It’s more important than ever to know how to be a good host.
You’re welcome. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, these three English words are said as a polite answer when someone thanks you for doing something. But welcome is not the word we use when we receive guests. Instead you hear ‘Come on in’ or ‘Make yourself at home’.
And in the case of my mother, deaf since childhood, and known for her idiosyncratic take on the fixed phrases she had learned mostly by lip reading: ‘I’m so glad you’re near’.
Yinbo Yu, the international students officer at Britain’s National Union of Students, has made himself at home, even though he struggled when he arrived both because of his own Chinese culture and because of the British trait of polite reticence. International students, he argues, should be embraced, not treated as slightly strange paying guests.
Many countries these days don’t seem in a welcoming mood when it comes to English language teaching. The French-speaking Cameroons have responded to their English-speaking nationals’ demand for independence by locking up their leader. The Iranian government has responded to the recent demonstrations by banning English in primary schools. Meanwhile, Korea has backed down on banning it in Kindergarten and turned their fire instead on preschool programmes in private language schools.
But it’s not all doom and gloom. In Ethiopia, the British Council are helping teach refugees. In Texas, a study finds that, on average, migrant children will reach English proficiency within four years. And in England, migrant students are beating their native speaker peers in national exams.
Back in China, the ingenious Jocelyn Wang has devised a way to make New Oriental’s 30,000 teachers welcome teacher observation in their classrooms.
New Oriental’s study travel team has also reached across cultural boundaries to explain what Chinese summer school students are looking for. Our summer school ranking shows where they can find what they are looking for while we gently remind them that they can’t always get what they want.
You just can’t squeeze 150 visiting Chinese schoolchildren into your average British boarding school designed to take an average of just 440 students. But if you’re looking for a warm welcome, read the story of the fifteen-year-old Bosnian orphan who escaped the shelling and deprivation of war-torn Sarajevo and arrived, for the summer, at a family-run summer school. Welcomed in as a member of the family, Oggi Tomic, now an award-winning film-maker, still works with his adopted family at the school that changed his life.
Now we know how we should welcome people in English, it is time to remind ourselves what to say when we leave our hosts. Small British children are trained to say, as they walk out the front door of a friend’s house: ‘Thank you very much for having me’. On hearing this my mother would smile broadly and reply.
‘Thank you very much for being had.’