How to learn a new language without losing your mind

languages and continents(photo by dreamstime)

If you are working abroad as an au pair, there is a good chance that one of the reasons you are is to learn a new language. Right? Or you may be there to perfect a language that you already have started to learn. OR – you’re an au pair simply for the fun of it, and learning a language is part of the deal.

Whatever the case, learning a foreign language can be challenging. And interesting. And overwhelming some days too. Some learn languages more quickly than others, but even those who learn foreign languages easily still have their days.

So how can you learn to speak your new language like a native? Because let’s face it, even if you are taking a language class (which you should be, it’s one of the benefits of being an au pair) you are still going to have to work hard outside of class if you want to learn to speak the language fluently.

Here are a few things that help speed up the language-learning process:

Stop speaking your own language with your host family – if your host parents speak your language well, it’s tempting to stick with the comfort of your mother tongue when speaking with them. Give yourself a set amount of time to learn the basics of the new language and get comfortable with it, and then stop speaking your own language with your host parents so that you are forced to speak the new language. It’s a bit scary at first, but it will make a difference.

Meet locals and speak their language – Getting out and meeting people is important – not only socially, because you want new friends – but also to speak the language. And just like with your host parents, even if your new friends and acquaintances speak your language, do your best to converse – at least as much as you can – in the local language. As they say, practice makes perfect, and with languages, it tends to be true (as long as your friends are willing to correct your errors!).

Watch local tv shows and movies – Even if you don’t understand everything that is being said, watching TV and movies in your new language is a fabulous way to learn the language, especially because you will learn the language the way it is actually spoken – not school-book language. To baby-step it, you can even rent movies that you have already seen in your own language and change the settings to watch it in the local language. You’ll know what is going on AND benefit from learning new words and expressions. Give it a try!

What do you do to learn a new language? What other ways are there to become fluent in the language of your new home?

 

Posted in Au Pairs, Life abroad, Travel | Tagged , , | 5 Comments

New forum for au pairs!

girls talking (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

After using a simple page as a forum on this blog since its creation, I have finally upgraded and added a real forum by adding a community from BlogFrog to this site. The new forum makes it possible for you to sign up to connect with others through discussions, related blog posts, and more.

If you have questions for other au pairs, need help, or want to connect with fellow au pairs in your area, please be sure to visit the forum and join the community here.

Looking forward to meeting you there!

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Ways to travel cheap as an Au Pair

Bode Museum Berlin (photo property of BestAuPairGuide)

It’s no secret that most au pairs pack their bags and move to another country to live and work with strangers for one reason: travel. Right? As we have discussed before, there are several reasons to be an au pair. And traveling cheaply is the main reason au pairs put up with all that comes along with the au pair job.

For starters, au pairs are already living in a foreign country and their room and board are free. That’s a major expense taken care of right off the bat, especially in expensive cities where the cost of living is high (think New York and Paris). Au pairing makes it possible to see and experience the pricier places to live without the hefty price tag that comes along with it.

But even though expenses are covered, it’s no secret that au pairs don’t exactly make a lot of money. So how do you travel cheaply when working as an au pair? Here are a few ways:

  • Travel with friends – sharing travel expenses with others is a major way to cut costs. In many European countries, for example, you can purchase a group train tickts or even weekend tickets to various places, making transportation super cheap. In the United States, where public transportation isn’t as readily available or affordable, you can join up with a few friends and rent a car for a fun – and cheap – road trip. Sharing hotel and food costs with friends also means a much less pricey vacation
  • Consider camping – if your budget is low, camping is an affordable way to see new places. Even if you aren’t a huge fan of the outdoor lifestyle, the money you save by camping might mean you get to visit places that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford. Camping made it possible for me and a couple other au pair friends to enjoy several days in Italy, and we had a blast “roughing it” in one of the world’s most gorgeous countries
  • Look into last minute travel deals and deal sites – to get the most bang out of your travel buck, you either need to book way in advance or last minute, and as an au pair with limited cash, travel is overn a spontaneous decision when you have a free weekend. Visit last minute travel websites and be sure to subscribe to services such as Groupon, which often have great deals on holiday packages, hotels, and flights (just be sure to read the fine print).
  • Travel with your host family – if your host family is going somewhere interesting on vacaction and they invite you, consider joining them even if you technically do not have to go. Although you may get suckered into doing a little more babysitting (and then again, you may not!), a free trip would likely be worth it.

What about you? Any ideas for cheap travel when working as an au pair and living on a limited budget? Share your thoughts and tips below!

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Three ways to guarantee you keep your Au Pair job

Young woman (photo courtesy of dreamstime)

During my time as an au pair in Germany, I had an unnerving fear of losing my job. Seriously. I imagined myself homeless on the streets of Stuttgart, wondering where to go next. It isn’t something I obsessed over daily, but randomly throughout my stay with my host family, fear of losing my job – and therefore my temporary home – would come to mind.

It was probaby an unfounded fear founded more in paranoia than in reality, but I know that I was not the only au pair I knew who was afraid of losing her job. Because when you live where you work, which au pairs do, your job is not just your source of income, but your room and board as well.

With that in mind, I have three tips for au pairs who want to keep their jobs. From my experience with au pairs and host families, if you follow these three rules, you are very likely to keep your job and have a great time as an au pair.

  1. Work hard – A good work ethic and willingness to go the extra mile is priceless and will win you respect with your host family and help cement your position with them. If you put effort into your job, even if you aren’t perfect, your host family will most definitely want you to stay.
  2. Be reliable – Host families need au pairs whom they can depend on. Be ready for work at the scheduled time, get done what is needed, and be sure to be honest about your expectations and what you can do.
  3. Don’t hit on your host dad – This one is obvious, but I thought it worth mentioning (because according to a 2009 poll in Au Pair Mom, over 40% of those who answered have heard of this actually happening). Even though most au pairs wouldn’t think twice about their host dad in that way, some out there do, and I can’t think of a quicker way to lose your au pair job.

What about you? I would love to hear from au pairs and host families on this one. What do you think helps make an au pair someone a host family would never, ever want to lose? Please let us know in the comments field below.

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Be careful, because you just might fall in love

love photo(photo courtesy of dreamstime stock photos)

When you take the chance and move abroad to work as an au pair, there is a pretty good chance that you will fall in love. And I don’t just mean with the adorably cute foreign guys and girls you will meet, although there will likely be plenty of them, with all the drama a foreign romance entails (more on that another day … ).

But a recent article about an au pair working in Rome reminded me how the loves you gain while living abroad can be many and life-long. The story was a short one about a New Zealand student wanting to travel abroad before beginning her university studies and moving to Rome to work as an au pair for one month.

She ended up falling in love with a new country and family. And although her experience is recent, I would be willing to bet that ten years out she will be just as fond of her experience as an au pair. Although no host family or host country is perfect, there is a good chance that your new home and family will become very dear to you. So consider yourselves warned!

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