By Yerni Miss Endang Polly

How do children learn English as their first language/mother tongue? Yes, it is done naturally and a lot easier because inputs are everywhere and all they need is to adjust. But how do they learn English as their second/foreign language? As their second language, it is challenging because they learn it along with their first language. But it is rather easy as there is input out there since English is used as a means of communication.

What about the children who learn English as a foreign language in which there is less input because the language is not used in everyday communication but only learnt as one of the school subjects? Now you get the picture about how challenging it is for Indonesian kids to learn English as a foreign language. That is what we experience. Never mind. I want to share the ways I address this issue to my children in the following 7 ways. (I have 3 sons: a 5, a 3, and a 1 year-old boys. They are categorized as very young learners.)

  1. I help my children learning English by tutoring them myself. To do this I use repetition as a technique to introduce topics such as numbers. I repeat the numbers, say 1-20 two to three times for them to internalize. In Brown’s (2001) words, it is to connect words and sounds. Then I stop and let them do something else, like playing with their toys or whatever. And then I repeat the numbers once more to remind them.
  2. I encourage them to watch English videos in the Youtube. Since they love watching videos, it is easier to maintain their attention to the inputs. I know they don’t understand the language, but they enjoy watching the animations and I believe they try to understand the plot as sometimes they laugh at the funny acts in the videos. Through this I expect they learn to get used to the sound of English. My first son is now able to distinguish English from non-English. When he sees a Korean animation in Youtube for instance, he tells me right away that it is not English. I say yes, it is Korean, not English.
  3. I let them see some of my English books with nice pictures inside and they ask a lot of questions about the pictures. I used translation as a technique to attend to meaning.
  4. I introduce some English songs to them, such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star, Good Morning, and some more. In this activity I focus on pronunciation.
  5. I use their toys or other real objects to introduce some words. When I introduce different kinds of colors, I use their colored pencils or things around them, such as “What color is the chair/table/bag/shoes?”
  6. I stick some posters on the wall and we study the words together. For example, a poster about kinds of fruit. Posters are easy to find in stores.
  7. For writing, I use their small whiteboard to guide them to write numbers, say no 1-20.  

These, and still many other ways are used to introduce English to my children. Considering their age, I do not go far but only on the surface part. What is your experience? I would be so glad if you want to share about this and help me on how to make it better. Thank you so much.

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