Most parents desire to see their children grow up with good mastery of the English language. Many parents have gone ahead and ruled out conversation in vernacular or Swahili in the home environment to their children and English has been introduced as the only language of communication at home.
This has forced little children who are early learners to surrender to the rules of their parents and play along. It is now common to see parents conversing with their little children in English. And I mean little children as little as 4 years.
While these parents want their children to have a command and mastery of the English language and make them be seen as the brightest children in the neighborhood, they have no idea of the adverse effects they are submitting their children to when it comes to child development.
The bitter pill is that parents who are doing these to their children were never taken through the same by their parents while they were still young. More so, they were taught by teachers who used to teach them in their vernacular language during their early years in pre-primary classes. Were there teachers so wrong?
Am a teacher by profession and sincerely speaking I will never advise any parent to introduce and force their children to start conversing in English at such an early age. Am a parent as well and this is the last mistake, I can ever take my child through. Children are very delicate, and all teachers are usually trained on child development stages and how to handle children at each stage as they grow. A child missing any of the stage can permanently damage their growth and development.
Why Introducing English to your child at an early age is harmful
Here are reasons why you should never force English on your child at an early age.
It Affects the foundation of a child
Learning is a progressive process that transitions from known to unknow. At the point when you are taking your child to school, they have already known how to speak in their first language. This is the language they grew up with, the common language in the household and neighborhood. This is what we refer to as first language or vernacular language. In most modern Kenyan settings, the first language to many children is Swahili, while in rural areas it is the local mother tongue common in the area.
At the point your child is joining school, they already know how to communicate in their first language. All curricula in the world uses the first language as the language of communication and instruction with the learners. For them to learn what they do not know, you must communicate with them in a language they understand and start with what they know.
Here, teachers prepare learners to be ready to learn. At this stage your child will be learning to read, on the other hand, learners from higher grades read to learn. They will be introduced to vowels, numerical and alphabets. They will be taught how to read them and pronounce them correctly. All teachers are trained how to introduce these to learners in stages.
When you force your child to start communicating in a foreign language, you completely disrupt their learning and development process. You are literally forcing them to speak a language they don’t understand.
Many parents copy the western world life, they want their children to master and speak the English language just like the European children from the western culture. What they fail to understand is that most of the western countries use English as their first language. They are born with everyone around them speaking and communicating in English.
Once the foundation of a child in the learning process has been tampered with, it is so hard to undo it. They will grow up constructing sentences with poor grammar, and tenses and this will affect their writing as well. It is therefore critical that your child should be handled by a professional who will understand the processes your child should undergo in learning.
It affects their self esteem
Children who converse in English with either their peers or elders do so not because they like it but because their parents have instructed them to do so. The fear that dad or mum will punish me if they find me speaking in Swahili or vernacular forces your child to live in fear knowing that someone is watching them. These denies your child the freedom of being children and freely expressing themselves in a language they understand well.
Because of this fear, your child will be affected physiologically, when they don’t know what to say and how to say in the language forced on them, they resort to keeping quite to avoid punishment. They will as well be afraid of being laughed at when they try to express themselves in broken English.
Mastery Of English Is not a measure of intelligence
Whoever told some parents that if their children are speaking fluent English then they are the brightest children must have misled them. Intelligence is never measured by how fluent one has mastered a foreign language. Teachers know this well and that’s why English is never mandatory to learners in lower classes. It is only encouraged in upper classes since it is the major examination language.
Some of the most developed countries like Russia, France and China have their local languages as the primary language of instruction across all levels of learning. So why are you forcing a foreign language on your child?
Literacy is anchored on three pillars, Reading, Writing and arithmetics. It doesn’t matter the language in which these is carried out in. Thinking that European children who have good mastery of English language from childhood are more intelligent than your son or daughter who communicates in fluent Luhya, Kikuyu or Kisii language is backward thinking.
What should you do as a parent?
All that said and done, what should you do as a parent? The answer to this question is simple, let children be children. Don’t force them to master and speak fluent English as you do. You were never born speaking English. In fact it took you years to master the English language and articulate it properly. Why do you want your child to master it overnight? Don’t complain to teachers how your child hasn’t mastered a foreign language.
Encourage your children to converse in their first language and mother tongue. Do not let your children to loose their identity. When they grow up, now encourage them to speak and practice the English language the same way their teachers do. The key word is, encourage them. Do not force them.
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