Bilingualism with an Au Pair

Au Pair Childcare is so much more…

The Au Pair program is more than just childcare.  The au pair program is a cultural exchange program that allows young adults between the ages of 18 to 26 to gain insight into American life while providing live-in childcare. While providing loving, consistent and trustworthy childcare host families receive many positive and heartwarming benefits from the cultural exchange. Au pairs become integrated into the daily lives of their host families leaving imprints in the hearts of the family and making an impact. Au pairs share their culture through songs, food, language, stories, and traditions. Welcoming an au pair into your home will open up your children’s world and make it so much bigger. You become a global family!

One of many benefits of au pair childcare is language exposure. Here is an interesting article on the bilingual influence to the brain according to a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs.

Photo

CreditHarriet Russell

Editor’s Note: We’re resurfacing this story from the archives to show you how learning a second language can improve how you think.

SPEAKING two languages rather than just one has obvious practical benefits in an increasingly globalized world. But in recent years, scientists have begun to show that the advantages of bilingualism are even more fundamental than being able to converse with a wider range of people. Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

This view of bilingualism is remarkably different from the understanding of bilingualism through much of the 20th century. Researchers, educators and policy makers long considered a second language to be an interference, cognitively speaking, that hindered a child’s academic and intellectual development.

They were not wrong about the interference: there is ample evidence that in a bilingual’s brain both language systems are active even when he is using only one language, thus creating situations in which one system obstructs the other. But this interference, researchers are finding out, isn’t so much a handicap as a blessing in disguise. It forces the brain to resolve internal conflict, giving the mind a workout that strengthens its cognitive muscles.

Bilinguals, for instance, seem to be more adept than monolinguals at solving certain kinds of mental puzzles. In a 2004 study by the psychologists Ellen Bialystok and Michelle Martin-Rhee, bilingual and monolingual preschoolers were asked to sort blue circles and red squares presented on a computer screen into two digital bins — one marked with a blue square and the other marked with a red circle.

In the first task, the children had to sort the shapes by color, placing blue circles in the bin marked with the blue square and red squares in the bin marked with the red circle. Both groups did this with comparable ease. Next, the children were asked to sort by shape, which was more challenging because it required placing the images in a bin marked with a conflicting color. The bilinguals were quicker at performing this task.

The collective evidence from a number of such studies suggests that the bilingual experience improves the brain’s so-called executive function — a command system that directs the attention processes that we use for planning, solving problems and performing various other mentally demanding tasks. These processes include ignoring distractions to stay focused, switching attention willfully from one thing to another and holding information in mind — like remembering a sequence of directions while driving.

Why does the tussle between two simultaneously active language systems improve these aspects of cognition? Until recently, researchers thought the bilingual advantage stemmed primarily from an ability for inhibition that was honed by the exercise of suppressing one language system: this suppression, it was thought, would help train the bilingual mind to ignore distractions in other contexts. But that explanation increasingly appears to be inadequate, since studies have shown that bilinguals perform better than monolinguals even at tasks that do not require inhibition, like threading a line through an ascending series of numbers scattered randomly on a page.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. “Bilinguals have to switch languages quite often — you may talk to your father in one language and to your mother in another language,” says Albert Costa, a researcher at the University of Pompeu Fabra in Spain. “It requires keeping track of changes around you in the same way that we monitor our surroundings when driving.” In a study comparing German-Italian bilinguals with Italian monolinguals on monitoring tasks, Mr. Costa and his colleagues found that the bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating that they were more efficient at it.

The bilingual experience appears to influence the brain from infancy to old age (and there is reason to believe that it may also apply to those who learn a second language later in life).

In a 2009 study led by Agnes Kovacs of the International School for Advanced Studies in Trieste, Italy, 7-month-old babies exposed to two languages from birth were compared with peers raised with one language. In an initial set of trials, the infants were presented with an audio cue and then shown a puppet on one side of a screen. Both infant groups learned to look at that side of the screen in anticipation of the puppet. But in a later set of trials, when the puppet began appearing on the opposite side of the screen, the babies exposed to a bilingual environment quickly learned to switch their anticipatory gaze in the new direction while the other babies did not.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals, scientists led by the neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan of the University of California, San Diego, found that individuals with a higher degree of bilingualism — measured through a comparative evaluation of proficiency in each language — were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Nobody ever doubted the power of language. But who would have imagined that the words we hear and the sentences we speak might be leaving such a deep imprint?

Correction: March 25, 2012 
The Gray Matter column on bilingualism last Sunday misspelled the name of a university in Spain. It is Pompeu Fabra, not Pompea Fabra. https://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-benefits-of-bilingualism.html


Here is a brief overview of what the au pair childcare program is and some questions to ask yourself while figuring out the best childcare option for your family and your family needs. The au pair program will not fit every family and lifestyle, but for some families who have discovered this program, it is the only childcare option!

It is important to find childcare that will work best with your family’s lifestyle, budget, and schedule. Our au pair childcare program and cultural exchange program offers your family-flexible, live-in childcare with an international perspective. Your au pair lives with you as a member of your family, and your children benefit from personalized and consistent care in the comfort of your own home.

  1. Au pairs are young people from overseas who travel legally to the U.S. to care for children on a cultural exchange visa.
  2. Au pair working conditions are regulated by the U.S. Department of State, so there are rules that must be followed.
  3. An au pair can work up to (but no more than) 45 hours a week, 10 hours per day.
  4. Au Pairs are paid a set weekly stipend of $195.75, as dictated by the U.S.  Department of State.
  5. Many au pairs have hundreds, even thousands, of hours of experience as babysitters, tutors, kindergarten assistants, camp counselors, and sports instructors.
  6. Our agency does not recruit using third-party recruiters or agents.
  7. Our au pairs are First Aid and CPR certified by the American Red Cross as soon as they arrive from their home countries.
  8. They have their own health insurance and international driver’s license.
  9. There are tax benefits, too! I can send you more information on specific tax incentives if you would like!
  10. The opportunity to expose your family to a new language and culture and to share the American culture! Maybe select a candidate that has a background in a certain language, like French or Spanish so that they can teach your kids. As a host family, you will be welcoming an au pair – who becomes an extended family member—into your home. It means relying on her to provide trusted care for your children and helping with household duties, and in exchange, providing a private room and setting a place at the dinner table for her each night.

Register to host an au pair at www.culturalcare.com/jmorrow

Facebook.com/JenniferMorrowLCC


 Still, have more questions about hosting an Au Pair? Read more at this link, What to ask before hosting an au pair. 

Friday, 21 June 2019 7:15 PM

Comments

Leave a reply