this is a very funny question because it reminds me so many stories about the beginning of my adventure as au pair in United States.
When I arrived in United States in San Jose in California, the only conversation in English that I was able to support, was about to tell my name and a few basic words like “seat belt on”, in case I needed it with the child, but for sure, all my keywords dictionary was not enough to communicate with a 9-year-old girl.
So, my adventure with huge question marks faces printed on it, starts immediately.
My “host dad” came pick me up at the airport, I remember that he made me a good first impression, he had a great desire to communicate, he seemed friendly and very welcoming. For all the way from the airport to the house he continued to show me things, roads or buildings? believe me, even now I have no idea what he was talking about it!!!
But still, you know what, that was not a huge issue, my heart was pounding, I was in US, and even if I had understood the conversation, probably that day my answers were always the same: Yes, and Okay!!!
The first meeting with Sofia was fast, it was late, both of us for different reasons very tired, there was a quick “Hello, how are you? My name is Federica “, but nothing exceptional.
Luckily that my “host mom” speaks Italian, she`s Italian!!!
That was a blessing, a “hand from the sky”!
It was hard, it was tough, Sofia was a 9-year-old girl, very smart, responsible and so busy with her passion for gymnastics.
I was tested by her every day, I felt constantly under scrutiny, I tortured myself with the usual questions: she will like this? Why I have to do this? Maybe I’m doing something wrong? Or maybe I’m not mistaken anything and she is just too different?
It was a torture, and the language then, not being able to communicate in English as in Italian was killing me day by day. I had a lot of things to say, I wanted to make her understand that when she ignored me made me felt bad, that when I didn`t understand something and she got mad for that, disarmed me, make me gave up and wait just for the final shot.
In Italian we say “hold blow” it means “stay strong”. I did it, until one day, I finally realized that was not her who had to understand me, was not her who had to change her attitude towards me, was not her who should have speak my language. It was me that quietly I had to ask the permission to enter in her world.
I realized that the language was not the real problem, in human relationship especially the children ones, we don`t always need a common language to communicate, often, it may seem trivial, but the language of the heart is more common than you might think.
And this is what I did, I forgot my age, I put aside the problems, the negative thoughts and the filters that invade the adult world and I started to color.
I started reading children books, they have a lot of direct speech and for this reasons are very useful for people like me who want to learn a new language. I started watching cartoons simpler ones, then movies, I watched a lot of movies, in the beginning with English subtitles, never Italian, then I also started watched without subtitles.
Communicate with Sofia was really important day by day, even though sometimes was completely incomprehensible, and even when in her face appeared the famous huge question mark!!!
I didn`t care anymore, in one way or ‘another I had to talk with her!
The language that in the beginning seems impossible, slowly made room
in my head and a great English class has definitely made the difference.
Sofia started call me Chicca (KiKa), what can I say, I had made it, I was able to win the heart of the most terrible teachers that I`ve ever had.
A little girl who had to understand that I was not there for the only reason to stay in United States or learn English, but I was there because I wanted to give her something, and I wanted in the same way that she gives something to me.
I realized that the answer to the question above: “how to communicate with a child when you do not speak the same language?” Is easier than you might think.
You, what are you willing to do to communicate with a child?
I found out my answer asking this question to myself, wondering what were the real reasons that take me there to make that experience and only through those answers, I realized how I should act.
What do you think?
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And…Sorry For My Bad English!!!
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