As a Childcare Consultant for the largest au pair agency, I get to share with many new families who are either unfamiliar with this type of childcare or have been misinformed about this cultural-exchange and childcare program. This type of childcare option will not fit all families, but for many with the correct expectations and understanding of the program, both au pair and host families can benefit from the exchange.
Many of the families that I do speak with have some fears or concerns about welcoming an au pair into their home. For some families, this may be around the question concerning language. All au pairs will speak English and their skills range from proficient to native speaker. All au pairs during their screening process to become an au pair are tested and interviewed in English by a staff member. Many of the au pairs are excited to come to the US to improve their English skills, verbal and written for personal enrichment or career advancement when they return home. An au pair living with an American family will improve their language development.
New host families with young children learning to speak are often concerned about the confusion having an au pair who speaks another language in the home may cause. For those families, I’m hoping this article will help put those concerns at bay.
What is an au pair?
The translation of “au pair” is “on par” or equal, based on the idea that an au pair becomes like a member of the family. Au pairs are young adults, ranging in age from 18 to 26, that arrive in the United States on a J-1 Cultural Exchange Visa. They typically come for one year, but can extend their stay for up to two years. Au pairs hope to acquire a better understanding of the cultural aspects of American life while living with an American family and caring for their children.
Myth: Au pairs only provide childcare.
Fact: Unlike daycare or a babysitter, an au pair can perform all household duties associated with children, so they can clean a playroom, prepare and clean up after meals, do children’s laundry, make the children’s beds and organize their toys and closets. In addition to childcare and help around the house, having an au pair also enriches a child’s playtime through exposure to another language and culture.
Myth: Anyone can be an au pair.
Fact: Actually the au pair program is highly regulated by the Department of State and requires that all candidates have significant childcare experience and complete a thorough application. During the screening process, the potential candidate is personally interviewed, tested on English competency, takes a personality profile survey, submits a criminal background check and provides personal and professional references. At Cultural Care Au Pair, this screening is conducted by staff in their own overseas offices and not through the use of third-party agents
Myth: Not having a native speaker will affect a child’s language development.
Fact: Studies have shown that exposing children to a second language enhances their language and cognitive development and does not impede their ability to learn English. With an au pair, parents can have a caregiver who speaks English and is also willing to teach their native language and share their culture with the family. Having an au pair can also reinforce a child’s language learning at school.
The following article sheds light on bilinguals and confusion!
Bilingual Kids Do Not Get Confused Speaking Two Languages
Bilingual Kids Do Not get Confused
Bilingual kids get confused learning two languages at once. It is impossible for children to learn a second language while trying to master their first.
There is also the possibility of a speech delay because of language confusion, and bilingual kids may not end up not talking at all.
Parents should speak one language to their child, and it should be the community language so that eventually when their kids go to school they won’t get confused.
Any of this sound familiar?
If you are raising a bilingual child, I am sure you have heard a few of these statements, either from friends, teachers, or even strangers. There is this huge misconception that bilingual kids get confused learning two languages at once. Many parents become scared off and some even consider dropping a language because of it.
Let’s get one thing straight though. While bilingual kids develop their language abilities differently, bilingualism does not cause confusion. Learning two or even three languages at once, does not cause confusion.
But my partner and I speak different languages with our kids, won’t there be some confusion?
If each parent speaks a different language to your child, it will not confuse them. The OPOL approach is very popular because children learn to differentiate between the two languages, and who they should speak them with very early on.
But we speak a third language between ourselves
Many multicultural families speak a third language. Perhaps you speak Italian to your child, your partner speaks French, however, between you the language is English. This might seem like it could confuse your child, but it isn’t the case. Your child may not become fluent in all three, however, at the least, they may develop a passive understanding of English hearing it between you constantly.
But my child mixes languages, he must be confused
Mixing languages is common with bilingual kids. Children who are learning more than one language at once are taking in double the vocabulary. Sometimes if they don’t have what they need in one language, they compensate by using the other. In one way they are lucky. Monolingual children don’t have this advantage. If a monolingual child doesn’t know a word, they may not be able to express themselves at all.
But my child goes to nursery/school and the teacher says my child is confused
Many teachers in monolingual nurseries and schools are uneducated on bilingualism and may think your child is confused because they are unable to communicate as well as the other students.
If your child is starting at a school where the language is different to the one you speak at home, there may be a period where your child may stop talking. But don’t mistake this for confusion. Language immersion is one of the easiest and quickest ways to learn a language. Children initially listen and take everything in. They will eventually start to speak, and will catch up quite quickly.
But my child has a speech delay, could this be due to language confusion?
Bilingualism does not cause a speech delay. If a child has a speech delay, it will usually occur in both languages. Language development is different in all children. Some bilingual children will start talking later than others, but this is also the case with some monolingual children. If your bilingual child has a speech delay it doesn’t mean they are confused. If you are worried, seek medical advice from a speech therapist who specializes in bilingualism.
But learning to read and write in two languages seems confusing
Just as children can learn to speak in two languages at once, they can also learn to read and write in two languages at once. While there may be different alphabets or different sounds of some letters, children are able to distinguish between the languages quite quickly. Some language combinations may take longer than others, but most children are able to learn with no issues and become biliterate.
Bilingualism and language confusion
If you are raising a child in more than one language, you are likely to hear various myths and misconceptions about bilingualism. Make sure to do your own research, and don’t believe just anything you hear from others. Children have been raised to be bilingual and multilingual in many parts of the world for centuries. In fact more than half of the world’s population is bilingual. It can’t be that half of the world is confused.
If you’d like to learn more about hosting an au pair or have more questions, you can read more here. What to ask before you host an au pair
Registering is totally free and very easy. Just visit my website and click register!
Wednesday, 26 June 2019 7:35 PM