When a child is learning English, there are four stages that are visible throughout the process. These stages are normal and truly apart of the process, but, being able to identify them will allow a parent to be able to encourage and advance their children using the best possible techniques.
The first stage of language learning is normally silent and nonverbal. This length of this stage can be quite long and will depend on the encouragement of parents. This stage has a huge amount of observation involved, although a child may not be speaking it does not necessarily mean they are not learning. During this stage a child will begin totally silent, possibly using head shakes as a response to questions. This will then develop into small phrases, use of words and singing songs that the child is very familiar with, such as, glass of water. It is important to always be encouraging for the duration of this period, as this time will mould their confidence in language learning hugely. When they reply with phrases, it is vital to praise them and you can readjust the sentence to be correct and say it back to them without criticism.
Stage two is where a child has gained a lot more confidence in English and is really becoming familiar with the language. After stage one, where a child was silently learning for a long period, this newfound confidence in speaking comes as a huge surprise. Although a major development has been made, it is important to provide the child with many opportunities to speak English in a fun environment where they feel comfortable, such as, playing games or watching TV in English. Although sentence structure during this stage will not be totally accurate, the main goal is to encourage the child to communicate and gain a confidence in speaking a language that is not their mother tongue. Due to the fact this is a confidence building stage, it means all responses to English speaking should be positive. If correcting a grammatical error, for example, it is better to say a sentence back or explain in an understanding manner why something may be so.
The third stage is where the child´s confidence in the English language will be very visible. The child should be speaking using larger sentences that are grammatically correct. They should be able to follow instructions without needing visual clues and should be able to express themselves effectively. During the stage English immersion is key. Having the child speaking English in as many possible situations will provide great practice while their language is at this huge development level. They are now at a stage where they understand a lot and will be taking in all the new vocabulary they learn, so by immersing them in English, they will pick up lots of new words at a fast pace.
The final stage is where a child is fluent in most situations. A parent can introduce more complex vocabulary as well as more difficult tense grammatical structures to ensure the child is constantly learning and enhancing their language capabilities.
Learning an additional language is difficult for everyone, children are at an advantage as they grasp so much at a young age. With language learning it is imperative to always be patient with the process. Giving a child a hard time for their language abilities will only bring down their confidence and discourage them from speaking. They may seem as if they don’t understand for a long time when they are in their observation stage, but they are always learning, and this should be encouraged and praised!