How To Help Your Parents Pick Up English As Their Second Language

Many second-generation children have had the opportunity to become bilingual since they can pick up English at school and then speak their Mother tongue at home. In fact it is estimated that 2/3 of second-generation children of immigrants are bilingual. While you may have had the opportunity to learn English at a young age, your parents may still struggle with it. If they are interested in learning more, here are some ways you can help.

Sign Them Up for An English as a Second Language (ESL) Course

You may want to teach your parents English yourself, but unless you have a solid grasp on every grammatical concept, this can be incredibly difficult. It may also be difficult to explain everchanging slang and describing idioms.

However, there are many levels of ESL classes out there that will cater to your parents' needs. They'll be able to pick up English on their terms. Also, having a teacher hold them accountable for studying and homework can help motivate them. If your parents are nervous about going alone to a class, consider auditing the class or going with them the first time.

ESL classes aren't meant to eliminate your parents' culture; rather, the classes are meant to expand their connections in the community.

Practice with Your Parents for a Short Time Every Day

Although you may be tempted to fall back into your native tongue, encourage your parents to practice their English at home. Even if they have to mix a few English words in with their native language, this will help get them in the habit of thinking in a new language.

It's better for your parent to practice a little bit every day instead of cramming a lot of studying in one day. Since you know English as a second language already, ask your parents if they would be okay for you to correct any usage or pronunciation mistakes.

Lastly, when you practice with your parents, incorporate reading, writing, and speaking skills. Studies have shown that each of these skills uses different parts of the brain, so practicing them all will help your parents ingrain the language.

Avoid Direct Translations When They Ask For Help

While word-for-word translations can help for some beginners, it's best to help your parents get out of this habit. For example, some Asian languages have different orderings for subjects, objects, and verbs, so a direct translation will just be confusing. Help your parents focus on grammatical components instead.

If you follow these tips and get your parents involved in an ESL course, they may be more comfortable conversing with people and getting involved with their community.