After we returned from the New York City tour, I opened my door to two au pairs. Pointing to their friend (who was slumped in a nearby chair on the verge of tears) they explained to me that she had received an email from her host mother, and in it, her host mother had said “she could not wait for her at the airport.”
Puzzled, I walked over to her for more information. Yes, that is what the email said. No, the host mom didn't suggest an alternative except for leaving her cell phone number. I asked her if I could see the email and we walked to the crowded computer lab where she logged into her account. The email opened.
“See?” she said frustratedly, pointing at the computer.
The opening line of the email read: “We can't wait to see you at the airport tomorrow!! If you need anything, call my cell phone!”
Read literally, I could understand why she would think her host mom was not coming. This is one of those tricky things in English, where the words by themselves mean one thing but the phrase means another. Wanting to calm her, I hurried to explain to her this was a phrase we use when we are very excited about something. She gazed at me suspiciously until I said “How excited were you to visit NYC?”
“A lot” she replied.
“See? You couldn't wait to see NYC!”
Her face cleared immediately and a slow smile came over her face. “Oh”.
As a staff, we are very lucky to be able to be a part of this experience, especially right in the beginning when many things are new, different and so exciting. As the au pairs come from all over the world, with so many languages and cultures between them, we remind them over and over that the “English only” rule is one of the most important at the Training School. Speaking, hearing and reading in English all week will help to both build confidence and make friends.
For those of you traveling soon, we can’t wait to have you here!