Rising Demand in Parents Seeking Out a Dual Language Program
Getting your child involved in a dual language program is becoming increasingly popular. Language immersion is widely considered the most effective method for becoming fluent in a foreign language.
The cognitive benefits of speaking multiple languages have been illustrated in recent studies. These studies show that bilingual children think faster and have better self-control than monolingual children.
Want your kids to get more language exposure in school? You aren’t alone. Many families also look for ways to bring consistent language immersion into the home.
There are many helpful ways to do this, but none of them are as effective as bringing a native speaker into your very own home.
How does a dual immersion program impact children?
Many parents look for a dual language program. It’s common to look for programs that immerse children in another language during school hours. However, some of our families report that their kids become frustrated with school work in another language.
“Our twin sons attend 2nd grade at a Spanish Immersion school,” says Cheryl, Host Mom to Karen, an Au Pair from Ecuador. “My husband and I are not fluent Spanish speakers, so we have struggled to support their reading and writing development in Spanish and their daily homework.”
Indeed, many parents feel they are “participating” in a dual language program alongside their kids. It takes a lot of support and encouragement from parents for children to continue to engage with a second language outside of school hours.
The good news is that language development occurs from ages 0-8. If you wait until grade school to introduce your child to a second language, there’s still a huge opportunity for language development. The benefits are undeniable, no matter when you start in life.
With a native Spanish speaker in the home, Cheryl says her boys are thriving in their dual language program. “[They] practice their Spanish an additional 3 hours a day, they get to read with a native language speaker daily.”
You don’t have to host a native speaker for your children to benefit from a dual language program. However, if you are expecting or have small children, hosting an Au Pair is not only an affordable childcare option, but also a way to bring language immersion into your home as early as infancy.
Because Au Pairs are foreign exchange visitors, they often speak their native language with the children. They can also offer homework support once the kids enter a dual immersion program at school.
Does the language barrier impact academics?
Many parents worry their children could fall behind academically. However, research shows that dual-immersion students “are capable of achieving as well as, and in some cases better than, non-immersion peers on standardized measures of reading and math.”
For families hosting an Au Pair, the results can be even more dramatic.
“They have a patient and talented person to help them with homework at 4:00 pm instead of 8:00 pm when they are exhausted from their day,” says Cheryl. She and her husband both have an hour-long commute, which had previously impacted their children’s homework time.
What are the cognitive benefits of dual language immersion?
There are many cognitive benefits to a dual language program. In addition to learning about another culture and to communicate in another language, bilingual people often exhibit an enhanced ability to:
- resolve conflict;
- exhibit self-control;
- focus on new information;
- solve non-verbal problems;
- maintain a larger vocabulary;
- tune out background noise and ignore distractions.
Research shows that both languages are active at the same time in a bilingual individual’s mind, leading to heightened cognitive function.
The Center for Advanced Research on Language Acquisition says, “Fully proficient bilinguals outperform monolinguals in the areas of divergent thinking, pattern recognition, and problem solving.”
There is evidence that bilingualism changes the structure of the brain itself. Some studies even suggest a higher resistance to Alzheimer’s Disease in bilingual patients.
Can Au Pairs support families who are already bilingual?
Yes! In fact, many families hire Au Pairs specifically to encourage bilingualism at home. For example, a Chinese-American family might want a Chinese Au Pair to speak Mandarin at home.
In recent years, there has been a rise in demand for Mandarin-speaking Au Pairs.
Common best practice dictates that one parent speaks each language in the home. However, children quickly realize both parents understand English. They develop a resistance to the non-dominant language. Then, children begin deferring to English even if their bilingual parent has never spoken to them in English.
Parents have to be very strict if they want their children to continue speaking the non-dominant language. Even then, many families find themselves seeking out travel and other immersion opportunities. Travel becomes vital to reinforce both languages in their children.
This is where an Au Pair can become instrumental. Au Pairs, as native speakers, can come into the home speaking only their native language to the children. Having a second adult speaking the non-dominant language goes a long way toward reinforcing bilingualism.
Do all Au Pairs help with language immersion?
Au Pairs often join the program to perfect their English. Some Au Pairs say they get plenty of English language practice outside their working hours. But other Au Pairs feel they need more extensive English practice. In this case, they may want to speak English with their Host Kids.
It’s important to be clear about what you need. If language immersion is important, look for Au Pairs who don’t mind speaking their native language during working hours.
Many Au Pairs also have teaching experience. More experienced Au Pairs may be better equipped to assist with reading and writing. You can find this information on the Au Pair’s profile.
How do I get started looking for an Au Pair?
If you’re looking for a great childcare solution and a way to bring a dual language program into your home, check out the Au Pair program!
You can get started right away. Just register and submit your profile to start searching for Au Pairs.
Still unsure? Check out our article, Is Hosting an Au Pair Right for You?