Au pair needs to teach very young children English - Germany

Your experiences of bilingual home environment

I have been an au pair for a German family for two months, and now that I feel I have got to know the children and they are comfortable with me and trust me, I feel it is time to commence my task of teaching them English. I have read in many places that for children under 6 (the two girls are 3 and 6) can learn a language if it is spoken to them often enough and do not require formal lessons. Does anyone have any experiences of this?

You've hit the nail on the head. Don't give them lessons! Just talk talk talk! Tell them everything your doing, explain one thing in many ways. Highlight the word or object you are talking about - eg. Could you please get me a cup? I need a cup for my drnk. Maybe even move your arms to sort of mime the object you're talking about.

Just be natural - that's the key.
Yep, just speak to them in English as much as you can and they'll pick it up. I think formal lessons for children that small are just silly. You've got so many resources right at your fingertips - toys, numbers, colours, items of clothing etc.,
Noel Furlong
We are all natural language teachers. Humans are extremely efficient at teaching language to small children. Without thinking about it, we narrow our vocabulary and the complexity of our speech, we repeat and reinforce, we raise our voices to highlight. Teaching language to young children is innate to us. The less you think about it, the better!
Things that you liked as a child would be good. Read simple picture books if you can get them or google for versions of 'Going on a Bear Hunt' or Eric Carle books on youtube - anything. Songs and rhymes are great for learning and fun through repetition. '1, 2, 3, 4, 5 once I caught a fish alive,' 'abc,' 'Incy Wincy.'
I was an au pair in Paris for two years, started when the little boy had just turned two (he's almost four now). I wasn't sure how to go about teaching English either, but found that just speaking to him was fine. I know it sounds funny, but since he was so young when I started just by pointing to random objects in our daily routine and saying "hello" to them, and encouraging him to do the same (ie, "Hello, elevator! Goodbye, elevator! There's the bus! Hello, bus!") and just sort of went from there. Kids learn fast. If your host family allows television, start watching all cartoons/dvds in English. We had cd's of English nursery rhymes and songs, so listened to that a lot, and sang a lot of songs in general. We additionally read lots of books in English. There was an American library in my neighborhood, so we took advantage of that too. I heard there's one in Berlin, so maybe you could look into that? Anyway, just some ideas. It can feel a little awkward at first speaking only English, but give it a week or two and you'll be surprised how quickly kids can adapt.
Before starting speaking English with them, we watched some of my favourite childhood songs and programmes plus some a 6 year old British child who I used to look after loved to watch (CBeebies is seriously fantastic!) I'm glad I did this because they now see English as something fun and are therefore more willing to learn it. And thanks for all your suggestions everyone!
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