Walk the walk…

As a companion to my “Talk the talk..” post, I thought I’d give you some handy tips about what you should ask the people you’re going to be staying with pre-departure.

I obviously failed miserably at this, I was met at the airport to find the family had a third son I had completely no idea about!

Oh, Laura…

  1. How many children will I be looking after, what are their ages?
  2. What are the children’s personalities like? What do they like to do for fun? Are there any problem areas e.g. fussy eaters, allergies?
  3. What is the children’s daily routine?
  4. What exactly are my duties and responsibilities?
  5. What time am I expected to start and finish work?
  6. What can I do in my spare time? What do you do as a family in your spare time?
  7. Are we going to be eating together? If so, what time? If not, what is available to me?
  8. What language do you wish me to speak in? How much English do you and the kids speak?
  9. Where will I be staying? Am I expected to share a room with the kids?
  10. What do you do for work? What is your daily routine?
  11. Have you had an au pair before? If so, what was your experience?
  12. Are there any religious/cultural norms or rules I should be aware of?
  13. Do you travel a lot? If so, will I be travelling with you and am I expected to pay for my share of the transport fees?
  14. How do you see an au pair fitting into your family?
  15. Tell me about the area you live in. What commodities are there?
  16. Will I be expected to cook and clean? If so, to what extent?
  17. Do you need me to be able to drive? If so, do you have a car I can use?
  18. Why are you choosing to have an au pair rather than a nanny or daycare?
  19. Do you have internet or computer access?
  20. Do I need to pay for my own flight?
  21. What happens if I feel unwell? Is there a doctors close by? Will you give me time off?
  22. How will I be paid, in euros or pounds, weekly or monthly?
  23. What kind of clothes should I pack, is there anything in particular I will need?
  24. How should I behave if the children will not listen or are rude?
  25. Do you have any pets?

Well I hope that just about covers it, my brain is refusing to come up with any more!

Talk the talk…

So being the all around kind and giving person I am (just call me your fairy godmother), here are some useful Spanish words and phrases for all you wannabe au pairs…or for those of you that just want to brush up on your vocab…

¡Ven aqui! – Come here
¡Venga! – Come
¡Mira! – Look
¡Ten! – Take
¡Toma! – Take
¡A ver!- Lets’s see/Show me
Pero bueno – Said when the child does something cute but naughty, equivalent would be “Oi Cheeky”
¿Has hecho pis? – Have you done a wee?
¿Has Hecho caca? – Have you done a poo?
¡Para! – Stop
¡Come! – Eat
¡Bebe! – Drink
¡Traga! – Swallow
¡Mastica! – Chew
No me muerden – Don’t bite me
No golpeas a tu hermana – Don’t hit your sister
No tiras/No tira eso – Don’t throw/Don’t throw that
No tire el pelo – Don’t pull my hair
Deja eso – Put that down
No pase nada – Don’t worry
Pobresita – Poor little
Sucio – Dirty
Seco – Dry
Mojado – Wet
Travieso – Naughty
Tete/Chupete – Dummy
Biberón – Bottle
Babero – Bib
Pañal – Nappy
Cuna – Cot
Toalla – Towel
Bañador – Swimming costume
¿Está cansado? – Are you tired?
Estoy cansado – I’m tired
No me cuentas peliculas – Don’t tell me stories
¿Dónde le duele? – Where does it hurt
Con sueño – Sleepy
A dormir – To sleep
Suelta me – Let go of me
Quedarte aquí – Stay here
¡Oye! – Hey


And the most important…

¡Que no!

Practise makes perfect…

We no speak Americano…

According to the little girl I’ve been looking after, my English is terrible and I’m not from England.

Me and her dad had a good old chuckle about this.

In all seriousness though, if this trip has shown me anything, its how bloody awful my Spanish is.

I’d like to think I was one of the better ones in my Spanish class, having had a Spanish teacher at home when I was very little…I must at least be in the top 15 (guess how many there were in my class?).

I’ve also just gotten my IB ab initio Spanish results through and I got a respectable 6 (equivalent to an A), so you’d think I’d be able to stay somewhat afloat in a sea of foreign conversation, right?

Wrong!

When I first arrived, I couldn’t understand a single bloody word. The family wasn’t very impressed, I’m not exactly giving Brits abroad a very good rep…

It was so embarrassing, it kind of put me off speaking any Spanish in front of the family. Not that this was a problem, my job was explicitly to speak in English. I even got found out and told off when I went on a covert mission to speak in Spanish to the kids at the beach…

What’s even more embarrassing, however, is having to whip out the “I’m English”, blank stare excuse in front of the locals. Especially if they speak fluent English, Spanish and French…

So I was perpetually stuck in some “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” purgatory.

In the end I decided I would just listen a la sponge, and whip out my rudimentary Spanish only when absolutely necessary (ice cream, food, Vogue…) and when I was sure not to get caught at the beach.

Something along the line must have gone right…by the end I could understand, and somewhat reply to the 92 year old grandmother who didn’t speak a word of English! I could get the kids to do what I asked them to! And I could understand all of the plaques at a mini Roman exhibition I went to!

At the same time, the little girl had learnt “wind the bobbin up”, “1,2,3,4,5 once I caught a fish alive” and “twinkle twinkle” as well as many a cute, heartbreaking English words and phrases. I almost keeled over when she asked me “what is properly?”…the accent!

It seems I had found a happy Spanglish medium.

When I told her I was leaving, she said to me (in Spanish) “yey! Now I can speak Spanish with mummy and daddy, I don’t like speaking English because I’m Spanish”.

Glad to know my mother tongue made as great an impression on her as hers did on me…

P.S. I think that the unnatural speed and complete lack of intonation in their speech is a ploy by the Spanish especially to make foreigners look like complete idiots…I mean I could even understand a bit of what the French family next to me were saying and I haven’t done French since GCSE!