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Stages in picking up English

Spoken language comes naturally before reading and writing.

Silent period
When babies learn their heme language, there is a 'silent pericd', when they look and listen and cornmunicate
through facial expressiou or gestures before they begin to speak. When young children learn English, thcre may be a
similar 'silent period' when cornmunication and understanding may takc place befo re they actually speak any English


During this time parents should not force children to take part in spoken dialogue by makng thern repeat words.
Spoken dialogues should be one-sided, the adult's talk providing useful opportunties

for the child to pick up

language. Where tb.e adult uses pareutese (an adjusted form of speech) to facilitate leaming, the child rnay use many
of the same strategies thcy used in Iearning their home language.

Beginning to talk
After so me time, depending on the frequency ofEnglish
begins to say single words ('cat', 'house')

sessions, each child (girls often more quickly than boys)

or ready-rnade short phrases ('What's

that?', 'It's my book', 'I can't',

'Thar's a car", 'Time to go home') in dialogues or as unexpected statements. TIle chi.1dhas memorised thern, imitating
fue pronwlciatiol1 exactly without realising that some rnay consist of more than one word. This stage continues for
sorne time as they child picks up more language using it as a short cut to dialogue before tbey are ready to create their
own phrases.

Building up English language

Graduall)' children build up phrases consisting ofa single rnemorised word to which the)' add words from their
vocabulary (' a dog', 'a brown dog', 'a brown alld black dog') or a single memoriscd languagMo
own input ('That's

which they add their

my chair', 'Time to play'). Depending on tbe frequency of exposure to English and tbe quaJity of

ex.perience, children gradually begin to create whole sentellces.


is always greater tban speakiug and young children's ability to corn.prehend should not be
as they are used to understanding their home language


a variety of context clues. Though they

may not wlderstalld everything they hear in their home language, children grasp the gist - that is they understand a
few important words and decipher the rest using different cIues to interpret tbe meaning. Wtb encouragement
soon transfer their 'gist' understanding


skills to interpret meaning in Euglish_

After the initial novelty oI English sessions, SOIne)'oung children become frustrated by their inability to express tbeir
thoughts in English. Others want to speak quickly in English as they can in their home language. Frustratiou can ofien
be overcome by providing children witb 'performance'
rhymes, which consist ofready-made

pieces like '1 can count to 12 in English' or very simple