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Terrible Teens? How to help your Teen learn English

3 sierpnia 2015, poniedziałek,

Dear Parents of Teenagers,

Every parent wants to give their child the best start in life, which includes providing the skills they will need later on to get a good job. These days, many parents consider English language proficiency a priority, and where younger children have loads of fun playing games and playing in English, things get a bit trickier when dealing with those ‘terrible’ teens.

I thought I’d help you out with my advice for helping your teen learn English so you no longer feel your teenage offspring is lazy, unpredictable, and uncommunicative (the negative list can go on) and can instead, hopefully, turn them into the ideal language learner.

Taming Teenagers

Taming Teenagers

Dear Language Doctor,

My teenager doesn’t want to do anything at all, how on earth can I get them to practice English at home?

Some jammy people are naturally gifted at learning languages, but for most of us it’s a long hard slog. Teenagers typically lack confidence and often feel self-conscious, which means asking them to speak English is like asking someone with two left feet to get up and perform the tango. Rather than getting frustrated by one word answers, plenty of patience is key. Don’t expect too much at first, and I’d recommend agreeing routines and targets with your teen. Thirty minutes of English twice a week would make a big difference and it doesn’t have to be speaking, quiet activities like reading and writing are highly beneficial. Remember to praise any efforts or achievements, and take it from me, small rewards (yes I’m encouraging bribes!) such as extra time on the PlayStation can work wonders. So, next time your teen refuses to remove their headphones at the dinner table, rather than nagging and criticizing their behaviour, take a breath, and congratulate them on listening to English music!

Dear Language Doctor,

My teenage son doesn’t care about his future. How can I make him understand the importance of learning English?

At some point during our teenage years, we do start to think in a more abstract way and most teens understand the importance of knowing English for their futures. Some even start to think about life goals, however the desire to be impulsive is usually stronger, which means that good intentions to learn English don’t always turn into actual practice. In these cases external motivation can work. Why not enrol your teen for a language exam. ‘FCE for Schools’ is just one exam aimed at teens and is one way to give a clear goal to work towards.

Go for external motivation

Go for external motivation

Dear Language Doctor,

My daughter is obsessed with the internet. How can I get her to go offline and spend some time studying?

Teens are extremely tech savvy and love to spend huge amounts of time glued to their computer screens. Rather than trying to fight this I suggest embracing it – there are lots of great ways to learn English online. There are a countless number of resources out there and  interactive games and activities. Watching DVDs together as a family or listening to UK radio are also good ways to create an English environment at home and should encourage your teen to communicate in English. As a bonus, you clearly enjoying English at home sets a good example and will have a positive effect on your teen.

Dear Language Doctor,

How can I get my teenage children to speak English when everyone around them speaks Polish?

What a great excuse to go on holiday! And remember you don’t need to go to an English speaking country to speak English. English is often used as the lingua franca in many parts of the world. Creating real opportunities to use language is a great way to show teens how well they can communicate in English. Reading a menu, asking for items in a shop or asking for directions are all things your teen will have studied at school and should be able to manage without problems. No holiday for you this year? Again I’d encourage your teen to use online resources for English language insights and culture.

Create real opportunities to use language

Create real opportunities to use language

Teen challenge

Well that’s my advice for dealing with your terrible teens (are they really that terrible?). To get some practice with these tips, why not challenge your teen to have a go at learning and using all the words in the glossary below.


offspring (noun) – a person’s child or children

jammy (adjective) – very lucky

slog (noun) – long and boring work

have two left feet (idiom) – to be awkward or clumsy e.g. not very good at dancing

nag (verb) – to keep asking someone to do something in a different way

savvy (adjective) – good knowledge and understanding of something e.g technology

to be glued to (idiom) – to give something your full attention