Lidia from South Africa had been with her host family for 2 days when I had a call from the host mom.  “Lidia doesn’t know a thing about childcare. She’s not engaging with the kids, she’s not singing to them, not telling them stories, and doesn’t seem to know what to do with a temper tantrum.  She’s got to go!”When I went to their home, Lidia was in tears.  “I don’t understand anything that’s going on.  At home I’m so competent and here I can’t do anything right!”  When the host mom asked Lidia how she engages with young children in her own country, Lidia responded just as we’d expect:  games, songs, stories.  “Well, why then,” asked the host mother, “are you not doing those things with my children?”  Lidia looked at her and replied,” because I don’t know any songs (games, nursery rhymes) in English!”

Oh, such a simple answer but something that’s often overlooked.  Though most South Africans sound fluent in English, there at times is a lag with comprehension, and we forget that for most, Afrikkans is the first language.  I wonder how many of us would be comfortable in another country attempting to demonstrate our competence in another language…?

A language simulation anyone?