Speak up: interview with Kyle – camp leader
Hi, my name is Kyle and I have been leading English-Camps for about two and a half years.
Both of my parents are American but I grew up in Thailand. This was a great experience as I was able to attend an international school with kids from all over the world. Learning different cultures and language patterns has been a great help for better understanding language needs and diversity. I finished University in the United States and after receiving a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) certification, I moved to Germany in 2014. I almost immediately started working with educom as an English teacher. I started with camps in 2015 and found the concept and atmosphere very inspiring and to be a great tool to facilitate learning.
Speak up: losing fear and finding fun
A new language is like math, history, music and theatre all combined into one subject. Imagine what a child has to think about when speaking a new language. How are the words pronounced? Is the sentence structure in the correct order? Sometimes simple translations of words are not enough. Many words might have multiple uses in different languages or cultures. A child speaking a new language has to think of all these things. And I am very excited to provide a safe, family-like learning environment at camp, where kids can experiment with the language, express themselves without fear and have fun communicating.
The challenge: Breaking through barriers
What if I say something wrong or, even worse, embarrassing? It is scary to speak a new language in front of new people. What will the people around me think? It is very easy to be overwhelmed in these contexts. The best thing about my job at camp is having the ability to inspire self-confidence in the kids and help them overcome barriers.
Our mission: make speaking English easier at camp
- Make learning fun. At camp we use easy to understand jokes and games to lighten up the atmosphere. We help the children feel less vulnerable and create a pressure-free environment. I guarantee this greatly increases the chances that kids will give speaking a try. And they will not even notice when they start communicating in English.
- Allow some time to get settled in. I have found that kids are more likely to speak a new language around teachers and peers they feel comfortable around. This can take time, so all camp guides are ‘ice-breakers’. They are the first to talk to the kids, invite them to play games or sports, and to continue to inspire and motivate them.
- Do not focus on mistakes. Keep the conversation going and allow time for the conversation and relationship to grow. After a while, the child will completely forget that they are making mistakes and focus on getting the message across fluently. Instead of correcting the mistakes all camp guides focus on positive confirmation of what has been said.
- Find a common hobby or interest. The child may see that they can actually teach you something, taking away from their nervousness to speak. This greatly increases their motivation to express their feeling or knowledge of the subject, and opens up a context where vocabulary and phrases can be used.
- Keep communicating in English and be patient. Just through communicating with teachers and fellow campers, your child’s fluency will improve. For sure. And those little mistakes many people are so worried about will start correcting themselves over time.
The difference: learning at camp vs. learning at school
School does a great job at covering the grammar rules and vocabulary of a new language. However, it is less common to find schools that allow the kids to share their own ideas or inventions about a new business model, fashion style, or social media channel. And does your child have the chance to freely converse with native-speakers at school? Allowing kids in a hands-on environment to share ideas or debate current topics helps them forget that they are looking for the right grammar or structure for conversation. They get to learn new vocabulary, hear how it is used, and apply it directly to their ideas through speech.
Hands-on learning helps topics become the focus and the language to be the tool they use to inform, present, or debate these topics. Speaking the language becomes second nature.
How can I prevent speaking boundaries for my child?
- Try to look at language as a tool and not as a school subject or training necessity. This means, try to speak the language in a personal context, to say things that are fun or interesting for the kid.
- Don’t look for mistakes to correct. Look for situations where a quick phrase or two could be used, and let it be.
- Repeat the same phrases or words over and over. Use the same terms and phrases in similar situations to build more vocabulary and confidence.
Some other things you could try:
- Movies: use English subtitles or leave the film on in English in the background during an activity.
- Books /Comics: look for simple comics with basic phrases and vocabulary.
- Games. try changing the language of games kids play to English, as they already understand the context of the game.
- Music: has a natural way of getting into our minds. Make sure the music content is appropriate for the child listening.
- Native speaker friends: Try exposing your kid to other kids who speak a foreign language. They will teach each other.
Remember to keep it simple and relaxing for the child. The more fun children are having speaking the language, the more likely they are to learn.