The Advantages and Disadvantages of Teaching English to Young Children
Today there is a worldwide trend that parents want their offspring to be able to speak English and they hold the notion that the earlier kids start learning the foreign language, the more impressive results they will receive. This post talks about the advantages and disadvantages of teaching English to very young students.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Marina B.
On the one hand, small children benefit substantially from learning a foreign language. They consider English classes to be fun and interactive. It is next to impossible for a teacher not to use games and songs in the classroom. Singing Super Simple Songs, young students learn sounds, words, and even phrases. Such songs are usually catchy and they are accompanied by a funny video.
As for games, which can be frequently used in the classroom, they all, obviously, need to have an educational purpose. They must be simple and fun as well. It is quite an effective way to learn and review vocabulary through games. For example, a variation of Hopscotch helped me a lot when I was teaching kids in a kindergarten in China. As a consequence, children learn and do not realize that they are learning.
Furthermore, I believe that such an early commencement of learning English develop both receptive and productive skills. Let us examine the former skills, which are listening and reading. Kids acquire listening skills at a very young age and it helps them throughout their lives. They are likely to understand English words and phrases in different songs and natural speech.
In addition, they may learn letters and spelling in a kindergarten and it will definitely help them at school when they start to read. Coming back to productive skills, I want to mention that young children eventually get used to a foreign language and they can pronounce words and use some phrases themselves.
What is more important, they understand the meaning as a teacher must have used pictures or objects to show the meaning of the word rather than translating them. If they keep acquiring vocabulary in such a way, they will avoid translation from L1 afterward and become more fluent.
On the other hand, there are downsides in such a burdensome trend. First of all, English classes in a kindergarten are not always cheap as principals endeavor to hire TEFL certified native teachers who command a high salary. Therefore, not everyone can afford to teach their child English so early.
Moreover, it is obvious that such young students lack motivation and it can be difficult for them to understand why they need to repeat some weird sounds that is why they are prone to misbehavior. If a teacher gets distracted by such poorly motivated students, a lesson is unlikely to be successful. A teacher needs to engage reluctant kids in the games and relax the atmosphere in the classroom. To add, some children can be shy and not willing to participate in any activities. It can be an issue, especially if there are a lot of students in the class, as kids copy each other.
We should bear in mind that not everyone is an apt student as a new language is not their cup of tea. Instead of learning a new skill, they are forced to do something they do not appreciate and it can lead to psychological problems that are not easy to overcome. To motivate such children there should be some incentives like points or stickers so a student can understand why he does some particular task. The carrot and stick approach should be implemented, with more carrots preferable.
In conclusion, I can gather that despite a number of disadvantages such as lack of motivation and problems with behavior among very young students, there are considerable advantages in teaching English as a foreign language in a kindergarten because students easily acquire receptive and productive skills.
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