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Think English to Speak It Well!


Do you really need to make your children think in English for them to be comfortable in this medium of expression? We speak to parents to find out….

There is a story session in progress and the storyteller is speaking in English. But one of the participants cannot follow the name of the animals or the story. She has been speaking fluently in English; yet there is a disconnect somewhere.  “It is very difficult for non-native speakers to be completely at ease with a new language. English is no exception,” says Pooja Shivam Jaitley, a clinical psychologist by profession and a doting mother by choice.

Pooja shares that together with her husband, she never created a special environment for her son to pick up English as a language. “Associations are very important for kids to feel comfortable conversing in a second language. For us, English has been a second language. I had to ensure my children know Hindi as their mother tongue.” Yet Arjun is fluent in English.

The place you reside in makes a huge difference too. Vasudha Jain (Yuhaan, 11years of age and Minisha, 8 years of age) is a full time mother of two not very fluent in English till she shuttled between Delhi and Mumbai. The latter made her change her language preference, “Here, mostly, people speak in English. I don’t have a choice but to find the right words and converse in English. My children have naturally evolved as the medium of expression has become English. For them, it’s the same at home and school.”

Indian schools are still finding it tough to inculcate the habit of speaking in English. In a middle class background, it does not matter as much as it does for those children that hail from a little more affluent family background.  There is a significant disconnect as most parents consciously don’t converse at home, in English.

Suchi Mehrotra is a working mother who juggles hectic work and family schedules. “For my older daughter, it was easier to pick the language. While as a couple, we were not consciously conversing in front of her in English, her exposure to recreation was all based in English. My conscious effort was to help her develop associations with the language on her own.” So Maulika (11years) now, is pretty comfortable in thinking and therefore responding in the language. She does not have to fish for words, unlike her younger brother. “That is because, his associations are not all in English while his schooling insists he converses in the language,” Suchi admits.

While Pooja says, “associations and examples are what set a benchmark in the child’s mind,” Ritika Bhandari, voice and accent trainer, admits, “As a couple, we didn’t realise till we were told by a German friend, that your children will learn to think in the language you converse with them in. It is then that we consciously started speaking in English and by the time by younger one was born, both my girls were thinking and speaking the language.”

Ritika shares that in the Western countries, parents don’t shy away from complicated vocabulary. If they are using it themselves, their kids naturally pick up the words. “Don’t scare your kids away from complicated words and spellings.  In fact, the latter are based on phonics. The moment your children are comfortable with the language, they will enjoy watching cartoons and documentaries in English.”

Most parents believe that if you expose yourself and your kids to English in the form of newspapers, cartoons, documentaries and serials too, a new language sense will automatically inculcate in your family.

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