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My Helper's English is...

  1. #1
    NewMommie is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jun 2009
    Hong Kong

    My Helper's English is...

    My new helper doesn't seem to understand my English. Since I am a native speaker I suspect that she just doesn't speak English very well...ok, I think she barely speaks it at all. I did do a phone interview with her before hiring but we had bad reception and she knew how to answer my basic questions. I also assumed it would be better in person, but no such luck. Anyway, I'm not complaining, as I didn't do adequate due diligence, but wanted some advice on how to improve our communication. I have tried speaking slower, using hand gestures, using simple words, etc., and I know it takes time to get used to each other. Any advice? Also, do people ever send their helpers to language classes? Would that be insulting/mean? After all, some people send their helpers to cooking school.

  2. #2
    Frenchy is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Ap Lei Chau
    Maybe you could just ask her if she would be ok to take English lessons, as it is important for you that your communication is well understood on each side ?

  3. #3
    thanka2 is offline Registered User
    Join Date
    May 2009
    Reading your post, seems similar to the situation with our first helper. We also did a phone interview. The connection was bad. I assumed it would be better in person. It wasn't. I also thought that if I spoke slowly and wrote things down or even had someone translate things into her language (which I did) things would be better. Unfortunately, over a period of five months, nothing improved. This wasn't the only reason why we dismissed our first helper but it was certainly a factor.

    I think it boils down to willingness to learn. If she seems to have the desire or initiative to improve her English then you can start with that. I wouldn't beat around the bush with it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with requiring her to take English classes to improve her skills. Again, in my line of work, I often have to attend professional development workshops. These are not optional. Sometimes I think the subject matter is unnecessary or that it's "insulting" that my boss requires me to attend as I think my skills are "good enough" for the job. Doesn't change the fact that I'm required to go. Every employee can always use a bit of improvement. As I've said to my students in the past, "Is your English perfect? If not, you still need to study. The day you speak and write English perfectly is the day you can stop studying. For this reason, even as a teacher, I still continue to study."

    I would paint the picture this way to her-- Tell her that English communication is the most important part of her job and you are signing her up for classes as a gift to her. Tell her that English lessons in Hong Kong are expensive and this is one of the benefits of her job. These classes are also not optional, unless she'd like to find a different employer.

    Domestic helpers are still employees and employees need to please their boss if they want to stay employed. That's my opinion. And you're not being "mean" or "harsh" by wanting to have good communication.
    “Many women have described their experiences of childbirth as being associated with a
    spiritual uplifting, the power of which they have never previously been aware …
    To such a woman childbirth is a monument of joy within her memory.
    She turns to it in thought to seek again an ecstasy which passed too soon.”

    ~ Grantly Dick-Read (Childbirth Without Fear)

    Mother of Two
    JMW, boy, born November 29, 2007, 9:43 pm, USA
    MJW, girl, born March 17, 2011, 4:14 pm, HK

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