Staying with a host family can be one of the most rewarding experiences in a language journey. It’s an amazing opportunity if you have the chance and can really transform the way a student or learner sees a new language. It’s not only inspiring to see the language in its ‘natural habitat’ but it can be massively confidence building as small things like asking about breakfast or where to go shopping become real life interactions after what’s usually a lot of practice scenarios in a classroom. But there’s more to it than just getting the chance to practice your new language in real situations; much, much more, in fact.
First of all there’s the food! Most of the time your host family will be responsible for feeding you occasionally, if not all the time, and this is often a delicious bonus. Local dishes are rarely better than when they’ve been cooked at home for a whole family and if you ask any people who have lived with a host family before then the food is almost always one of the first things that they’ll remember. It’s an insight into the culture like no other and you might even get a few recipes to take home and show off.
Another great thing about living with a host family is getting the inside track on all of the local sights and hidden gems in the area. A host family will often take you to places that the average tourist simply won’t find, whether it’s a favourite local restaurant that the guidebooks haven’t discovered yet or knowing when the best times to go shopping or to the next town over are. This kind of local knowledge can really be the difference between a holiday style visit and a real authentic experience.
There’s also the excellent company that’s always on offer. Host families have volunteered themselves because they want to share their town or city with you, as well as their homes and most importantly their time. When you stay with a host family you’ll always have a guide or a partner when you want one. And often you’ll be introduced to friends and relatives too and get a real insight to the society wherever you are, which all adds up to making more friends and excellent memories. In fact, many people remain in close contact with their host families long after they’ve returned home. So you really do get a surrogate family, quite often, as well as invites to return! Plus, if you ever do have any problems, whether it’s a flash of homesickness or a sprained ankle or a lost bank card, you aren’t alone, and the sense of safety and security is something very comforting when you’re far from home.
So if you ever get the chance to take your language learning on the road and stay with a host family, take it! You won’t regret it.