I was recently talking to Karla, a very lovely au pair from Costa Rica. Her English sure sounds fluent to me, her host family and anyone in the community who meets her. “And that’s the problem,” she said. Her spoken language is good: vocabulary and grammar, but she said that she often can’t find a word she wants and more often, hears a word that she’s never heard before and then is stumped as to the meaning of the sentence. She’s noticed that sometimes listeners expect her to understand everything they’re saying and are surprised when she asks them to repeat, or worse, lose patience with her! “Please”, she says, “remember that English is not my first language!”
Paloma (Brazil) and Corinna (Germany) joined the conversation indicating the frustration they feel when they don’t have the right words at their fingertips or when they’re thinking, “what?” They’re concerned that people think they’re “stupid,” and judge their level of competence because of the language limitations.
Let’s try to think what it would be like to live in another country and have to use another language 24/7! I’m pretty sure we’d all feel “stumpted” and frustrated too! Let’s applaud these young women who take a huge leap to come to the U.S., experience another culture and lovingly take care of our children.
We’ll be offering a language simulation to host families in Fairfield and New Haven Counties (CT) in Nov. and Dec. Stay-tuned for their feedback.