English for Au Pairs by Lucy Curtis

My head is in an oven. What am I doing here? The oven is very dirty and I am cleaning it. My host mother wants me to clean this dirty oven and also the fridge. It is my first day as an au pair. I am Marta and I arrived last night at 9pm after a long journey from my home in Poland. My host mother collected me from the airport. She was in a hurry and she said very little in the car. The children were in bed when I arrived here last night. Now they are on their way to school. I don’t know this family and I don’t know my way around this house. No one is here and I feel alone.

IIt is now 9 o’ clock in the morning and my new life is beginning. I must clean the oven and the fridge. After that, there are more jobs. There is a list on the table. It says:

• load the dishwasher
• hang out the washing
• wash the kitchen floor
• bleach the toilets
• clean the bathrooms
• do the ironing
• dust the furniture
• vacuum all the carpets

My host mother is taking the children to school. My host father works in London. I am still very tired after my long journey here last night. I woke up at 8.30am this morning and there was a note for me from my host mother. It says: We usually get up at 7.15am. I am taking the children to school - back at 1pm. Here’s a list of jobs to do this morning.

I am very hungry, so I’m looking for something to eat for breakfast. In the fridge there is a pot of yoghurt. It’s delicious!

* * * * * * *

It is 1.15pm and my host mother is back. She is not happy with me because I ate her yoghurt. It is her special yoghurt and I must not eat it. She is also angry because the oven is not clean enough. I feel uncomfortable.

Useful tips

Use an agency to find your host family. That way, if there is a problem and you need to change families, the agency will be able to help you. The British Au Pair Agencies Association has a list of approved agencies. See www.bapaa.org.uk or www.IAPA.org for further details.

Before you start, make sure you and your host family both agree how many hours you will work each day and what your responsibilities are.

Brush up on your English ...

Present continuous
Use the present continuous for things which are happening now, at the moment of speaking.
e.g. My host mother is taking the children to school.

Positive form
She is taking the children to school.
Negative form
She isn’t (is not) taking the children to school.
Question form
Is she taking the children to school?
Negative question form
Isn’t she taking the children to school?

Present simple
Use the present simple for habitual truths.
e.g. My host father works in London.

Positive form
He works in London.
Negative form
He doesn’t (does not) work in London.
Question form
Does he work in London?
Negative question form
Doesn’t he work in London?

Some verbs never or rarely take the continuous form. These are verbs which describe states as opposed to actions. State verbs relate to:

mental and emotional states - love, hate, prefer, think, understand, remember, feel, know, believe, suppose.
senses - see, smell, hear, taste, feel.
communications and causing reactions - look (seem), agree, disagree, deny, mean, promise, surprise, satisfy, astonish, impress, please.
possession and other verbs - be, belong, need, have, contain, fit, include, measure, owe, own, possess, want, weigh.

Have a go!

1A. Choose the correct verb form

1. We usually are having / have breakfast at 7.30am.

2. What time do you wake up / are you waking up each morning?

3. My host father works / is working every day in London.

4. The oven doesn’t smell / isn’t smelling nice.

5. Are you liking / do you like yoghurt?

6. At the moment I am doing / I do the ironing.

7. My host mother doesn’t understand me / isn’t understanding me.

8. It is 3pm and I am still ironing / still iron.

9. The children go / are going to school every day.

10. I don’t know / am not knowing how to cook Shepherd’s Pie.