Why it's important for you to learn the language of your future host countryPosted by Davide Contu • July 16, 2018 • 7 minutes read
Here you have some reasons
Simply put: because you have to. For some host countries this is a prerequisite - no excuses accepted. No language = no au pair experience -nada-nix-null
(Tip: which country has which language requirements can be found in our host country information section)
Your language skills are actually one of the most important matching criteria - not speaking the language of your host country, will greatly reduce the number of your potential host families
It'll just make your life easier. You will feel less excluded, plus any social interaction in real life - be it taking children to school or doing the groceries - will be much easier if you can master at least some rudiments of local language
No need for the list to go on, as by now you should have got the message
Learning the language of your future host country - the sooner, the better - will dramatically ease your life as an au pair
You're living in the right era to start learning a new language
Language learning used to suck once. Long sessions of passive listening to audiotapes (!), endless evenings leaning over boring grammar and exercises books and, if you were lucky enough, you could have had the occasion to write, once or twice a month, to your pen pal.
Fortunately this is not the case anymore, truth being that you have in fact plenty of choices when it comes to choosing how to learn your next language. They can though be boiled down to three categories - well, four if you decide to mix them (advice: do it)
Classes (at home). An old time favourite but still en vogue. I had the luck to attend many different language courses, both as a student and as a teacher: no other occasion proved to be more fruitful to get ingrained in the intricacies of a language. Courses are a must if you have the occasion to attend one in the place you live or close enough to. If that's not the case - don't despair.. the internet comes to rescue once again, offering you the chance to find an online tutor or even a language tandem partner.
Classes (in your host country). Once you're in the host country, participating in a language class is the best way to learn the language - and at the same time find friends! While taking language classes is comparatively expensive, in most host countries the host family will pay at least part of their cost, so you should definitely be able to afford it (don't forget to also check out our partner section, there you will find discounts for their courses!).
Today it's easy to find language learning material on the internet - for beginners most of it is even for free. Just have a look at the links and downloads section of the country information to get some tips on where to find good language learning material for the language of your host country! There are also many online communities, where you can place questions and discuss with other learners
Online courses and Apps - because it's 2018 baby
As we spend more and more time on our smartphones, it just makes sense investing part of it in an informal and laid back (but still surprisingly rigorous) approach to language learning.
There are several providers of language learning apps, one of them being Babbel, which we had the chance to try for free. It's a clear recommendation, with its wideness of languages it offers, the convenience of having it at your fingertips at any time (this means also from your computer), and finally the fact that courses are structured in a modern and effective approach (e.g. making use of spaced repetition techniques).
It's all about the attitude (and some techniques)
Develop the right mindset
Just see it this way, if learning is the destination and learning tools are the vehicle, attitude is the path that will get you there.
Passion is the key, or as Benjamin Franklin (yes, the 100$ bill guy) put it:
"Tell me and I'll forget, teach me and I'll remember, involve me and I'll learn".
No amount of goodwill will be of any avail until you'll get involved, until you'll develop a sincere passion towards the new language (Ok, you can try it by long hours of studying, but while you can be certain that this will be tedious, you can't be assured to get the desired result).
Combine your passions
One of the smartest ways to delve into developing a new passion is to get it involved in an old-time passion of yours. Just see the old one as a mentor, helping the new one to grow, in a mutually beneficial rapport.
For me this process worked well with music, getting me from a once lousy and unenthusiastic English learner to an interested and eager to know one. The day that made the difference was when I started thriving on improving my language skills in order to translate the lyrics of the bands I loved. Suddenly learning made sense, it served to a real purpose, I was involved. Sure, this sounds naïve but the point is that even if my juvenile passion didn't survive the test of time, English language skills that came with it are alive and kicking.
Get immersed as a child
We tend to forget it, but one of the key factors that helped us learn a language with success as children was learning in a form of a constant game. Try immersing yourself in a fictional reality where you use your target language to define the real world around you (in the end, you're just preparing yourself to the full immersion you'll live once abroad). Soon you'll face the fact that even translating your simplest thoughts often raises more questions than answers, but that's the point, that's where the learning happens.
Don't bash yourself
Don't be too hard on yourself - just as you wouldn't harshly criticise a foreign friend who's trying to learn your language. If there's a thing children are good at it is embracing failure with resilience. It's just an evolutionary strategy that makes forget the hardest stumbles for the sake of a constant growth. Forget perfection at least for now, perfect is the enemy of good. Take the risk to sound silly sometimes, it's just part of the process, we've all been there and always will as long as we'll be able to leave our comfort zone and keep learning.
If you can't measure it you can't improve it. Measure your progress, analyze what's holding you from keeping up with your schedules, tinker with your learning process until you've found the right formula (at least one that works for you). Learning can be a very rewarding activity once you fall in the right tracks, but you'll have to define where you exactly want to go and stick to your plans if you really want to get there.
Don't urge yourself
But most importantly forget your urge to learn. This is just an obstacle in the process and it will distract you from the greater truth that stands in the background. This may suddenly reveal itself once you'll lift your eyes from the grammar book to meet those of the stranger sitting in front of you during a language tandem session..
we love languages simply because since the very dawn of time there's a deep need we all share. Get in touch with other humans.
Do you have any interesting / funny / enlightening story, about language learning?
Feel free to share it with us here at connectAuPair!