Is teaching English to infants counterproductive? ;-)
"...can be counterproductive"
Yes. It can be
. Given the fact that the majority of soon to be of EFL teachers answering the ads to teach English to children in Korea and Japan and other parts of Asia are matter 'o factly inexperienced--Hey, the majority of job ads clearly state "no experience necessary". Mind you, "Don't start too young" was published last year, and since then I have noticed the job ads are now stating "B.ed or experience teaching children require; there are even ads asking for M.A. degree holders wanted to teach kindergarten. The same is true for Japan. Recently schools and the BOE (boards of educations) are looking for experienced teachers to teach children under the age of 5.
One of the reason, albeit stemming from stressful situations, has nothing really to do with the children and more so do with their parents. They want their money's worth! English is not only a business, it's business: English gets your kids into the right schools, and the right schools get your kids into the better companies.
For years the Japanese battled over whether to offer English lessons in the primary schools. Parents were at war with each other. Some looked forward to the idea of their children getting 'a head start on English', whereas other parents felt their children would be burdened with having to learn yet another subject, especially one in which they the parents had studied (ahem, memorized umpteen lists of grammat points and a gazillion sentences in context) in junior high, senior high, and university and feel they have still yet to "know" how to speak English. These parents see English as a lost cause, and most importantly, a chore their children shouldn't have to be saddled with at such 'an early age'.
The children's homeroom teachers have a say, too. Some view English as a great experience, especially if it means learning about different cultures, wherein a lesson based on songs & dances & games are most appreciated whereas other teachers want nothing to do with English. They, like the parents, feel the students have enough to learn as it is, and moreover that the time allotted to teach it in must now accommodate English lessons, too. And yet other teachers see English as something to be taken quite seriously.
Children are stressed? Uhm, well, although it seems like an odd thing to say, there is some verity to that statement. A point in case, parents ask their children what they learned that day in their English class; homework is not rare, children have texts with CDs, which they are told to listen to at home. When I taught kindergarten classes in Junju, South Korea, the Korean language teachers who assisted me--or was it that I assisted them?--taught phonics with a stern face and strict commands. If the teachers view English as something one needs to approach seriously, then that is most likely what the children will learn from the experience. Couple that with the expectations of their parents, and one could see how children might be stressed and why teaching English could be counterproductive.
In terms of EFL teachers, teaching English to children, especially those under the age of 6, can be counterproductive if 1) there isn't a clearly defined plan of study or curriculum, and 2) the lessons are facilitated by an inexperienced teacher or an experienced teacher who lacks training in teaching young children.
Schools should hire and train experienced teachers, both native speakers of English as well as native speakers of Korean. What could be more counterproductive than hiring a kindergarten teacher, be s/he a native English speaker or a native Korean speaker, who doesn't know how to teach or for that matter know how to teach children? You betcha children are stressed. Wouldn't you be?