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Are you a tortoise or a hare?

Do you know the story of the tortoise and the hare? One day they decided to have a race. At the start, the hare ran ahead because he was much faster than the tortoise. But then he lay down for a sleep. During that time, the slow tortoise continued plodding along until he overtook the hare and finally won the race.

Some people attempt to learn English like the hare running the race. They pay for an English Language course and start with a lot of enthusiasm. They sprint through Lesson 1 very quickly. But then they get tired of all the study and have a long rest. In fact, some people stop studying altogether. They will never become competent English speakers by using the hare’s race strategy.

Other people are more like the tortoise. They realise that learning English takes a long time and so they set their pace accordingly. They plan their study time in a way that creates good study habits and effective learning over the long term. They will become competent English speakers.

So how should English lessons be paced for a child? Firstly, it should be remembered that children have a short attention span. Brain research has shown that young children can only stay focussed on one learning activity for a maximum of about 7 minutes. Therefore each session of study should be ‘bite-sized’. Secondly, children can only absorb small chunks of new language at one time. Thirdly, the content of the lesson should be revised within 24 hours otherwise it will be forgotten.

It is impossible to prescribe exactly how much time a child should spend studying English because every child is different. However, taking into account the principles above, it is reasonable to suggest that a child should study English for about 10 minutes per day. Older children might go for longer.  The best strategy is for the parent to choose a slot of time for their child to study English every weekday, perhaps after coming home from school or after dinnertime.

So take a lesson from the tortoise: Adopt a steady, regular pace over a long period of time so that your child can win the race of becoming a fluent English speaker.

Tony Gallagher 27-Apr-2015

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