In today’s world, ‘texting’ language has become the norm. We might almost wonder if ‘grammar’ in sentence construction is no longer a necessity. When we see teenagers use major abbreviations and slang words, not only are we lost but we also lament at their lingo. However, there is no doubt that when it comes to real world speaking and writing, good grammar is definitely an expectation in all walks of life.
The development of language skills in a child is a gradual process. When it is your native language, it happens naturally through immersion in the language. Immersion is nothing but being exposed to the language in your daily life, making it necessary for you to learn the language. This happens even when you relocate to a new country or state, and are forced to learn the language for your survival. However, when humans have to learn a new language when they have the option of using another language that they already know, then learning is more arduous and a slow process.
English grammar cannot be taught in a single day, just as the famous saying “Rome was not built in a day”. With its quirky usage rules and non-standard ways of using it depending on contexts, it can seem a daunting task. However, consistent efforts over a period of time will make your child proficient in the language.
Children’s brains are extremely flexible when young and can pack a lot of information. It is said that children comfortably learn many languages in parallel when they are young. What are some of the things you can do to instill good language skills in your child?
- Encourage Reading: While most of us know this instinctively that the more you read, the better you get at the language, many of us do not set aside time specifically for reading for our children. We tend to focus more on math practice and even hand writing practice if we find that our child writes illegibly, but we do nothing about reading practice. As a result, some children pick up reading voluntarily, while others fall into reading only textbooks and comics. This may not be an easy task. Some children are too active and resist reading. In those cases, the key is to find out the type of book that would capture the fancy of your child. Even though I detest the series called “Captain Underpants” and wanted my child to read the Enid Blyton series of books that I read growing up, I got it for my son because it was the only thing which made him pick up a book and read! So, give up your personal preferences for what your child must be reading and figure out what they would like to read. That is a great place to start.
- Grammar games: Today, educators understand that unless you make anything fun for kids, they will resist it badly. So today we have online games that help kids practice their grammar skills. Seek out these websites and engage your child in them. Other than online games, you can also play another simple game which is fun for kids.
- If your child has a favourite story, print out that story in big font.
- Next, cut up every word in the sentences (Keep the words from each sentence in a separate pile)
- Now, have your child rearrange the words, like a jigsaw puzzle, in the right grammatical order and put together the whole story, sentence by sentence.
- Story Telling: Get picture story books with no words (wordless storybooks). Tell your kid the story. Now have them tell you the story by looking at the pictures in their own words. If they use wrong grammar, correct them gently and have them repeat the correct sentence. Do it a few times for the same story or have a bed time routine of storytelling. This will gradually build grammar rules in your child automatically through sheer exposure and repetition.
- Podcasts: There are online websites like podbay.fm which have great podcasts for children that are informative and entertaining. You could switch on the audio of the podcasts in the background in your house as children are just milling around the house so that they hear the language continuously in the background which slowly seeps into their mind.
The more one is exposed to a language, grammar rules really fall into place much easier than trying to actively remember rules and exceptions that can be tedious and “un-fun”. So, if you find your child struggling with grammar, even taking them to movies (appropriate for their age) in that language more often will help them improve their grammar. So, take baby steps and try to immerse your child in the language in more ways for them to continuously improve on their language skills and one day, it will come naturally.