When non-native speakers arrive in the United States, they quickly realize that it is very challenging to get by without speaking English very well. For young children who arrive with their parents, it is rather easy to learn English because their young brains are still perfectly wired to learn language; but, for their parents, it is an entirely different story. It is physically more challenging for adults to learn a new language, but with the right attitude, it is very possible to become a speaker of English.
Parents Act as Role Models
Parents are their children’s best role models, so when it comes time to learn English, parents need to show their dedication to acculturation. This does not mean that children and their parents should disregard their native language and cultural traditions, but that parents should help their family create a bridge between their native language and English. Without knowing English, children and their parents will have difficulty succeeding in the English-speaking United States.
Immersion in the Language
One of the best ways for non-native speakers to pick up English is through immersion. It is vital for non-native speakers to regularly attend locations where English speakers go. When a non-native speaking family goes to church, it is better to go to an English speaking church, even though it is more comfortable to attend a church in the native language. It is also better for children to attend schools and get as much time as possible with English-speaking students. Families should go to stores, restaurants, and other public places where English is spoken so they can practice their new language in authentic ways. It is also helpful to watch television shows and read books in English, too.
Relationships Help Students Learn
Children look to their parents for guidance and comfort when they are learning a new language. When children take the time to learn English, but their parents do not, children often see this as their parents not wanting to be able to communicate. It can be very easy for parents coming to the United States to isolate themselves in their native-language community; so, they do need to make the effort to get out an experience the English speaking world. But, when they see their parents working on learning a new language, children quickly realize the importance of learning.
Prepare for the Culture
Parents who bring their children to the United States from a foreign country should not only prepare their children for the language, but they should also prepare their children for what they will see when they arrive in the country. There are some very important aspects of what it means to live in the United States and how American live. The United States is a unique place where people pay close attention to schedules and the clock, they also take turns by standing in lines, and they test and measure practically everything. When non-native families begin to understand the way that the United States works, it makes the language much easier to learn. The nuances and idioms become easier to learn when there is context.
Never-Ending Learning Experience
When non-native families move to the United States and begin to understand more and more English, the adults need to understand that language is a part of the culture that is continually being learned. There will never be a point where a person will finish learning words, so there is nothing wrong with asking questions about a word or phrase that they may not know. Since children pick up new languages faster than adults, parents should become comfortable asking their children to explain unknown words or phrases.