Many families decide to bring an au pair into their home to expose their children to a new language. Au pairs that speak English as a second language and native-English speaking au pairs that speak multiple languages are very appealing to these families. Sharing language can be a great way for au pairs and host families to interact and have fun together.
It’s important to remember that many au pairs are motivated to travel to the U.S. to improve their English speaking skills. Families should strive to strike a good balance of language exchange for everyone’s benefit. The following is a fun activity for kids and adults to explore language together.
This game is a great activity for au pairs and children to play for vocabulary development:
First, they can work together to create label cards for items all around a room. The card should contain the English and foreign language word (together on the same side) for as many items as they choose.
Then the au pair asks a child to bring the label for an object in the foreign language. She can repeat the word periodically and give signals (you’re getting hot, no cold, colder, warmer, warmer, smoking hot, ding-ding-ding!) if help is needed, until the correct item is located and the corresponding label is retrieved. (Optional: the child can say the word in English for the au pair to hear and repeat.)
Next, it’s the child’s turn to ask the au pair to find an object in the English language. The au pair must find it (with help if needed) and retrieve the card. (Again with the option to say the word in the foreign language for the child to hear and repeat.) Then it’s back to the child’s turn or the next child if more than one are playing. In this way, the game alternates between au pair and child, English and foreign language, until all of the labels are retrieved.
This process can be repeated as long as everyone is enjoying it. As the vocabulary gets familiar, place the cards with the blank side showing for a greater challenge. Of course, parents can play too! Intercultural learning is fun for the whole family.
Once everyone is pretty good at the vocabulary for one room, the game can expand around the home as space permits so that the au pair and host family build a strong vocabulary of useful words from around the house. You can make a game of items in a food pantry, a laundry room, the bathroom, the garage or even take it outside to a back yard. Each new location brings new vocabulary in real settings for practical language development—and a whole lot of fun!