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Smalltalk auf Englisch - Englisch sprechen mit Kindern

Schlagwörter: spielend Englisch lernen, Englisch, Kinder, Lernen, Fremdsprache

Kids are a constant part of business travel. You may not be travelling with your own, but airplanes, trains, and busses are rarely devoid of them. Every now and then, one of them is assigned to the seat next to you, or comes by to smile and ‘visit’ while you’re underway. And if you visit a doctor, go to a park, or do anything else in public while you’re travelling, an encounter with a child may be on the agenda.

The foundation

Conversations with kids often fail quickly because the overall motivation for the conversation is incorrect. There has to be a goal, and — if you make the effort to enter into a conversation with a child — that goal has to be to make the child feel like you are treating him not as a child, but as someone you respect. This means not only asking a lot of questions, but communicating with the right tone and saying the things necessary to give this respect.

This has two benefits:

  1. The child comes away from the conversation feeling good about himself.
  2. You may learn to get to know the child better during the conversation because he will offer more information in response to the respect — this will create a memorable moment for you as well.

Getting started

No one likes to speak without knowing who they’re speaking to, so introduce yourself in a non-threatening way:

Hi, I’m Andrea. What’s your name?

Babies and toddlers aside, there are three groups of children you may need to communicate with:

  • Pre-school children who can talk
  • School-age children who can engage in conversation
  • Teenagers

You need to adjust your conversation questions depending on the age of the child.

Communicating with pre-schoolers

Starting questions

Pre-schoolers are typically the ones that wander up and down the aisles smiling at everyone and making superficial conversation. Communicating is as easy as engaging in a simple question-and-answer session. Here are a number of standard starting questions:

What’s your name?

How old are you?

Are you in kindergarten?

Are you on your way home or are you going to visit someone?

Do you have any brothers and sisters?

Are they older or younger?

What are their names?

What’s his/her name?

Respect
Asking questions and getting answers isn’t enough to treat your conversation partner with a blast of respect that makes him feel good. You should be ready with replies to the answers that accomplish this:

What’s your name? Mary.

That’s a pretty name, so I guess it fits you well, doesn’t it?

How old are you? 5.

Wow, that’s pretty old.

Are you in kindergarten? Yes.

I bet you’re in the group for the older kids, aren’t you? ( even if it’s clear the child is not )

Are you on your way home or are you going to visit someone? I’m visiting my Uncle Bob.

Well, you’re travelling a long way, aren’t you? I bet your uncle is looking forward to seeing you.

Do you have any brothers and sisters? I have an older brother.

What’s his name? Mark.

I bet he likes having a little sister like you, doesn’t he?

Do you have a pet? I have a cat.

What’s his/her name? Fluffy.

Fluffy’s really lucky to have someone like you to take care of him, isn’t he?

Questions for school-agers

School-agers appreciate questions that invite them to talk. It’s not so important that they offer any meaningful content. Some won’t know what to say. The point is that you’ve asked, shown you were listening, and demonstrated your interest and respect.

What school do you go to?

What subject do you like the most?

I like maths. Why do you like maths the most?

Do you have any hobbies?

That’s very interesting. How did you learn to do that?

Do you like to play any sports? Football.

Is that through your school or do you belong to a local team? It’s a local team.

Oh, that means you play against teams from other towns in the area, right?

What do you like most about playing football?

Questions for teenagers

Teenagers are notorious for offering little in conversation. When their parents try to get them talking, they often fail. As a stranger, you have a non-threatening advantage. Stick to questions that require full answers. Questions that invite yes, no, or a single-word response are ineffective:

Where do you go to school? Brown High School.

Incorrect: What is your favourite subject? Potential answer: English.

Correct: I’m curious about what you’re studying there. Tell me a little about the subjects you like.

Incorrect: Do you like it there? Potential answer: It’s OK.

Correct: What do you like and not like about your school?

Incorrect: What do you plan to do when you graduate? Potential answer: I don’t know.

Correct: If you had to choose between being a lawyer and a doctor when you graduate, which would you choose? Why’s that?

Schlagwörter: spielend Englisch lernen, Englisch, Kinder, Lernen, Fremdsprache

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