• Fri. Feb 23rd, 2024

teaching english to young learners


May 3, 2022
BY: Awang Darmawan (07 25 008)

Some of countries in the world are suffering from English-for-young-learners fever (an irresistible desire to instill English into younger learners), based on the belief that language can miraculously be acquired faster in younger age. Almost everywhere, one comes across courses, pre-schools and play-groups that offer English teaching programs designed exclusively for children. Its ambitious aim is to equip language learners with full native-like language competence, particularly competence in communicating orally. There seems to be a growing belief here that to achieve native-like proficiency, English should be taught in massive doses.
I try to classify the reason why this Phenomenon appears.
First, the common people believe that children age is golden time to acquire language. It derived from the Problem of the adult that learn English with hard. It is also supported by language learning is facilitated when the learner’s cortex is still flexible and plastic, making language acquisition faster and easier. Young learners, it is further believed, are superior in language learning than adults. These beliefs give rise to what is known as the “”younger-is-better”” hypothesis.
Second, With the English language becoming the world’s lingua franca — the international language of science, technology, international business, and politics this reason force the parent to think about their son’s future. English penetrate into all aspect of the life so that it is an obligation to put their child to learn it since young age. The parents now think that their children must start learning English since young age. Yet, with the trend of English for young learners, English education seems to be dominated by early childhood education. Parents are unhesitatingly send their children to places that sell English teaching programs, seemingly convinced by the commonly-held notion that young children will do far better at learning a foreign language than older ones.

But we must quest our belief “””younger-is-better”” and “young learners are superior in language learning than adults”. Can we guarantee of successful language acquisition of young learner. Meanwhile we must care to some aspect appears in learning process. Cognitive ability, environment and social condition influence in language development. So it is still a myth of language learners.
All of the cases above are not as easy as we see. Teaching English to young learners has many aspect disturbing in practicing process such as children characteristic. Children characteristic influence the result of teaching learning process. Inside of class room teacher must know what problem will be appear so that the teacher can overcome the problem may appear.


1. Involuntary attention
Children do not pay attention to the language system. Children do not pay attention to the language system; they have involuntary attention and memory, which means that their mind will be engaged with the semantics—the task, topic, or situation—but will not focus on the linguistic code. If they manage to acquire the form, it will be achieved indirectly, through peripheral rather than focal attention . One obvious difference between the young child and the adolescent or adult is the ability of the latter to comprehend language as a formal system. Older learners can learn about language by consciously studying linguistic rules” and apply these in production. “In contrast, younger children, while not totally lacking in meta-awareness, are not so prone to respond to language form” and overt correction . For the young child—who is often unaware of the mechanisms of the learning process itself language is but a vehicle for expressing meaning.
2. Limited attention
Children have a short attention and concentration span, while learning grammar is more like an exact science – it requires concentration. Moreover, children tend to focus their attention on the end of words and add suffixes and postpositions before they notice the existence of and begin using prefixes and prepositions. Thus the teacher has to wait before affixes and prepositions can be taught successfully.

3. Holistic skills
Even though children may be able to look at language as a separate object for exploration and to distinguish certain parts of it while disregarding others Their approach to language is nevertheless holistic – they do not analyses it or break phrases into chunks, but treat and learn it formulaically, integrated with other skills, and there is a clear developmental gap between their ability to use the L1 and their metalinguistic. The young child lacks flexible thinking and can only perceive surface similarities and—at best—some deeper analogies
4. Inability to observe regularities and causal relations
Children’s capacity for a conscious learning of forms and grammatical patterns is still relatively undeveloped; it is only gradually that they become able to generalize and systematize. Without the ability to infer and generate grammar rules, and to identify causal relations between various occurrences, they require constant repetition. This is the answer why which is why grammatical explanations involving cross-linguistic associations are believed to be more beneficial for the adult learner.
5. Undeveloped problem-solving skills
Problem-solving denotes the diagnosis of what element is missing in the initial set of information (problem space), where the solution must be generated by the subject rather than found among the data available It would be unwise to posit this very demanding form of reasoning in young children, and yet this is what is necessary for hypothesis formation and testing, as well as for deduction and induction activities.

6. Weak memory
Furthermore, children cannot control what they are taught; the younger the learner, the patchier storage and recall, which again makes recycling activities necessary, whereas age improves LL capacity. Memory consists of three phases: registering, storing (based on repetition, which may be passive) and recalling (based on active repetition). In order to be able to say that we have learnt a given item successfully, all three stages must be available (actually, the learners who progress most rapidly may be adolescents, as they may have better memories than adults). It show that although the children brain is flexible but they have limitation to learn language
7. Limited experience
Children have limited life and learning experience. Adults, in comparison, do not enter the FL classroom as virgin tabula rasa, but bring in a wealth of background knowledge and a long history of learning experiences on which the teacher can effectively capitalize to facilitate their learning; especially as they are all already masters of one language, frequently having the additional invaluable experience of learning another . as much as they experienced by the life their language better will be easier. For instance a human who goes around the world can know some vocabularies.
8. Hic-et-nunc reasoning
Moreover, children’s reasoning is concrete, concerned with tangible hic et nunc realia and situations whose reference is observable in the immediate environment ergo we can only teach to them what we can present or demonstrate. Abstract reasoning is tied to biological growth and does not develop until between 11 and 14 years of age, which is why abstract grammatical notions and patterns are beyond children’s grasp. So that why we easier teach vocabulary by using picture or showing the real thing in front of young learners.
9. Undeveloped aptitude
Language learning aptitude—a cluster of the specific cognitive qualities necessary for SLA, separate from the general ability to master academic skills—is prone to influence both the rate of development understanding of the concept as “how long the learner takes to learn a given amount of material rather than the amount of material he can learn, notably where formal classroom learning is concerned.
The aptitude must be developed
(1) phonetic coding ability– the auditory capacity to perceive, discriminate, memorize, and articulate the meaningful sounds (phonemes) of a language

(2) grammatical sensitivity– “the individual’s ability to demonstrate awareness of the syntactic patterning of sentences in a language of the functions and patterning of forms, and to establish correspondence between grapheme and phonemic representations;

(3) rote learning ability, to store and recall language material and establish and retain associations between sound and meaning; and

(4) inductive (language learning) ability– the ability to infer and notice both morph syntactic and semantic regularities of the language, to identify similarities and differences, and patterns of relationship involving meaning and form. Aptitude thus appears to be age-related and develop along with the general ability for abstract thinking .

10. Mechanical memory
Children are quick to learn words. They learn predominantly through mimicry , But slower to learn complex phrases and structures, which poses the necessity of a constant repetition and recycling thereof. While vocabulary is based on mechanical, short-term memory (the memory for rhyme and rhythm, which relies on frequent exposure and repetition, the earliest type of memory and therefore predominant in young children), grammar is based on logical, long-term memory – a memory for patterns, which develops very slowly (between around 11 and 14 years of age, in conjunction with abstract thinking tied to biological development) and does not reach full competence until around puberty (except dyslexic children, whose semantic memory comes first, but the mechanical one must be trained). Learners under the age of 12-13 can ably repeat and memorize long words and expressions, but are not able to analyze them as logical memory is not well developed yet.
11. Lower-order processing
The experts distinguish two broad types of functioning of the left cerebral hemisphere. Lower-order functioning, associated with Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas (responsible for the understanding and production of speech respectively, also known as posterior and anterior speech cortices). Higher-order functioning, associated with a different area of the cerebral cortex, involves semantic processing and verbal recognition. They suggested that while younger learners rely primarily on lower-order processing, which is a function of early maturing, higher-order processing is contingent upon late developing neural circuitry and is therefore available for use only in older learners.

12. Undeveloped interactional skills
It is also conceivable that inasmuch as older learners are prone to be more involved in sustaining a conversation, they will progress more rapidly than younger ones. (After all, few children display fascination with the meaning expressed through the exhaling noises produced by another person, while lengthy debates of intellectual and other nature form our daily bread.)
13. Motivation
While real motivation comes from within each individual. young learners rarely have clear motivation; they may come to class simply taking it for granted, or because they like the teacher. They will all at once be less able to assume responsibility for their learning—to use the metacognitive strategies of focusing, arranging, planning, monitoring, and evaluation. In effect also ruling out any serious attempt at large-scale comparative assessment of their progress so older, especially adult students will know the importance and see the point of study. We as teacher must motivate our children to learn because it is nature characteristic of children.
14. Literacy (and numeracy)
While adolescents and adults, when they embark on the language-learning program, have—for the most part—already developed the skills of reading or writing, children are far behind taking their first steps with the alphabet; how, then, can we expect them to be able to analyses language data, if these can only be presented as fleeting utterances, with the capacity limitations of short-term memory not allowing the learners to store more than a couple of utterances at the same time. A whole new code must be taught alongside the introduction of literacy.

15. Ongoing categorization
A great many words—if not the preponderance—refer not to individual entities, persons, events, etc., but their classes. Thus, children who are still acquiring their first language have to establish the range of reference of the lexical items and find out the boundaries of the relevant classes While older second language learners are also faced with this predicament, they have the great advantage over Young Learners in that they already know most concepts and have established how their culture pigeonholes the world.

Based on the belief that language can miraculously be acquired faster in younger age the common people think that learn language in young age is faster and easier than adult time. It effect to appearing courses, pre-schools and play-groups that offer English teaching programs designed exclusively for children. Its ambitious aim is to equip language learners with full native-like language competence, particularly competence in communicating orally.
We cannot judge the statement above true or false but we must scale some aspects influencing the result of language teaching. There are many aspect influence the language learning such as cognitive ability, Condition of environment and children characteristics. Globally Children characteristics are some way strong which influence the result of teaching learning process Inside of class room teacher must know what problem will be appear so that the teacher can overcome the problem may appear because teaching language to young learners and teaching language to adult is really different.

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• Paradowski, Michał B. (2007) Exploring the L1/L2 Interface. A Study of Polish Advanced EFL Learners. Institute of English Studies, University of Warsaw,
• Scott A Wendy Yiesterberg, Lisbeth H . (2006.) Practical English language teaching: Young learners. Singapore: MacGraw hill education

• http://knol.google.com/k/young-learner-characteristics# accessed April, 5th 2010
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