Controversy over which age group to begin teaching [Archives:2003/669/Culture]

September 18 2003

By Hafedh Al kerdi- teacher
For teh Yemen Times

As we know that childhood is a serious and important stage because this stage is considered as a beginning of learning, so Wordsworth says, ” Child is the father of the man” he means that childhood is the seed time for human's soul. Although I teach teenagers in the school and adults in the college of Aturba, I would like to teach children for many reasons.
There are numbers of beliefs about age. Some writers claim that only young learners can successfully learn a new language.
These writers suggest that the child's brain is like as a special computer, which has a program for learning languages.
They also suggest that this program finishes when the child begins to reach adulthood. They say this because adults (older people) are less successful than children at learning a language. But there is no real evidence that their theory is correct.
In addition, the human child has a more powerful memory than adults, and this is why I am emphasizing on learning English in the early period of human being's life. As a teacher I observe that the young children have a desire to learn a second language. They are more active than adults. The young child is like the receiver, he hears words, phrases and sentences from the teacher then the child tries to memorize them quickly.
Furthermore, the human child's tongue is flexible whereas the adult's tongue “gets stiff” from pronouncing the words. The support of my previous proposition, William points out that “we can predict that people who start learning their L2 before the age of seven will have native like L2 speech and that people who start learning after fourteen or fifteen will probably have non- native like speech. But the results of people who start learning between the ages of seven and fourteen are much more varied-some end up with accent and some- do not.”

Characteristics about young children:
Young children can learn in the following ways:
a) They respond to meaning even if they do not understand individual words.
b) They can learn from everything around him-that is they learn indirectly rather than directly.
c) Their comprehension comes not only from explanation, but also from what they see and hear-that is they learn concrete things rather than abstract things.
d) They like to listen to a song, repeat sentence, memorize words.
e) They don't like to use language rules and explanations.
f) They learn better by actually doing things with the language like acting and repeating than by the teacher explaining to them.
g) They need special care from the teacher-for example, listen to students when they respond, use the names of all your students.
h) They prefer to be encouraged by the teacher-that is you should not attack your students if they make mistakes and use some terms to encourage them, such as good, very good, excellent, well done, thank you etc.
i) They have very limited concentration which means that the teacher can not expect them to do one thing for long. They need a lot of variety and the teacher has to be careful to get 'balance of activities' right from the group (like to talk about themselves).

According to the features above, the good teachers at this level need to provide a rich diet of learning experiences, which encourages their students to get information from a variety of sources. They need to work with their students individually and in-groups developing good relationships. They need to prepare different activities so that they will not feel bored. The teachers should give them some songs, get them to repeat, act, talk about themselves and their interests and life.