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Teaching your child the 'hard' English words

Updated: Feb 16, 2021

Not all words are equal. Some words are harder than others. This applies to all languages. Typically, it is not the word itself which is hard. It is the concept that lies behind the words that is hard. For example, the word 'apple' is longer and maybe harder to say while the word 'cold' is shorter and therefore easier to say. However, as concepts, the word 'apple' is easier to learn and understand than the word 'cold'.

Why is this?

Words appear hard or easy depending on the concept they represent. The word 'apple' represents something you can see, touch, taste and enjoy through several senses. The word 'cold' on the other hand, represents something you can only feel. The fewer the senses you can understand a word through, the harder the word is. That is why words like 'justice' and 'mercy' are harder words compared to 'hippopotamus'. A child cannot see justice and mercy in the same way he can see a hippopotamus.

It's for this reason that nouns (names of things and people) are the first words that children learn. Verbs (action words) and prepositions (position words) are harder and will come next.

It is therefore obvious from the above information that when your child is first learning English, you begin with the nouns. When you are teaching words other than nouns (ie words harder to experience through the senses), try and make the word come alive to the child. Activities make verbs easier to teach. Run, jump, hide and cry as the word demands!

Prepositions also work on the same principle. Little toys that your child can manipulate make the concept come alive to the child. Talk about in front of, behind and before using a ball and box. ( For example, 'Put the ball before the box', 'Put the ball behind the box' and so on.)

Some words in English just need repetition and practice. An example of this is English's use of past tenses. Irregular past tenses just need to be heard again and again before a child masters it.

Teach adjectives and adverbs (describing words) as and when an event happens. When you see a dog barking, point out to the child 'Look at that dog barking madly!' (or loudly or angrily, depending on the word you want to teach). When you are walking and there is a strong wind blowing, tell your child 'We have a strong wind today!' When your child falls down, you can say 'That's a nasty fall you had there'.

Don't forget that books are a great way to teach language. They can teach complex words within a context, a story, which makes the word come alive.

And remember, practice makes perfect.

Don't forget to try our app Brainy English app (by Brainy Bug Resources). The app makes hundreds of words and sentences accessible to even very young children.

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