Aside from the cultural differences, one of the hurdles faced by Filipinos migrating to Australia is the language barrier. You might have been used to conversing in English back home, but moving to Australia you realize that you have much to learn. You suddenly find strange and new words being used (What is a doovalacky?!)—and let’s face it, the Australian twang is neither easy to understand nor assimilate.
If for adults, who have been exposed to English most of their lives, adapting to Australian English can be difficult, can you imagine how hard learning a new language can be to a child who has probably mostly spoken Filipino at home and in school? My 7-year-old nephew literally had a nosebleed while he was studying for his English exams. “I speak English pa kasi eh,” he said. He blamed his English lessons for his nosebleed—not minding the fact that it was scorching hot that day and the heat was probably what triggered the bleeding.
Luckily, young children are naturally good at acquiring new languages. Unlike adults and teens, kids are self-driven to pick up a new language without conscious learning. They are highly capable of learning how to pronounce new words, and they are very good at figuring out the rules of a new language by themselves. There are, of course, certain things you can do to speed up their learning.
Stages of Picking Up English
Stage I: Pre-Production (Silent period)
Kids who are learning English may have a few hundred English words in their vocabulary, but they may not be ready to speak yet. The “silent period” is when understanding of the language takes place. During this time, don’t force your child to converse in English. Communicating with your child is very important, but don’t expect your child to answer back. One-sided dialogues, wherein you speak to your child in English, can provide opportunities for your child to pick up and fully understand the language.
Stage II: Early Production (Beginning to talk)
This stage may last up to six months. During this stage, your child will begin to speak single words and short phrases. By this time, your child probably has around 1,000 English words in her vocabulary. During this time, there are things you can do to help them develop their English language skills. Here are a few:
– Ask questions that can be answered with one or two words, e.g., yes or no questions.
– Build your child’s vocabulary using pictures. Most children are visual learners, so it Is easier for them to understand a word or phrase if it’s associated with an image.
– Make time for listening activities. Read your child a story or let them watch a TV program in English. Make room for activities wherein they would be provided with opportunities to learn words used in different context. Letting them watch cartoons or animated films in English can be quite helpful.
Stage III: Speech Emergence (Building up English language)
During this stage, your child will gradually start to form whole sentences. By this time, they would have roughly 3,000 words in their vocabulary. They will be able to communicate with simple phrases and short sentences, although some may not be grammatically correct. You could enhance their conversation skills by asking questions that require more comprehensive answers. You can also provide them with a journal where they could write their thoughts.