Monday, January 14, 2013

Constantly Talking: a teaching tool

One piece of advice I give to new teachers, especially ones teaching second language learners is to constantly speak to them and ask them questions. This of course gives them more opportunities to hear English as well think in the language and speak it.

Practice, practice, practice! 

The more you practice anything, the better you will become. Learning a language is no different.
This of course carries over to parenting and raising a child to speak more than one language. I suppose it will even help a child who is learning only one language.

When my son was an infant, I read in a book about raising children that I should have a constant running dialogue when I am with them. Even when he was too young to speak or communicate in any way, aside from crying, I should speak. At bath time, the running dialogue might sound something like, “Now I’m going to wash your arms. I’m cleaning your arms with soap. Isn’t the water nice and warm? Now I’m rinsing the soap off your arms. Does that feel nice?”

It completely makes sense why this would be good for your child. While they are with you they hear your voice and are surrounded by the language they will someday speak. It’s another form of mental stimulation. Sounds straightforward and easy, but I often find this type of running dialogue difficult to maintain. I suppose it is a little mentally taxing for me and sometimes I simply forgot to do it.

When my son was younger and even now I find myself zoning out when I am doing something that required concentration such as giving him a bath. When I would zone out, I would stop speaking.

Today I went for a walk with my son and spoke to him the entire time. I asked him questions about the vehicles we saw as well as the plants and flowers we walked past. “Is that a white or a blue car? Look at the ambulance. Is it loud? Did you see all of the pink flowers on the tree? Do you want to go to the supermarket? What kind of juice do you want?”

I realize that English is my son’s second language and I need to pick up my game and start exposing him to more of it.

I have to admit that while I need to pick up my game as a teacher at home, my wife has been doing a fantastic job all along. She has that constant dialogue with my son and speaks to him in both Japanese and English.

Another thing we have been doing all along, but more now that our son is speaking a lot is discussing his “linguistic future.” We spend a great deal of time talking about how we can work together to make sure his English skills are strong. We have been discussing what type of schools he should attend. We have also been discussing how we will teach him to read and write English if he attends a Japanese school.

Luckily I’m not stressed about that since I have been teaching of many years and have spent the last 5 years teaching young children phonics and writing.

Interesting times!

More updates and ideas to come.

You can follow me on Twitter: @jlandkev


Yuxiong said...

What a great blog and a great reminder on how to preserve language, whatever it may be, and how to create lasting bonds between adults and children. I love it when kids ask me tons of questions, mostly because it challenges me to see the world as they do. :) We need the voice of more happy children - adults, too.

Gaijin Wife said...

I try to ask questions - when I remember. I must admit bath time is a great time. And in the car on the way home from kinder. Once we get home and I have three kids trying to get mummy and its chaos!! I wish my hub was a bit more pro lets learn lots of English. He definitely isn't anti it but he does come out with the 'but they were born here and live in Japan' thing a bit. I am thinking about a year back home when my youngest will just be in school in NZ (5) and Shou will miss two months of 2nd grade and 7 months of 3rd grade here. Thoughts?

PS - your word verification always takes me at least four attempts!!

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Petaris said...

I'm curious what type of school you are considering for him? My wife is pretty insistant that if/when we move to Japan that our son will need to attend an international school so that he would have the option of attending college in the US if he wished to (because of the type of diploma received). I'm a bit worried about the expense involved with an international school and not quite as worried about his ability to go to a US college if he chose to. He is a dual citizen after all and would have native level English ability.

What are are some of the goals/reasons you are looking at for your son?