Interview: English With Lucy on teaching English to one million subscribers & kids learning languages

Lucy Earl is a Youtube vlogger who educates native and non-native English speakers on all things English. Her channel English With Lucy sees her teaching about grammar rules, cultural differences, and how to speak with confidence. Her most popular tutorials are about how to use apostrophes correctly and the common English words you’re pronouncing wrong. My favourite video was the brand names you pronounce incorrectly because I was certainly caught out on a few!

Learning language is an invaluable skill, whether it’s brushing up on your own language or exploring and learning about another. For English Language Day, we wanted to discuss with Lucy how parents can be involved in their child’s language development and how to make learning English and other languages a fun and interesting activity.

Many of your videos are aimed at those learning English. How can native speakers benefit from watching them?

Whilst many of my videos are aimed at learners of English as a foreign language, I actually make a lot of videos on topics that interest me or concepts I struggle with. I was finding it difficult to remember how to use apostrophes correctly, so I buckled down, did the research and made an apostrophe guide which is really useful for native speakers too. A lot of us weren’t taught any grammar at school and have just been winging it, so I think it’s nice to give people the option of learning the rules. I made another fun video about grammar mistakes that natives make which drive Brits crazy! It included things like using ‘should of’ instead of ‘should have’, or pronouncing the letter ‘H’ as ‘heytch’ instead of ‘eytch’. I don’t aim to chastise people for making grammar and pronunciation mistakes, a lot of them are to do with individual dialects and accents, but I think the information should be readily available for those who want it.

What do you enjoy the most about teaching English?

I love teaching because it takes very little time to make a huge difference in a student’s life. If we are afraid to speak, we lose a lot more than just the ability to talk. We can’t share opinions, tell funny anecdotes or properly portray our true personalities. Building up confidence is so important and oftentimes it’s just a case of clearing up a load of doubts that a student has been carrying with them for years.

How can we encourage children to learn languages and be interested in different cultures from a young age?

I feel so passionately about the importance of encouraging children to learn languages! I remember hating languages at school. They had this nasty ‘boring’ stigma attached to them and I knew before I even set foot in my first class that I was going to loathe it! Children need to be shown the culture that goes with a language. I think the BEST way to get children interested in a language is to have them meet and play with children who speak that foreign language. Kids want to communicate with each other, and it will make them realise that the ‘prize’ of learning a language is the ability to make more friends and have more fun! Before I met other Spanish teenagers, I just thought Spanish was a dull school subject. When I finally went to Spain and made loads of friends, it dawned on me that if I didn’t learn the language I would miss out on having so much fun with these interesting new people. I was sold, and went on to become fluent and live in Spain for a couple of years.

READ MORE: 8 Language Classes For Young Children In London

What advice can you offer to parents to ensure their children are learning standard English and grammar?

Educate yourself first. I really struggled with maths at school, and I remember my dad pouring over my GCSE maths textbooks so that he could make sure I was on the right track. If you don’t know how to you look at your child’s work and you’re not sure if they are doing something correctly, make a note of it and when you have time you can do the necessary research and make sure you’re more equipped to help them out next time.

Can you recommend some great ways for English-speaking children to learn other languages?

When young children learn languages, it’s all about vocabulary. Why not try cooking a recipe native to the country of the language that they’re learning, but have the ingredients written in the language? They have to try and work out which ingredient corresponds to which item of food on the work surface. Another great idea is setting up a penpal with a child of a similar age. You could try contacting a foreign school and see if they want to do an inter-school project.

What words do both native and non-native children struggle with?

Every child is different, but for children brought up in England, they normally struggle with words that they have been TAUGHT incorrectly, like ‘mischievous’ – often pronounced as miss-chee-vee-ous – I also learnt it this way as a child’ or ‘heytch’ instead of ‘eytch’. Non-native children tend to struggle more with individual phonemes that aren’t present in their own language. An example of this would be Spanish children saying ‘sheep’ instead of ‘ship’ because that short ‘i’ sound doesn’t exist in Spanish.

READ MORE: Child Language Development: What To Expect And When

What was your favourite book as a child and why?

I used to DEVOUR all the Enid Blyton books that my mother had as a child. I remember noticing that the language was different, and having my mum explain to me that a lot of the terms used in the books would not be politically correct or appropriate to use at school. Maybe that was subconsciously part of what sparked my interest in the way languages evolve.

Tell us your favourite fact or quote about the English language.

It’s estimated that over 1 billion people are actively learning English! That blows my mind!

Click here to visit Lucy’s Youtube channel