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au pair... are we being unreasonable?

(43 Posts)
Walcatz Mon 29-Jun-15 16:19:26


We've had an au pair for a couple of months now and l think we are fairly easy on her in that we do not ask for much in terms of childcare. The main reason for getting an au pair was for the children to learn a little French. However, she does not and seems to refuse to speak any French with them. We asked a few times and she finally admitted that her mum has said she must only speak English so that her English improves. It feels disrespectful when she is in our house to just ignore us but should we just get over it?!


merrymouse Mon 29-Jun-15 16:23:10

What did you agree before she arrived? I can see why you would like your au pair to speak French, but traditionally au pairs work in a foreign country to learn the language so her expectation - to speak English with you - seems reasonable.

merrymouse Mon 29-Jun-15 16:25:29

On the other hand spending half N hour a day speaking French to your children is hardly onerous - are you sure she is French? grin

hedgehogsdontbite Mon 29-Jun-15 16:26:07

I thought the purpose of being an au pair was for them to improve their foreign language. So I suspect you are being unreasonable.

Walcatz Mon 29-Jun-15 16:32:49

Ok - it's probably me then... We only speak in English with her, and we asked her to do some French before she agreed to join us - but perhaps our expectations were unfair.

Walcatz Mon 29-Jun-15 16:34:16

Merrymouse - perhaps that's her secret... We would never know although her English does need a little work...!

msrisotto Mon 29-Jun-15 16:35:07

Surely there's a compromise here? She'll speak English with you, when she's out in the community and probably the majority of the time with the kids. Could she not spare an hour or something to speak French with them? Can't be too big of an ask?

blueshoes Mon 29-Jun-15 16:42:21

Since you asked her to speak some French before she joined, it is not unreasonable for you to expect her to actually perform what she agreed to do when she accepted the au pair role on this basis.

She is learning English by your speaking with her and generally being in the UK which is teaming with English-speaking opportunities. Many people want au pairs with certain language skills as it is an additional bonus for their children. She cannot now refuse to do it whatever her mother (wtf?) says.

msrisotto's approach sounds fair.

blueshoes Mon 29-Jun-15 16:43:06

How old are your dc BTW?

GinUpGirl Mon 29-Jun-15 16:45:23

But au pairs come to the UK to learn English!

Karoleann Mon 29-Jun-15 16:48:28

If that's what you agreed before she arrived then yes she is being unreasonable.
I would sit down and have a chat with her and just explain that speaking French with the children is a non-negotiable part of her role and you wouldn't be able to continue to host her unless she was willing to speak French with the children.

ItsNotAsPerfectAsItSeems Mon 29-Jun-15 16:49:18

Yanbu. Of course she is here to learn English but half an hour once or twice a week speaking French to your children is not going to hinder her learning English. Not at all!
And especially as you mentioned it before she joined you. She is def BU.

Walcatz Mon 29-Jun-15 16:53:15

2 and 4 - l know it sounds excessively young but the 4yo can speak some already and the 2yo can only say a few words in English so we figured she wouldn't learn much from him anyway! I think the problem is she doesn't like going out and wouldn't take English lessons because she thinks the UK is too expensive and she is saving for a car... So she wants to make the most of her time with us...

Walcatz Mon 29-Jun-15 16:57:24

Thank for all of the comments - l think l'll be a bit firmer. We've already said it doesn't need to be anything formal but if she says the odd word in French and then says what they are in English we'd be happy!

Wordylicious Mon 29-Jun-15 17:03:12

Get some French stories and materials as a starting point?

blueshoes Mon 29-Jun-15 19:09:56

As your children are young, they will take to someone speaking French to them a lot better than my lot who are 11 and 8 and are more likely to blank an aupair who tries to speak to them in a language they do not understand. You are right to start them young.

At first I thought your aupair was afraid of your children ignoring her but with yours at 4 and 2, that is not a problem.

You are within your rights to ask for her to speak to them in French for a short time a day.

From your description of her, she does not sound like she is making the best of her opportunities in the UK if she does not want to go out. Such a shame. How long more have you got with her?

MagicalHamSandwich Mon 29-Jun-15 19:16:46

Every Au-Pair I've ever heard of did it so they could learn the language of their host country. And actually speaking to children can be quite helpful when one is trying to learn a language. I got about half my Arabic from a four year old. grin

You say you asked her to do some French before she joined, but you don't say if she explicitly agreed. Did you stipulate this outright or was it more of a '... and by the way it would also be nice if the kids picked up some French from you' kind of conversation? If the latter she may not have realised this was an expectation on your part.

merrymouse Mon 29-Jun-15 19:24:15

The thing is, the op could be asking the au pair to spend half an hour every morning doing the ironing in an empty house talking to no-one.

The odd half hour singing nursery rhymes and reading stories in French doesn't seem too demanding.

alicemalice Fri 10-Jul-15 08:43:43

Hardly a big deal to ask her to speak a bit of French. She'd still be speaking English 98% of the time. She sounds like an awkward bugger.

minderjinx Fri 10-Jul-15 16:26:31

She could improve her English by getting the children to ask her to translate things in to French and vice versa.

bobajob Sat 11-Jul-15 21:03:27

Her English isn't going to improve by speaking to toddlers anyway. I'd say she needs to speak only in French to the children, and English to adults.

penny13610 Sat 11-Jul-15 21:07:06

You do send her to college and pay for her English lesson don't you.

MrsCampbellBlack Sat 11-Jul-15 21:11:07

I'd just leave it. The children aren't going to learn any french from the odd nursery rhyme here or there.

If you want them to properly learn french - either you need to be speaking it to them the whole time or they need to be having intensive lessons.

Walcatz Mon 13-Jul-15 18:35:56

Thanks everyone. Btw, following on from Penny's comment, is it normal to pay the lessons? I arranged some but she didn't want to go - but l didn't offer to pay for them...

ltk Mon 13-Jul-15 18:42:09

She should speak French to the children and only French. English to everyone else.

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