On the Home
Office website ‘working in the UK’
there is a paragraph about the au pair scheme, explaining that the scheme
allows a person between 17 and 27 to come to the United Kingdom to study English.
For most au
pairs, improving their English language skills is still the most important
motivator for choosing the au pair program to come to Britain.
Although for EU nationals it is now easy to enter the UK and do other
work, nothing quite hits the spot like the au pair programme does to provide
the opportunity to earn and learn.
And equally, we
find that the au pair experience is often more successful for the families if
the au pair is serious about learning English in structured classes in addition
to the informal language practise at home. An au pair who attends structured
tuition improves much faster, is committed to stay for a longer period of time
and generally more serious about the au pair experience as a cultural exchange
look at the structured English languages classes. In some cases, these have been
provided free of charge the last couple of years. With government funding of
Skills for Life courses, some au pairs did not have to pay for their English
courses. Some feedback we received however was that for educated and ambitious
au pairs, these courses were not always challenging enough.
English UK is the national
association of accredited English language centres. For students, enrolling at an English UK
centre is the best way to ensure that they have a good experience and get the
most out of the English language course.
has the widest range of English Language and Combined Courses in the world (*)
- there is a course for everyone. Depending on the level of English that the au
pair has when he or she first arrives in Britain and the purpose of leaning
English, they may choose from various options.
General and Intensive English - English
for daily life in an English-speaking country. Class sizes vary and a full-time
course will usually be for a minimum of 15 full hours per week. Courses ensure
you improve your English in all areas of the language: reading, writing,
listening and, of course, speaking. This is the most usual choice for au pairs.
Other options include English for Academic Purposes (EAP), Foundation
courses, in preparation for college or university, English for Specific
Purposes and Business English.
Whatever your choice of language course, this is also a great way to meet
new people and make friends. At the languages centers, people from all
nationalities come together to learn, so you have something in common with
everyone and it make it easy to connect. You can practice your language skills in
social situations, chat during your breaks and agree to meet up when you have
Just because the au pair program is about cultural childcare, this does
not mean that the au pair has a background or a future in childcare. Au pairs
are often university graduates who have ambitious plans for the future and recognise the au pair program as an
effective and efficient way to study English in Britain for a year.
The time with the family can be considered as ‘work experience’ and
language practice all rolled into one. Practicing your improving language
skills with young children has huge advantages. Children are usually more
patient and forgiving, they can correct your errors without making you feel embarrassed
or awkward. And their own choice of words and sentences is often simpler than
that of adults. Depending on the child’s age, you can learn from each other;
read together, play word games, be each other’s thesaurus and have fun whilst
And the parents have a role to play too. In the first couple of weeks,
the parents need to ensure that the au pair is ‘trained’ into the routine of
the household. This is often done with a handbook or training manual, which
both parents and au pair can use for reference. It is in the parents interest
to engage the au pair in conversation from an early stage. The au pair will
spend a lot of time with their children and feedback on their activities will
be a good opportunity for the au pair to speak with the adults of the family.
To encourage the
development of written English, an au pair can keep a diary or journal or
possibly even a blog in English to share with friends back home. This will make a nice souvenir too.
And so, gradually, with structured language classes and informal
communications with the children and the adults at home, the language skills of
the au pair will improve fast.
Most new host families comment on the astonishing improvements of the language
skills of their au pair in the first two weeks. After the initial couple of
weeks, it is more often the outsiders, like friends of the family, who notice
the improvements. With a longer gap between communications the differences are
more noticeable than to the family who interact with their au pair on a daily
Some of our host families also ask us about an au pair who speaks French for
example to help improve the French language skills of the family. Although
asking the au pair to teach some of her/his own language to the family may be
an additional benefit, the benefits of the interactions above are possibly less
obvious, yet very real. It will help the children to improve their own English
language skills through using different words to help the au pair understand
but it also prepares them for a time in the future when the children may be
learning a foreign language themselves. It may motivate them to want to learn
an additional language and even give them the desire to become au pair
themselves one day to improve their language skills in the same way.
(*) source www.englishuk.com