Dear Ai - Good advice for ESL Students. Do you have a question about learning English? Why not ask "Dear Ai"? <$BlogRSDURL$>

Sunday, September 9, 2007

What's a good way to improve my child's Engish?? 

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"Dear Ai, my children came her in grade 5. The school ESL doesn't give any homeworks and rarely bring any worksheet they did during class. There is no contact from ESL teacher unless parents specially ask for meeting, and even though, we are just told such as "It takes time. Don't pressure the children. Give them fun and mingle with English speaking friends. Join sports club."

Well, my child cannot mingle with other English speaking children. Parents cannot set playdate at their age. They are no longer lower grade children. They have long time English speaking friends, so they never want to invite my child, and my child is too intimidate to ask.

Also, my child is not good at sports, so he cannot get friends through sports activities.His speaking has improved little after more than a year.

What a good way to improve his pronunciation, intonation, speaking besides joining team sports, music lessons, arts or play English speaking friends after school?

My child has plenty time after school. But he usually read books in his first language. Homeworks are usually peer selected type group projects. He cannot be in any group, so he does them alone and you know, in poor quality, so it also doesn't take much time, too.

I'm wondering what is a good way to improve him English, especially his speaking? Natural way the school recommends just doesn't work for him.

Also, though the teachers don't like that children spend their time to learn English after school, saying it gives them too much stress, But I also hear conflicting messsages from other parents or English tutors that it is better to improve English as soon as possible, so they won't lose regular curriculum and better to catch up as quick as possible.

What do you think of those conflicting advices? Which is likely to suit my child case? And if I change the way he spends after school, and put him in learning English much more intensely, is it a good way for him?" from ESL Mom

"Dear ESL Mom,thank you for your question and I hear your frustration of getting conflicted messages from school. I understand both you and your school's opinion about your child.

You've already discussed with your child's teacher about your concern. I would only suggest that some group project should be formed by the teacher. As you said, if all the projects are the peer-selected type, then students are working with the same people all the time. It is a teacher's job to make sure students can work with different students.

As your child's teacher suggested, your child can improve his English skills through activities like music, arts, or sport. These activities are not focused on learning the academic side of English, rather focusing on making friends. Right now, your child is afraid of speaking English because his/her pronunciation/intonation/speaking pattern is different from other children. This is because he/she doesn't have a safe place to practice.

If he likes reading, why not joining a reading club that is held in local libraries. For example, Vancouver Public Library offers Kids Reading Club that children can read either English or their native tongue and write essays. Does he like swimming/drumming/horse riding?? Try not to label that your child is not good at sports. He might like them, but he needs more practice. Important thing for him/her is that he/she enjoys what he/she does. Once your child feels safe to speak English, then he/she will make English-speaking friends.

You need to be patient with his/hers progress. As you have experienced, learning English takes time. The best thing you can do for your child is giving him/her the best environment.

Do you know any moms whose children are also ESL students? Form a group and ask them for advice. Maybe your child can play with their children. Are you friends with other moms? Even though their children speak English as a first language, their mothers have similar concerns.

Thank you again for your question. If anybody else has advice, please share your experiences!"


Write to "Dear Ai" at

Dear ESL Mom,
One way to improve a child's English before he feels confident to speak in the second language, is to make him listen to songs he or she likes and watch TV or movies.

You can sing and watch with him so he won't feel alone and speak to him in English at home for a short time.
I have a game that I call 1-minute English Talk.
it's very short time but if you stick to it you'll see he'll improve.
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