Au Pair in America is proud to partner with Language Launchers to bring you posts regarding language development, your au pair and your baby!
Nature AND Nurture
Although it is true that a baby is born hard wired for language learning, without a strong linguistic environment that same baby is unlikely to reach his/her full language learning potential. Think of the brain as the computer and the exposure/expectations of the environment as the programming. The computer does little without the programs. A rich linguistic environment lays the foundation for later academic success. Therefore, communicating with your au pair about your child’s language development and your expectations is essential.
Here are some pointers to guide you through those conversations:
Step 1: Think about what YOU know about language learning and what you believe are important strategies. Think about your daily interactions. What would you like your au pair to do the same or different?
Step 2: Do you want your au pair to speak their native language to your child? Be very clear about how often, the length of time, or in what specific circumstances.
Step 3: Model the way you want your au pair to speak with your child but don’t assume it will be clear by demonstration alone. Narrate your thoughts during these interactions. For example, “I noticed that Baby Lacy is trying to imitate what I am saying if I stop and wait for a few seconds, adding extra pause time helps her learn it’s her turn in conversation.”You might also say something like, “Reading aloud to Johnny might not feel like it is doing very much because he is just a baby but there is a lot of research that says it’s VERY important for language development…please make sure you read 4-5 times EVERYDAY”
Step 4: Have a conversation with your au pair specific to language learning. Ask your au pair what she knows about learning language and what strategies or activities she may be able to do to help the child learn. Some Au pairs may associate language learning to a classroom with memorization and flashcards and not primary language development. This is NOT the method of choice to use with a young child learning their primary language.. Young children learn language more effectively through natural playful interactions with people whom they are emotionally attached.
Don’t assume your au pair recognizes the value of her verbal interactions or that she shares the same meaning of “quality time”. Even a word that feels as simple as “play” may have different interpretations across cultures. There are so many variables between people and cultures. Some people are very outgoing others more reserved. Whether the differences between you and your au pair’s styles are by culture or individual personality doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that you and your au pair are on the same page regarding your child’s needs.
By Kimberly Nertney M.S.,CCC-SLP
Pamela Talbot M.Ed, CCC-SLP, LSLS-Cert AVT