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Improving Your Child’s Speaking
and Conversational Skills

By making use of regular routines, parents can help kids speak better and become more interesting conversationalists.

Although English is a lingua franca here in Singapore, most would agree that many of us don’t speak it with native proficiency. Nevertheless, there’s still a lot that parents can do to help their children. The key thing to remember is that it is within our control to create a language-rich environment at home. Much of what our children learn from an early age is through exposure — be it the availability of resources, the external environment and constant interaction, encouragement and reinforcement.

In this article, we will focus on how parents can do our part by simply chatting with our kids on a daily basis, which is easy enough to do!

Communication and Interaction

The best way of getting children to acquire language or speaking skills is to model them yourself. Children’s minds are like sponges and what they learn is often ‘caught’, not taught. Of course, much hinges on our level of proficiency as well. English-speaking homes have a distinct advantage when parents are proficient in the language and are able to use grammatical sentence structures and advanced or varied vocabulary.

For those who are not as proficient, don’t despair — it’s important to make a concerted effort to encourage speaking and conversing in English to familiarise your child with the use of the language at home. The only caveat is to be conscious of how you speak to your child by refraining from mixing words from the mother tongue with English or avoiding Singlish.

Making Use of Everyday Routines and Situations

Mealtimes, taking children to and from school or classes and unwinding together at the end of the day are perhaps the best times to converse in an informal, relaxed setting.

 Mealtimes

Over meals, take the opportunity to ask your kids about their day and share what has happened to you or them. This not only fosters family bonding, but gets them to talk about their daily activities and use the necessary vocabulary and sentence structures to convey their thoughts and feelings. Talk about what foods they like and what they do not, especially if they are sampling something different for a change. Introduce vocabulary associated with the different styles of food preparation (e.g. poach, stir-fry, roast, steam, sear, grill) or cuisines, cooking utensils used, flavours, ingredients or condiments, for example.

● Ferrying kids

Taking your kids to and from school or enrichment classes is also a good time for chatting about the day’s activities or what they have learnt. If you are ferrying them in the car, tune in to the news and have a discussion on the day’s topical issues, especially with upper primary school kids. Not only do they get to listen to the proper enunciation of words, they also improve their knowledge of current affairs. Asking them to recap what has been broadcast or their opinions on the news reports hones their listening and conversational skills at the same time.

● Unwinding together

Watching television, reading a book or even listening to an audiobook together is an excellent way to get kids listening, watching and reading to absorb the information first before a conversation takes place. If it’s a movie or storybook, ask questions like ‘What do you like about the plot?’ ‘Which character do you like best or the least and why?’ ‘Did you like the ending? If not, how would you change it?’ Open-ended questions like these elicit responses and get kids thinking critically and justifying their answers with reasons.

As you can see, simply by making use of daily routines constructively, these avenues for meaningful conversations with our kids not only help them pick up vital language and conversational skills, but also allow us to foster a closeness with them. What we can also do is listen intently to our children with a genuine interest in what they say and not be distracted or impose our own opinions on them. That way, our children will actively engage in and enjoy these interactions.

Behind our team of dynamic teachers is a support team of English specialists and curriculum experts, who are responsible for the development and delivery of LCentral’s programmes. The Curriculum Support Team is committed to ensuring that all teachers fulfil their teaching potential. The team provides teachers not just with curriculum support but also with ongoing training and professional development.