How to be a homestay host – Using English with students

How To Be A Host – English

International students visiting the UK for work and study placements are often not as exposed to as many opportunities to develop their English skills as you may think. This is because they spend lots of time around their peers, who are likely to communicate with them in their first language, and hearing just the vocabulary they already know. When staying with a host family as part of a homestay in Britain, these opportunities are widened, and there’s plenty you can do with your student guest to help them out. These are our top suggestions for easy ways to nurture your overseas student’s English skills while they stay with you.

Keep talking!

It’s easy to get on with your chores around the house in silence, caught up in what you’re doing and concentrating. But talking through what you’re doing and being as chatty as possible with your guest whilst you’re together, you can help them develop their language and vocabulary as well as exposing them to colloquialisms (informal slang) that they otherwise probably wouldn’t learn, but are essential for getting by in the UK. It’s this kind of ‘real’ language that takes English speakers through to fluency, and they’ll improve very quickly as a result.

Play games

Games aren’t just for family Christmases! Charades, Guess Who and other such easy family games are great at encouraging people to use language they probably wouldn’t usually… while having fun doing so! Games help foster bonding amongst guests and their homestay host families, too, and you can involve everyone in the family, no matter age.

Watch films and TV

British television is hugely varied and watching it can help your student guest improve their knowledge of slang, new vocabulary and regional accents that they may otherwise not hear while staying in London. Instead, easy viewing chat shows (more The One Show and This Morning, less Jeremy Kyle!) offer good variety at an easy speech level so are accessible and fun. Prime-time documentaries that aren’t too serious (think In The Factory) and light comedy shows (like Gogglebox) also make for easy viewing. Avoid young children’s TV, as this often includes Makaton signs over speech and sometimes abbreviations for infant tongues, and game shows, as they often give little to no context to their question and answers.

Recommend things to watch

You may not always be at home with your student guest, or always have the time to sit in front of the TV or laptop with them, but with so many on-demand options about, there’s plenty for them to choose from even if you’re not around. Some of these services will always be available to your guest when they go back to their home country, so if you have time, write out a list of the programmes you think could be helpful for them. If there are TV programmes linked to the student’s area of study (ie. Holby City for medical students, Grand Designs for architecture students), suggest these. What works for one student may be helpful for others, so keep a note!

HFS London accommodate overseas students with a range of different English language abilities and we really appreciate when host families go the extra mile to help develop and improve their student guest’s language skills. If you find a great way to nurture your student’s English, let us know, and we’ll share it on with other hosts too.

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