It has been a few years since English became a mandatory subject in public elementary schools in Japan. But are you aware that English education is expected to change even more by 2020? English classes that are currently targeted at 5th and 6th graders will begin at 3rd grade and from 5th grade English classes will be graded the same as Japanese language and Math classes. Since English studies will start earlier, many parents feel that their children should start learning English before they enter elementary school. In this article we will discuss the benefits of starting English learning early and the type of learning parents should introduce before their child enters elementary school.
When Japanese students learn English as their 2nd language, the earlier they start learning the language the easier it is for them to grasp it. Research proves that children as young as 6 months can distinguish between foreign language sounds so being exposed to English from an early age is very beneficial to their future learning. Also, according to research data, for Japanese students to reach the level of English ability they need for daily life, they require 2400 hours of study time. If we combine the current time spent on English study in elementary school, junior high school and senior high school it is less than 1000 hours total. So, to reach 2400 hours of English study it is necessary to start learning before entering elementary school.
English learning is most effective when children are interested. Dancing to music videos on DVDs or YouTube and reading English picture books together is a great way to get your child interested in learning English. At this stage, parents should not worry about whether their child is memorizing vocabulary or pronouncing the words correctly. It is enough for them to get used to the rhythm of the language.
Once your child has shown an interest in English it is a good idea to have them start practicing pronouncing English words. Starting with words in the following categories is a good idea: animals, colors, food, etc. When they get used to the language, you can start pointing at objects while walking or playing outside and tell them the English word for it. This teaching method will gain their interest and curiosity.
Once your child can say a few words in English, it is a good time to introduce and practice English greetings. For children who are not yet in school, phrases like “good morning”, “nice to meet you”, and “goodbye” are plenty. Once they have memorized the simple greetings, you can introduce self-introductions and “what is your name”. Make sure to praise your child when he/she speaks English correctly. This will help him/her gain self-confidence and an even further interest in learning English.
Participating in “mommy & me” or drop-off classes held in English is another way to further your child’s English learning. Being exposed to Native English pronunciation and teachers from various countries before entering elementary school will make it easier for your child to learn the language at school. Practicing speaking, and listening will also motivate your child to continuing his/her learning.
Children’s brains are like sponges and they have high academic ability and good memories, so parents should take advantage of this and begin introducing them to English as early as possible. It is important not to put pressure on them but instead to encourage them to gain interest in learning the language. Please take the above suggestions into consideration when considering how to introduce English (or any foreign language) to your little one.