“I’ve been sending my kid to eikaiwa for a while and he can’t speak English, and never speaks it outside class!”
It’s frustrating right? You’re paying all this money to teach your child a life skill, but they aren’t progressing much beyond “Hello” and canned answers to “How are you?” and “What food do you like?”
Think of it from their perspective. They just hear their parents telling them to speak, whether they feel like it or not.
Pushing a child to speak before they are ready or engaged makes speaking in a new language feel like a chore or even a punishment for kids. They will use English when it is fun or interesting for them, and if you push them to use it when they aren’t they are very likely to resent it and feel uncomfortable using their English as a result.
“Happy” by Pharrell Williams (it has a good message as well as being catchy)
“Firework” by Katy Perry
“I Gotta Feeling” by Black Eyed Peas
“Let it Go” Idina Menzel (The Frozen one, if you all aren’t sick of it)
“It’s Always a Good Time” - Owl City
“Fireflies” - Owl City
You know what, anything by Owl City!
anything by The Wiggles
anything by Abba
pretty much anything by Taylor Swift
Play it in the car, at home, dance and sing with them along to it. This promotes positive interaction with English sounding music which is especially good for young children.
She had every Disney movie and watched them all with her daughter in English... ONLY! She loved the movies, and as far as the little one knew Disney wasn’t available in Japanese, and that gave her huge motivation to figure out and listen to what was going on. Kids almost universally love Disney, so using this as a resource for them to learn is just too good of an opportunity to pass up!
It doesn’t matter if they understand at first, don’t switch back to Japanese just because your child looks like they don’t know what every word means. Give them time, and they will come to understand.
If it is a big loud fuss every time they speak in English, then they feel like it is something unusual, when really we want them to think it is normal so they won’t feel nervous when they have a chance to use it!
So when they speak just smile and be proud of them, and show it in a nice calm way so they feel like they did a good job, but didn’t have everyone making a huge deal just cos they said a few words in English.
2. Listen to fun English music in the car, sing along and enjoy it together!
3. Watch Disney movies together, in English - Best Advice.
4. Label things in English around the house, especially for older students.
5. Praise the child in a calm way, not shouting or clapping every time your child speaks any English at all. Speaking English is a normal form of communication, and a big smile and positive encouragement will help more than shouting, laughing and clapping.
Charlie is a founding director of the website Live! Work! Play! JAPAN! He teaches English at Fuji Kindergarten and writes about education, finding rewarding work and breaking down cultural barriers in Japan with his co-founder Martin.
Check out the site here where Charlie and Martin are offering the FREE Tokyo Friends Guide (just as relevant all over Japan) for all new subscribers.