Immersion is a time tested and proven method of language learning, that is both fast and effective.
So, many of us language nerds out there are constantly on the lookout for a way to immerse ourselves in our target language in a cost-effective manner. After all, not a lot of people can afford to travel to let’s say, Rome, and spend months soaking in Italian. Immersion also requires an environment that makes it impossible or at least very difficult to speak your first language, forcing you to speak, or sink in the Tiber River.
What better way to completely immerse yourself in a language than to live the way Romans and not tourists do? Wouldn’t you jump at the opportunity to do so and earn some pocket money along the way?
A good way to achieve that would be working as an au pair for a local family. Au pairs are a part of the family, meaning they live in the house and are expected to help out with childcare, housework or any other pre discussed activity, but they’re also entitled to free time and a personal allowance, in addition to having their living costs taken care of.
Au pair comes from the French, meaning ‘on equal terms’ and was initially used to describe a mutually beneficial exchange. The modern day usage lives up to that meaning, with benefits for both parties, on one hand families gain a helping hand with a cultural flair for reasonable rates, and the au pairs gain cultural exposure and the opportunity to improve language skills.
Au Pairs became popular in the second half of the 20th century, due to rising cost of traditional domestic workers and childcare and growing middle class aspirations of travel and independence, especially for girls. Although au pairs were traditionally female and some countries restrict the programme to only women, there is a growing number of male au pairs as well.
Au Pair-host family matching has undergone a transformation with the advent of the Internet, with online services and portals taking the place of or supplementing agencies. Host families can check out the profiles of the prospective au pairs and vice versa and the parties can get in touch via video call or chat.
These portals facilitate a secure exchange and ensure that everything is above-board as well as counselling au pairs and host families on what to expect. A helpful FAQ section as well as legal contract go a long way towards clearing doubts and ensuring fairness.
When you’re placed in the middle of a new country, where you’re forced to use your target language day in and day out, in the most commonplace of situations, in addition to language lessons on the side, as well as observing family life, your active vocabulary will greatly increase, as well as your ability to absorb cultural nuances and colloquial expressions.
In addition to this you will be making friends and creating connections to that country, increasing your motivation and future chances to speak your target language. Who knows, you might end up falling in love with the place and moving there full time.