Thursday, June 28, 2007

Denmark: Children's language abilities are hampered while in the care of au pairs who often speak little or no Danish

Copenhagen Post:

Working parents who hire au pairs to take care of their children during the day are helping to create an entire group of young people whose Danish language abilities are severely limited by the time they reach nursery school, reported 24timer newspaper Wednesday.

Existence of the phenomenon is supported by several language experts including Ulla Lahti Falkenberg, language acquisition expert at the University of Copenhagen, who said she encounters the problem regularly.

‘We meet children that speak Danish with Thai or Latvian accents – Danish children with severe accents primarily because of contact with their foreign au pairs,’ said Falkenberg, who is also president of the Danish Speech Language Hearing Association. ‘It’s a problem that parents are so busy with their own lives and spend so little time with their children that they don’t even realise the child speaks bad Danish.’

The problem is most common among affluent parents that can afford au pairs and who themselves are well-educated and generally live in upper or upper-middle class neighbourhoods. Au pairs – especially those from Asia and Eastern Europe - rarely master the difficult Danish tongue and often only learn a few Danish phrases and speak limited English.

Lone Andersen, a speech and hearing consultant, has also encountered the problem in several areas in northern Zealand, where families are generally well-to-do.

‘It’s of course practical to have an au pair, but when they often come from abroad it means that the children hear very little Danish in their most important learning years, and that is detrimental to their language abilities,’ said Andersen.

I wouldn't be surprised if a similar situation was happening in the United States with so many children being raised by Hispanic housekeepers.

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