Planning time as a young professional caregiver in the USA is definitely very exciting – but it can also be intimidating. You will gain tons of new experience, face unknown challenges, and meet lots of new people. But the sudden change of your environment and basically everything that surrounds you, can also be quite scary. And more so when you don’t speak the language of your host country fluently.
This can cause unnecessary misunderstandings with your host family, create feelings of insecurity, and make it more difficult to meet new people. But don’t worry, there are a few things you can do to improve your English to help you make the most of your Au Pair stay, and we’ll tell you what they are.
Language Courses for Fast Progress
To improve your language skills quickly and efficiently, signing up for a local language course makes a lot of sense, especially for beginners. This way, you will learn important basic or advanced vocabulary and grammatical structures within a few weeks, and it’s also a great way to meet new people! Language courses for Au Pairs aren’t mandatory in every country, but in the USA, they are, and the host family even has to pay for part of the cost.
So, it’s definitely worth checking out some local language schools to get the best deal possible and enjoy the benefits of improving your English quickly.
Read, Read, Read!
One quick and easy way to pick up new vocabulary is to read texts in your target language. If you already have a basic knowledge of English, just pick an English book that has a simple story and try to read it. If you’re already with your host family, you’re basically at the source of easy books – all you have to do is pick one of the children’s favourite ones and read it out to them. This way, you can practice your pronunciation at the same time.
Another simple way to read a book in your target language is to pre-read a book in your mother tongue – for example, the Harry Potter books, then read the same book in English. Your host family will surely help you to find the book you’re looking for at a local library.
Reading articles by news agencies also helps and it doesn’t require as much time as books. You can read several articles a day, written by NY Times or Guardian and you will see how your English improves daily! The great thing about it is that they cover various topics, so you will enrich your vocabulary and learn new phrases from different fields of life.
Use Everyday Situations
If you’re already in the USA, you can use everyday situations to learn basic words. For example, pay attention to signs in grocery stores, pharmacies or display panels at public places and read them.
Grocery shopping is also a great way to learn new words since the items in the shop are labelled. So, the next time you go for groceries, just pay attention to the labels of the products you’re picking up. Also you can also strike up a conversation with people who work there, asking them simple questions. This will help you relax when you speak and you will engage in real-time conversations. After a while, you will get used to using these simple phrases in everyday speech and you will gain confidence.
Of course, being able to speak to people isn’t the only important skill; you also want to understand what others say to you. Why not use something you already listen to anyway, like… music? So, the next time you listen to an English song you really like, just look up the lyrics and make sure you understand most of it when you read them. Then, listen to it again and see if you understand the singer this time. That way, you will learn some useful vocabulary and basic sentence structures with very little effort.
A similar way to learn some extra words and structures very casually is by watching TV shows or movies in English. Depending on your skill level, feel free to turn on subtitles – preferably, of course, in English, because that way you can read the words simultaneously and memorize them better. If that’s still too big of a step, just use subtitles in your mother tongue; you will still get familiar with the sound of the language and surely pick up some phrases.
Speak with Natives
Now it gets serious. All the information you learned from books, songs and movies is only valuable once you make use of it in conversations. We know this isn’t easy at first and you will probably worry about making mistakes, but speaking is the best way to practise your skills and make progress quickly.
And after all, everyone who learned a second language at some point in life, has made mistakes at first, so it’s totally normal and everyone understands it. And also, natives usually really appreciate your effort in trying to learn their language, so they will focus on that more than on your mistakes.
If you feel more comfortable practising with other English language learners first, you can join a group of learners or find a tandem partner you can practise with. Often, universities have language exchange groups or events; whether you’re a student or not, check out the offers at your local university.
And once you’re in the States, it’s best to make friends with Americans or other internationals where English will be your common language, so you can practise your new skills as often as possible.
Now that you know how to improve your English quickly and easily, we wish you a great and exciting time as an Au Pair in the States!
For more information about the topic, check out this helpful article by Apex Social.