Should English Be Taught in Early Age?

By. Mehrunnisa Ani Mufti
Edited by Salma Maulani


Wherever we travel in the world, we can see advertisements and signs using English. Whenever we enter a restaurant or hotel in foreign country, they will use English to communicate with us. Indeed, English is an international language that has already spread around the world. People from various countries learn English. However, when is the right time to learn English? Is it from an early age or when we have already grown up? There are two sides in our society about whether English should be taught at an early age. Indonesian government believes that if English is taught in childhood it will burdens students in learning other subjects. While some parents are convinced that English should be taught at childhood because it will make their children easier to understand the international language. Although there are challenges in learning English in early age, such as students’ lack motivation, decreased sense of nationalism, and the large number of students in a classroom, there is some evidence that those problems can be overcome by using various games, setting a particular goal in teaching to grow students’ nationalism, and using group work in the classroom.

Garton (2013) believes that students in early age have a lack of motivation in learning English. However, motivation can be increased from learning activity and teachers who understand the context.  Listia (2008) states that to increase students’ motivation, teachers should make learning activity more fun by using the right method and various games based on the children’s cognitive, physical, and emotional level. Also, by providing colored textbooks. The research conducted by her, where the increasing of students’ motivation in learning English is in line with the use of interesting learning methods such as using games, puzzles, interesting pictures and songs in the teaching and learning process. In addition, teachers should know the context of teaching English. McMillan (2017) states that a good context explains function and meaning, and gives students a reason to use what is being taught and communicated. From that, it can engage students to learn English because they know how the language is meaningful to them and how they have the connection with the language. It is in line with Rhalmi (2013) that states learners will have motivation to learn English if they acquire the language meaningfully. 

Opponents also maintain along with the pressure of widespread globalization, learning English can affect a sense of nationalism (Kawai, 2007). However, it depends on how the teachers teach English to the students. Fanani (2008) believes that if teachers set a particular goal in order to improve students’ sense of nationalism, it can increase the sense of it to the students. In order to objectify it, Fanani (2008) has already mentioned two ways to improve students’ nationalism through learning English activities; inserting nationalism value and using Indonesian songs in learning English. In particular, he argues that while teaching English teachers can internalize the value of nationalism which the students can get the beneficial things from internalization because of the unity combination of manner and value. To internalize the values of the English teaching materials, Fanani states that teachers can identify the values of nationalism that can be merged into teaching materials, for example comprehending and obeying the values carried in the 1945 Constitution and Pancasila. Then, finding the sources (written in English) adjusted with students’ grades about teaching materials related to Indonesian nationalism. The second way mentioned by Fanani (2008) is using Indonesian songs. He believes that all children love to sing, play, and repeat short songs.  He observed that using nationalism songs with English lyrics can be very useful to raise students’ sense of Indonesian nationalism. One example of the song is “Hari Merdeka” which has been translated into English. 

The final argument stated by opponent, Listia (2008) is that learning English at an early age in school is less effective because of the large number of students in the class. However, there are a lot of ways to overcome that. Listia (2008) observed that it can be overcome by dividing students into groups or pairs. By applying this method, it can increase interaction between students and make the learning atmosphere more varied. Therefore, students can show their abilities maximally without being shy because they work together. In addition, teachers can manage them easily because they shouldn’t check one by one. On the other hand, the arrangement of the classroom can overcome ineffective teaching and learning activity in a big member of class. This is consistent with research conducted by Hayes (1997) which states that learning English by rearranging the classroom tools (tables and chairs) into several groups. With this, teachers can recognize and see the students’ work clearly rather than in the classroom arrangement in rows. Hayes (1997) also states that if the class becomes noisy because of a large member of class, teachers can use signals (example: a clap of the hands) and give the instruction in a loud voice.

It should be evident that the arguments against learning English in early age are not acceptable. Many challenges mentioned by opponents can be solved in many ways. First, students who are not motivated in learning English can be prevented by fun learning activities and the understanding of context that belongs to the teacher. Second, the process of learning English which makes sense of nationalism faded can be overcome by implementing nationalism values and using Indonesian songs while learning English. Third, over-participants in class can be dealt with classroom management. To overcome those challenges, training should be given to the teachers who teach English to childhood, and parents should control them at home. 




Hayes, D. (1997). Helping Teachers to Cope with Large Classes. ELT journal, 51(2), 106-116.

Garton, S. (2014). Unresolved Issues and New Challenges in Teaching English to Young Learners:

                  The Case of South Korea. Current issues in language planning, 15(2), 201-219.

Fanani, A. (2015). Using English to Enhance the Elementary School Students’sense of Nationalism.

                 Educate, 4(2).

Kawai, Y. (2007). Japanese nationalism and the global spread of English: An analysis of 

                Japanese governmental and public discourses on English. Language and Intercultural
, 7(1), 37-55.

Listia, R., & Kamal, S. (2008). Kendala Pengajaran Bahasa Inggris di Sekolah Dasar. 

                 Retrieved on February, 11, 2011. 

Rhalmi, M. (2013, July 18). Meaning and Context in Language Teaching. Retrieved from

Mcmillan, S. (2017, September 19). Setting Context. Retrieved from

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