understand what Olli et Big Flo or Stromae are singing about. You could even encourage them to write their own songs or explore more English-language artists.
Another way to make learning English fun is to travel to an English-speaking country, where the whole family can have fun and practice their English. Not only will a trip to Disney World or the Harry Potter studios be a great incentive for your children to learn English, they’ll also be convinced by seeing their parents doing the same.
However, if you don’t want to leave France, why not send your child on an English-language immersion holiday in France? Here children will learn English in the same way that they first learned their native tongue, while making new friends and having tons of fun.
Your child will spend between two days and four weeks with an English-speaking family (during the school holidays, of course), where they will be given structured lessons each morning from a qualified English teacher, and enjoy the opportunity to practice their newfound skills during fun afternoon activities.
Depending on the family selected, your child could spend their afternoons wakeboarding, visiting the cinema, or horse riding with kids their own age, while communicating entirely in English. This interaction with other students and the host family's children means that your kids won't be getting bored and they’ll be able to learn more efficiently.
To sum it up, it’s easy to make learning English fun for your kids; all you have to do is find the right way to present it to them. Learning English now can really improve their lives, both in terms of current happiness and future attainment, so it’s worth the time to figure out how to make it enjoyable.