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Internationalisation Essay

1772 words - 8 pages

After having finished school in 2011, I spent one year as an au pair in England. I travelled there in the beginning of August and stayed exactly 12 months. I lived in Cholsey, which is a small town near Oxford. My host family consisted of the two parents Dan and Sue and three children. When I arrived, Tabitha was 6 years old, Zachary 3 and Ottilie 1. Sue was a teacher and deputy head of her school, so she had to work a lot and often left home at 7 am and came back at 7 pm. Dan was often home earlier, because as an independent financial advisor, he could choose his hours himself. My daily routine was to help with breakfast and getting the children ready in the morning and do ...view middle of the document...

39). When my host parents, however, spoke with each other, that was very different and I often did not understand anything. Also, Zachary was hard to understand, which was partly due to his pronunciation but also to the fact that he in particular used many colloquial words. Often I could not even recognise the boundaries between words in his utterances, so I had no opportunity of looking something up in a dictionary. But most of the time he did not expect a response and despite my language problems it was easy to play with him. As it only took a few days to grow accustomed to his way of speaking, I don't think he noticed how little I had understood. In retrospect it is amazing how quickly the listening comprehension improves, but during my time there I never really realised that. Particularly understanding my host family became easier rapidly, whilst I had to concentrate far more when I listened to other people that I was not that used to. Even more difficult was understanding people on television. My host parents used to watch many comedy programmes and talk shows on TV and that was what was most difficult for me. Even when I had barely any problems understanding anyone anymore, I could not understand what was said in these shows. That is because there was no negotiation of meaning possible at all, the people spoke naturally fast and it were the kinds of shows where language was not supported by images. However, there I had one incident where I all of a sudden realised that I understood what the talk show host was saying. It was in the middle of October and I was babysitting for another family, watching Jonathan Ross on television. Somehow that felt very surreal, but it gave me a huge boost in motivation and confidence.
Evaluating my speaking skills is far more difficult. Before my au pair year I was often very self-conscious when I had to say something in English and thought about each sentence a lot before I had the confidence to say it aloud. In England, however, that was no problem, not even in the beginning. I had thought that that might be more difficult, but probably it was another situation than before. At school, it was about the language and when I spoke I wanted to do that correctly. Now, in England, I had to convey meaning and worried little about whether my speech was correct. I must have made many mistakes in the beginning, but there was never a situation in which I couldn't make myself understood. Therefore I was far more willing to communicate now than I had been at school. This is partly due to the necessity to do so, but Lightbrown and Spada also relate a lower level of anxiety with a higher “willingness to communicate” (Lightbrown/Spada p. 86). As I did not have the impression that people focused on my language accuracy, I was more relaxed and spoke easily.
Most of the times, nobody corrected me. I only remember one situation when I was unloading the dishwasher with my host dad and asked, “Where belongs this?” and he told me...

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