Anorak News | Speaking Her Mind

Speaking Her Mind

by | 26th, November 2005

‘SEE little Armani and Jake with their new and oh-so cheap Slovakian au pair. What was your name again, dear? “My name is Svetlana.” Oh, yes, Sylvia. Such a nice girl. So very good with the children. And did we mention how cheap she was?

One teensy-weensy problem is that she can’t speak English. Or to put a spin on it, she speaks English every bit as well as two-year-old Jake.

And that’s not so good. As Dr Catherine Alfred, a consultant speech and language therapist, says: “Speech and language difficulties are common and growing, and can lead to learning difficulties later on. Nannies not having a proper grasp of English would be a factor”.

The advice, echoed by Margaret Morrisey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teachers’ Associations, is that for junior to thrive, nanny must have a good grasp of the local idiom.

As Morrisey says, “foreign care may slow the child down”. She warns that it’s a big temptation for the carer to speak to children in their native tongues. “That is where the danger lies.”

The danger being that Jake will not know how to demand chocolate in the proper manner, or that he’ll do so in faltering Serbo-Croat.

We would like to stress that the examples used are just that. Many au pairs from Eastern Europe speak faultless English.

It could just as easily be argued that English speaking helpers can hinder a child’s language development. As anyone who has ever been to a shopping centre or watched Trisha on the telly knows, many natives to these shores use a mangled dialect that is ugly and as impenetrable as Tabassaran.

And then there are the New World nannies. Sure, they speak English. But Australians end sentences on the up. Hire Jocey and you greatly increase the chances of Armani sounding as if she’s always asking a question.

This trait might well make her look inquisitive and hungry for knowledge, but such a habit runs the risk of annoying everyone within earshot.

The ideal, of course, would be to hire a Norland Nanny, one of those gels whose starched grey uniforms match the clean lines of their neatly pressed English. But they can be expensive.

So perhaps the easiest and most cost effective remedy to this modern-day dilemma is to command Svetlana to only speak when absolutely necessary.

Or – and here’s the rub – for mum or dad to stay at home and learn their kids to speak proper…’

Posted: 26th, November 2005 | In: Reviews Comment | TrackBack | Permalink