Babysitting for Language Exposure – Great on the Pockets

Tutoring and lessons are not the only ways to improve and speed up your child’s process of learning a second language. I found out that, even during the most mundane of activities all parents have to go through, there are ways to incorporate learning opportunities.

Take babysitting as an example. I work nights as an academic tutor for high school students. So, one way or another I’m not home to watch my son after 2 p.m. Then why not make the time we are apart an opportunity for him to grow?

With that in mind, rather than just hiring a regular babysitter, I hired a babysitter who spoke Chinese to take care of him. It turned out to be such a great strategy that I later hired a babysitter who speaks Arabic for the same reasons. This way, my son got an extra 15 hours of exposure to those languages.
But, buyer beware!

There are a few things you should clarify with the babysitter beforehand to make sure you and your child will be getting the most out of this opportunity.

Make sure they’re talking

This seems to be a given, but you’d be surprised. I once had a babysitter who would barely speak to my son while watching him. Her reason for not talking to him was that he seldom spoke back to her since he was only two-years-old. Still, even if he’s just hearing her talking, this is a significant factor in a child’s learning process.

There have even been studies on how certain parts of a child’s brain are activated while he or she hears speech. And also, how would a child learn to speak any language if he doesn’t learn how to listen to it first?

Only speak the target language

“But he can’t understand what I’m saying.”

A good deal of babysitters might make that excuse once you ask them only to speak to your child in the target language.
The child won’t know everything from the get-go. But, in time, he or she will eventually learn how to respond to the babysitter’s command and expressions.
Think about being stranded in a foreign country where you don’t speak the language and nobody is there to translate for you. How do you survive?
Gestures, right? You suddenly become a sign language whiz! Luckily, your natural human instincts kick in and as your brain tries to soak up the language, you have to rely on facial expressions, a whole hell of a lot of pointing, and even some drawing.But, eventually you’ll better understand the language and need less gesturing.

The same goes for the interactions your child will have with the new babysitter. Body language and gestures will work to bridge the gap, and soon your child will understand the commands in the new language.

My son, for example, understood basic commands and had no problem listening in either Chinese or Arabic after about two weeks of interaction with the babysitters in each respective language. Albeit, yes, the first two weeks may have been rough…but isn’t the first two weeks at the gym killer too? Then you get the stamina, and after a while, it’s no big deal. Language is the same way!

Educational activities

These can be small things, like simple cooking projects or nature walks. Even as little as to practice counting. Any fun, yet educationalactivity to keep your child engaged and learning during the a win-win for everyone. The babysitter gets to be entertained during these activities – they make the time go by faster – and you get the most out of what you’re paying for. Plus, now your child is being exposed to both conversational language and academic-type language too!

Cost effectiveness

This might arguably be the greatest perk of hiring a babysitter who speaks the language you want your child to learn.

Let’s do some math first: I pay my babysitter around $12-$15 per hour for 10 hours a week. In those ten hours, my son is getting constant and practical exposure to a new language.

While, on the other hand, a language class in my area costs $200 for four hours a month. In addition to that $200, we have to factor in time-related issues, since I’d have to drive him there during rush hour -the most inconvenient times for working parents. So, throw in another $50 a month for gas, parking, and pain and suffering. That’s $230 a month for 4 hours of language – which breaks down to $57.50 per hour!

Meanwhile, with the babysitter he’s getting over 40 hours of language exposure every month for roughly $400-$500.

He learns more, I don’t have to deal with rush hour traffic, which means I get more free time to run errands, cook dinner – whatever! Is that a no-brainer, or what?

Bonus Tip:

Recruit 2-3 other kids who also need babysitting around that time, and add them in the mix. Of course, you would bump the babysitter’s rate up to say $20 an hour, but you’re still splitting the cost 3 or 4 ways. So, you may only be paying $200-$250 a month for 40 hours a week – that’s $5 an hour $200 for 4 hours of Chinese a month vs. $250 for 40 hours of Chinese a month – you pick…

Cost-effectiveness to the maximum! I’d love to hear about your experiences if you decide to try out hiring a babysitter for language exposure.
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