View Full Version : Teaching English to Babies

18-Apr-2005, 01:32
My small private language school in Japan is planning to begin English classes for babies (1-2 year olds) with the reasoning that "if we don't get them now, we'll never get them". Personally I disagree with the idea, mostly because as the only foreign teacher, it will be my responsibility to teach them and their mothers. And I have a sinking feeling that it will just be a huge pain! :cry:

I have no clue as to what to teach them and my boss hasn't been particularly helpful with suggestions, so I'd like to know if anybody out there has any experience/suggestions of what to to do with this age group?

Help me. please!!!

18-Apr-2005, 04:04
I honestly have no idea. It sounds more like a creche than a class. At one, babies are saying their first words in the mother tongue. I suppose they might absorb some sounds from the teacher. At two,they might pick up some words. Try to teach the mothers some sounds and get them to croon them to the babies. Try the odd nursery rhyme or song. I'm afraid I can't think of much else at the moment. I can't really see much pedagogical benefit- it's purley a business move. Forget the babies and teach the mothers.

20-Apr-2005, 17:29
I've done this, and it is aweful.

Get a CD of kiddy songs, some soft toys and picture books (ones with CDs will make your life a little easier). Make sure the mums are in the room for when they pee themselves, throw up or start running around the room (which they might just let them do anyway).

Just go through your lesson and try to ignore what the kids are doing if they aren't paying attention to you -let the mums take care of it. You can start with things like getting them to choose a stuffed toy and saying the name of it. They'll usually just be really happy if they know the name of the thing in their native language. Maybe do some counting or alphabet or something like that. For the bulk of the lesson if you play your kiddy CD and jump around like an idiot and try to get the kids to join in, you should be good. Lots of smiling and singing keeps everyone happy, and try to put on a good show. At the end of the day, if the mums are happy, that's the really important thing.

When teaching kids ALWAYS make sure there is a female around for it they start crying or wet themselves or some other horrible thing like that. I thoroughly recommend keeping the mums in the room throughout the lesson. If not, make sure there is an office girl on hand.

17-May-2005, 04:43
I agree with everything above. It is a mess and it's a business move.

In Japan there is heavily publicised research (maybe Baby Einstein) that children should lstart learning foreign languages before the age of 3. The research talks about hard-wiring in the brain setting by the age of 3. If you're interested I'm sure you can find similar articles about this in English.

Anyway... bringing it back. I teach some 2 year old classes. They are not easy and are draining. I start out telling the mothers not expect anything. Even older children don't understand the value of learning English, so we shouldn't expect babies to appreciate your effort either. The biggest goal at this age is listening and some vocabulary. Most of the time the kids will not say any of the words in class but they often say them at home or sing the songs at home.

Remember that when they are in class they are more concerned about input than output. So, if you get zero response, don't let it get you down. I have the mothers in the class and I tell the mothers to stay focused and do what I ask. The kids will learn what to do by wathing their mothers.

The kids are small and they are going to run around, get bored, and/or wonder off, BUT that doesn't mean they aren't listening. Remove everything below 2' from the room for baby classes. Everything! If there is nothing for them to do when they wander off, they'll come back.

As for the lesson, I have about 5-6 activities that I do and I change every 5 minutes or so. If you're going to do songs, it's best to do something with actions. itsy bitsy spider, wheels on the bus, hokey pokey, I'm a little teapot.
You have to be willing to do the actions an not care that you're the only one doing it.

I teach 6-8 vocab words over 3 lessons. I just give them small cards and let them play with them. They are so young there is no point trying to play a game. You can have them knock down cards with a soft ball. As fun as that sounds, they become more interested in the ball. So, like I said just give them the cards and let them play with them. Ideally, in time, you can ask which ones do you want and the kids will (cross your fingers) tell you. Start with things they know and can recognize: fruit, colors, shapes, nature, and animals

You can also do some exercise with them. Basically simon says without the simon says. Let them run around and burn some energy. Then they might be able to sit through one book, but read them 3. Short books with simply vocabulary are best and read the same books over and over again. They also like lift the flaps.

The best part is the babies will grow into toddlers and eventually kids. I have 2 classes of 5 year olds that have been coming for 3 years. They are wonderful and a real joy to teach, but they used to be my nightmare. Now, their understanding and reasoning without complete comprehension are great. Their pronounciation is near perfect and they enjoy learning new words and questions. They speak English spontaneously and play around with the language.

My best advice is patience, :bad-word: patience, :twisted: patience, :evil: patience, :2gunfire: PATIENCE!!

Last bit of advice: If something fails today, it doesn't mean it will fail tomorrow. Don't give up on a good idea. Children sometimes just need time to process the information. (However, if it fails everytime don't hang on to it just because you think it's useful.)

I have a lot more to say on this, but I've already rambled on and been on and off the point several times. If you have any questions or comments please let me know.

I hope that helps or inspires.


talop acoh
25-May-2005, 14:45
your boss must be crazy or the sort of person who loves money alot...Trying to teach English to babies has no meaning if they are not in an English speaking environment ( English speaking country or a native speaker mother or father) this might also get the babies stressed and stop their normal growth....and the expectation of the parents...really what do they want you to do?

26-May-2007, 09:48
I am starting to teach English to a two year old baby. I am just starting and will be happy to share the experience with anyone who wants to.

26-May-2007, 10:25
I am a grandpa who wants to teach his two year old grandchild, Santiago, the little English I know. I am a Venezuelan who is doing a MA in Education and trying to get going with the teaching and learning theories that I have been reading. So, ashsensei, do not despair!, please, be loving, caring and kind to yourself! Of course my predicament is not the same as yours, but I want to be succesful. Santiago has got some little cousins of his own who are born and live in the US and in December this year are coming to my city, Merida, Venezuela, to visit their grandparents. Their mother is a US citizen whose mother tongue is English. And I hope that this lady could see that we, in Venezuela, can teach good English to her Venezuelan nephew, and of course can also teach her kids the Spanish she wants them to learn, and, last but not least, showing myself that I am capable of doing it.
How am I doing? Well, at the beginning, I mean the first time I spoke English to him Santiago shook his head showing his displeasure, meaning "no", but anyway he ran into his sleeeping room and looked for an English book that his mother uses to teach him some words. I want to say that his mother does not speak any English at all.
The second time he started crying, but I did not stop speaking English to him. The third time I went to his home with some interesting toys, helicopters made of a piece of paper or cardboard. I took his attention. Now he knows some words that I know he recognizes "kiss", "shoe", "permission". By the way, I have being doing this during the last fifteen days with some eight hours of playing time with Santiago. You can agree with me that the whole thing could be interesting, to say somethig.
So, please, ashsensei, be loving to yourself! I am going to be successful and you are going to be as well! What Mark says is right, be PATIENT, PLEASE.

14-Sep-2007, 07:49
Agree. 100% money issue. Furthermore it appears a more and more common Asian obsession with learning English younger and younger and if you don't you will never succeed.

The research (which is in regard the cerebral cortex mainly) I have read, and whilst it maybe more beneficial to start then it is not 'dead end for all' who don't. Otherwise, how do we explain the millions of fluent perfectly spoken teenage somethings throughout Europe who don't start until they're 10!

It's neither true or helpful to a lot of kids. The huge pressure and misery I see resulting from this parental mindset day in day out is shocking.


05-Oct-2007, 09:39
I also agree that teaching an additional language to under-3s is foolish. Take it as if you are the kids' uncle or aunt who speaks a different language and visits sometimes, perhaps giving the kids some basic hunch that different languages exist, and no more. I mean, being exposed to another language at this age is not foolish, but directly teaching it is.

Sorry to get off the topic a bit, but I have just started teaching 3- to 5-year olds English in the Czech Republic. Most of my students know 0 English and some know a few words. I think it makes sense to teach this age group, but I'm having a problem finding good materials. Almost everything is related to reading or writing, which is useless for these kids. Does anyone have any suggestions from their own experience or for materials?


13-May-2008, 17:06
I've taught 4 year olds and know how hard it is to teach children who don't speak your language, are pre-literate and not used to a school environment. I still remember with horror singing the 'Hallo' song solo, to a group of sobbing children who were supposed to get the message instantly (being at an age to acquire language easily) and wave hallo back (according to the book).

I think my biggest mistake was excluding parents - as they can use their logic to understand you, they can help their babies understand and then practice with them at home. They can then see results which you're unlikely to achieve within a 40 minute lesson.

I now take my 9 month old to a group music class. She might not understand at the moment, but she has fun and as a parent that makes me happy and prepared to pay for the next semester. Get the parents to sing in English, dance with their child while you all sing - and teach them words like zig-zag, jump, weave, run, swing, rock so they can give their child the kinaesthetic experience of these things before they can say them, or give baby massage while you teach them parts of the body. Try teaching the children the names of objects (flowers, leaves, newspaper) which they can shred, show them actions parents can help them do (waving to each other/ clapping to each other/ bouncing to each other), smacking instruments which they can learn the names of (drums, triangles, pots etc). Try books like 'That's Not My Penguin' to read them - where they can feel the different textures - babies love that. My daughter loves us throwing a blanket over her and then pulling it back - we imagine it's teaching her 'Where's...'/ 'There's...'. Get them to say each other's names quietly and LOUDLY - or you can say them quietly and LOUDLY, while they hear a word they're familiar with but get the idea of different sounds. Try building blocks with colours - put them all facing the same way (all red) except one and get the children to identify the blue one and turn it round. Otherwise, they can just have fun knocking them down while you tell them the colours. Try teaching them words like hot/ cold and soft/ hard - easy to illustrate using objects and gives them something to touch and feel even though they might not be interacting. Before I had my baby I didn't have a clue what to do with infants but these are all things she enjoys and I presume she is picking up language.

03-Sep-2008, 17:32
I've been teaching 2 to 5 year old children for 2 years and you should try Oxford's Cookie and friends play pack.The teacher's guide is fantastic but don't use the pupil's book.At his age its easy for them to learn the colours, the numbers, some family words, jungle animals, body parts and toys. I think that these are enough for just one year.

17-Sep-2008, 10:59
It is never too early to introduce English to your baby. Babies love sounds, rhymes, and stories. Learning a language comes naturally to them. Most experts agree that babyhood is the best time to learn a second language. From birth to about age two or three, your baby's brain acts like a sponge. This is also the best time for a parent to teach a language. Parents and other adults naturally speak more slowly and clearly to babies than older children. They also tend to repeat words and phrases often. Repetition is very important for language learning.


I absolutely agree. The problem is with the word 'teach'; it's a big mistake to aim for anything like instruction. And schools that force this on unwilling and unprepared teachers are sorely misguided.


17-Sep-2008, 12:58
Afterthought: I've just read in Guy Deutscher's The Unfolding of Language the story of Kanzi (the pygmy chimp who was taught a very limited way of communicating in a symbolic language). I knew the story from a long way back, but I didn't know this bit:

...Kanzi... used to play by her mother's side during training sessions, when researchers tried (rather unsuccessfully) to teach her to communicate by pointing at picture-symbols. The trainers ignored the baby because they thought he was still too young to learn, but... Kanzi went on to develop cognitive and communicative skills far surpassing [those of (ed. - excuse the language, he's only a linguist ;-))] any other ape before.

Amazon.co.uk: The Unfolding of Language: Guy Deutscher: Books (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Unfolding-Language-Guy-Deutscher/dp/0099460254/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1221648974&sr=8-1) p. 17

Of course there's no comparison in many respects, but this suggests that Tdol was right about concentrating on the mothers.


14-Apr-2009, 21:14
This is Joany Lam, I've been a mother of Two Children, I have two sons, the elder one is Levin and the little one is Lerry. I wish I can have one more baby and she is a daughter,but here is not allow here in China. Our government said it is"Over-procreation" and government will penalty. So it'll became another pressure.

Well,now, because of China had been attended WTO and English became very useful here in China. So I wish my two sons can study English well for the future work. Maybe go study abroad and get a good job etc. So I would roughly like to enter this forum with every one here and would like to share together with everyone here's experince. I specially, using our sockpal puppets to teach my baby to learn every animals, then if my Children have learned the word and can distinguish what animails they are and what's their name,then I continue to write some story and use the puppet theater to tell the story to my baby. It is very succeed, now,my baby can speak fluent perfect English.

25-Jul-2009, 14:54
Don't be discouraged Thread! I am also interested in teaching babies and toddlers English. To be successful, you will need to be repetitive, cosistent and involved the mothers/fathers as well. Business gimmick or no, in the long run they will benefit. Think of the under 2 year olds in India or Singapore; their kids are multilingual before the legal school age. Go for it!

01-Jun-2010, 04:42
it doesnt neccesarily have to be a nightmare and i dont agree with anyone who thinks it is not beneficial to start a babies English learning from this age...yes i agree the babies will not be able to speak initially but they will be listening...and listening is always an under-valued skill. But in-fact it is of equal importance to speaking/reading and writing. And the student who develops good listening skills will be able to develop much more effectively. It will take time and patience but your kids WILL eventually be able to speak. If the mothers are worried please stress to them that even if they are listening they are learning.
I would suggest that you involve the mothers with if not all most of the activities...choose some songs with actions that the mother can do with the child. Eg row, row, row your boat, action songs. You can teach head shoulders song, but instead of using the CD song (becasue its probably too fast) you should do it in accapella and sing it slowly. First i suggest teaching each body part individually then do the song. Whilst you are singing the song the mothers can be touching the parts of the body related to the song. This way the mothers and babies are both involved and everyone is learning (including the mother/father). I would suggest to do this for about 4 lessons...and then change song...but dont forget it completely but instead come back to it another day.
You can also teach the alphabet by maybe doing 1 to 3 each lesson and after repeating the letter a few times...you can get the mothers to trace out the letters outline on the babies back or hand or wherever.
My last piece of advice is motivation...you can motivate a kid (baby or otheriwse) to speak louder by asking who has the loudest voice etc and whoever speaks up you can reward with a high-5, sticker or something..when the other kids see this they may also speak up. Try this every lesson until you get a result. When they have spoken up a few times it will be difficult to get them to be quiet again.
the last thing i will say is that most things i have mentioned are based on teaching a class of babies and mothers of about 30 in one class. (ie 30 babies and 30 mothers). So it is not ideal...and if you have a much smaller class of 8 or under it is more ideal and you could do a better job than me. But if i can be successful you can too. Furthermore I am a guy and i teach it by-myself. So i dont agree that only females or japanese speakers(although i do speak japanese sometimes) are suitable for this job...

01-Jun-2010, 13:35
Lol So right x]

09-Aug-2010, 21:41
Well, I agree with TWOC. I teach English to children from 2 to 10 years of age. I have a guy teaching English with my materials in Vienna and he's greaaat. The kids love him and the mums do too. I'm also thinking of starting to teach babies and parents....(gulp). But the parents will supervise their own kids, so half the work is already done. I think it's a great idea. I would never advise anyone to take on a group of babies or toddlers who are not out of nappies (diapers)! Don't do it to yourself!

As for parents teaching their own kids, my view is that children need to hear a native English speaker, rather than their parents (unless their English is exceptional), and the sooner the babies start, the more natural English will be to them. I would advise parents to get their children into a course or find a native speaker friend; listen to songs or watch English on TV or audio books. Don't programme less than perfect English into your child, or that's what's going to come out!

My goal is to open up branches in Japan and China... and wherever. The aim in our classrooms is to create an environment, which is very much a child's dream environment, but in English. Just go for the same kind of activities that your own toddler group would do. Teaching with activities that the child is naturally interested in is a must. Make it as hands on as possible and as messy as you can stand.
Gambaro, ne.

22-Sep-2010, 10:48
My mother-in-law is korean and she takes care of a two year old girl. The child is very smart like a lot of other children. The little girl watches some english videos (same ones repeatedly) and is taught English and Korean vocabulary when reading her kiddies books. This little girl at age two can tell you a few body parts in english, identify some fruit and a few animals.
She already understands that I am an English speaker so she says "Hello" to me instead of greeting me in korean.
I'm certain many other children could develop like this if guided correctly.
The funny thing is my mother-in-law is learning just as much new English as the little girl!